There’s a glowing man in the desert, and you best respect his property line. Geiger #1 from Image Comics introduces us to a post-apocalyptic wasteland where scavengers search the irradiated desert for anything useful, powerful mobs rule Las Vegas, and a legendary figure lurks on the edges of civilization. Rulers of this new world once made a pact to leave him alone … but that was when resources weren’t as scarce as they are now. Will the new king of Las Vegas upset the balance?
I’m going to be up-front: I’m a little concerned that post-apocalyptic wasteland stories in comics are a dime-a-dozen these days. However, having survived housing crises and global pandemics and goonish politicians guiding us through it all, I’m not all that surprised that a future full of doom and gloom is occupying artists’ minds these days. And as for Geiger‘s place in all of this, I feel that the creative team of Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, and Rob Leigh do a respectable job avoiding the burnout.
This first issue pulls the reader in quickly; it turns out that creepy folklore can still survive a nuclear holocaust. We’re given the backstory in a concisely-written flashback and then introduced to our principal cast in equally efficient form. The world that Johns and Frank have created gives enough meat to the bones of this story to make it a standout. Our main character, The Glowing Man, survives in a realm that his doomsday prepper parents inevitably gave him for good or ill–primarily consisting of beans and books. His refusal to allow entry to his shelter is given extra tension by his refusal to leave until it’s “safe to open the door.” Since bunker life is all he’s ever known, it’ll be interesting to see how much, exactly, this grown man has been able to mature beyond a childish understanding of the world. Similarly, our literally childish king in Las Vegas exudes Joffrey Baratheon vibes, and a map of how Vegas is divided by different mob families adds an element of unpredictability to this story.
The artwork, just as any good comic artwork should do, helps to move the story right along, and oftentimes brilliantly at that. There are many haunting panels that I took a little extra time to camp out in and marvel at, and there’s a particular scene in The Glowing Man’s bunker where wordless panels portray the emotional toll that this lifestyle has had on our protagonist.
I think my major critique of this debut issue is that there’s a lot of set-up going on that somewhat sacrifices my ability to really attach myself to the characters involved. This issue arguably could have been an Issue #0. I’m not quite sure what the hook of the story is yet, and I wish I was given just a few extra pages to let the tension really grab me.
All in all, this first issue of Geiger is an efficient introduction to a post-apocalyptic landscape that doesn’t get lost in the wasteland of other comics that run in a similar vein. The world-building sets us up for many intriguing conflicts that could turn into an explosively fun ride.