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This has been a pretty good year for robots in comics. Transfusion brought together robots and vampires. Non-Humans brought up robots civil rights. But while Chapel #1 came out before Non-Humans and also brought up robots rights, that is not its main focus. No. The main focus of Chapel is the ultimate punishment the protagonist goes through which has me clamoring for more… despite some flaws. Like a recycled plot.
Chapel doesn’t like Robots. Robots don’t like Chapel. I like Chapel… #1 that is. Chapel the person? He’s such a-
-cop “renowned” for his crappy record. A robot killer, Chapel despises robots, who in this story are deeply ingrained in our society. They even have their own city, New Mecha, and are asking for their own rights.
Robots asking for rights immediately takes me back to Non-Humans, which debuted in October. Not just because of the concept, but also because there is a short panel with a robot talking about freedom which was exactly like a moment in Non-Humans #1. While Chapel did beat them to the punch with the idea of robots rights, Chapel takes it in a much different direction.
In Non-Humans, robots rights were the major emphasis. There was a page long speech about it. In Chapel, we see robots fighting for freedom scattered throughout the book, but our main focus is on our protagonist Chapel and him coming to terms with his hatred of robots. Will he succeed? I have no idea, but the ending of this issue sets-up such a great scenario that I will definitely be coming back for more.
The opening also serves as a solid characterization for Chapel. By the end of this issue you will feel like you know him, and a blatant “hint” at his personal tragedy makes me all the more interested for future issues to expand on why he hates robots so much. Grillo makes us hate him and enjoy the turn his life takes because of it.
The action in Chapel comes up every once in a while, and while I didn’t enjoy all the action scenes I did want to mention a particular bit of dialogue thrown into one. Chapel is about to fight a giant in an advanced suit of armor. Of course, his face is completely bare, making him vulnerable. Instead of not mentioning the cliché, Chapel mentions this weak point which leads to said giant activating a metal – and supposedly impenetrable – helmet. Loved that little moment.
But even for those of you out there who love action, while Chapel has it, it’s difficult to tell at times what’s going on. David Brame’s pencils and inks plus the decision to make the comic in black-and-white don’t always equal discernable images. The black-and-white makes sense; they are trying to go for a noir-styled comic. But I’m not saying they should add color. The black-and-white would be fine, Brame just needs to make some of the images cleaner. Readers are lucky when there is little to no background because it makes the panels a lot clearer and easier to see. Some of the panels are also pretty small and have a claustrophobic feel to them and makes them all the more hard to see.
Jesse Grillo (who also wrote the acid-trippy 88-page graphic horror novel Sensory Distortion), proves to me that he can do more than just horror. He sets-up a great premise blending noir with science-fiction, which is what a first issue should do, and while I did anticipate the ending, at this point it’s impossible to guess what will happen next. The story could go in any direction, and I look forward to seeing where Grillo decides to take it… as long as I can see it within the muddled panels. Of course, since this issue feels like a glance at the universe the series could end up being bad – but this issue has made quite an “electrifying” first impression (see, this is why I save the robot “humor” until the end).
If you want to see Non-Humans taken in a different direction, try out Chapel #1. You won’t get a drug-dealing teddy bear, but you may still enjoy it…