When we’re constantly overwhelmed with depressing news, things can feel a bit hopeless. Attempts to help feel small, fruitless, and insignificant. Or even worse, there’s simply nothing we can do. But what if we could absorb someone’s misery at the cost of carrying their burden ourselves? Syphon #1 explores altruism, and how far a person is willing to go when given the ability to ease someone’s pain at their own expense.
Sylas is an EMT who witnesses pain and misery on a daily basis. But despite this, he still manages to smile, crack a joke, and put his patients at ease. This makes him the perfect recipient for The Sight: a selfless ability to absorb people’s misery and carry their pain for them. Others have wielded this ability, and it’s now passed on to Sylas. But this begs the question: how much can one person really do, and is there a limit to altruism? Unfortunately for Sylas, there are nefarious forces searching for him, and he must quickly make a decision about what this new power means to him before it’s too late.
Syphon gets a lot of mileage out of a rather simple premise, which is a great sign for a three-issue miniseries. By the end of this issue, writers Patrick Meaney and Mohsen Ashraf give a good sense of who Sylas is as a person. When he’s given The Sight, an ability gifted to those who are kind-hearted and selfless, it’s believable. But he also isn’t perfect; he’s trying to atone for his past mistakes, and The Sight, in some ways, exacerbates his guilt. How can he live a normal life when he’s constantly seeing the pain of others? A two-page montage by artist Jeff Edwards does a fantastic job at conveying Sylas’s dilemma. It’s often said that great sequential art can tell a story without dialogue, and that rings true in these pages.
Edwards’s artwork is dark, and he manages to capture the grime of urban life. Chipped, concrete staircases, faded road paint, and dirt-stained brick walls abound in this depiction of New York. Add to that an ample use of multiple, overlapping panels, and you get a good sense of the busyness that’s characteristic of big city living. The colors by John Kalisz do a good job of conveying this, as well. The city is seemingly drenched in a never-ending twilight, and dark corners and alleyways feel especially oppressive when highlighted by the bright red and purples used to depict The Sight. The colors do, at times, veer into the same problems I have with Green Lantern books in that the details of the artwork get lost in the overpowering colors. But overall, I find the contrasting colors really fitting for a story dealing with morality.
With great power comes great responsibility. It’s an age old adage that even the most general of comicbook fans understand, yet Syphon manages to craft an insightful story nonetheless. By simplifying the means (literally just absorbing someone’s misery for yourself) and grounding the characters, Syphon finds new complexities. There are a couple issues with pacing and clarity, but the creators behind Syphon have an otherwise solid grasp on their story.
- Story Creator: Mohsen Ashraf
- Writers: Patrick Meaney, Mohsen Ashraf
- Artist: Jeff Edwards
- Color Artist: John Kalisz
- Cover Artists: Jeff Edwards, John Kalisz
- Editors: Matt Hawkins, Elena Salcedo
- Publisher: Image Comics