Up The River 2130 #1
Written by Travis McIntire
Illustrated by Michael Wren
21 pages Full Color
Available from IndyPlanet
Up The River brings together interesting elements from horror and superheroes to form a world where everything went wrong a long time ago and it never really recovered. A world where water has turned red as blood and to drink it will either turn you into the living dead or imbue you with fantastic abilities.
Quite the temptation.
With world building that shows our planet (or region, at least) suffering from societal breakdown, Up The River, presents us the story of Syl, a young man searching for answers.
The story does have some mild clarity issues, but nothing that can't be sussed out by inference and the knowledge that the answers to some bigger questions are being withheld for future chapters. The strength of the art varies at times with mixed results but it never fails the story and often has interesting and bold choices in panel layout.
The story opens with a scene of a costumed hero getting his comeuppance from a couple of thugs under orders from a shadowed man. Battered and bruised, this hero is brutally killed - in one of the most old-fashioned ways possible - all under the gaze of a young boy hiding in the bushes.
We jump to present day as we join a small boat moving up a red river that cuts right through what was once a thriving city. Syl and his group are heading into dangerous territory and Polly the knife wielding tough guy is getting antsy and bullish. Soon, Oku the Kenyan falls into the river that we just learned one should never fall into. We also learn just how quickly the red water will turn a person into a "Lurcher", the mindless and ravenous undead of this story.
Their river guide tells them he knows a safe place to go off-river and brings them to meet a Shaman for lodging. The Shaman is also a "Changer", a person who has been changed by the red water, not into a flesh eating creature, but it gives them powers. This man can teleport (only short distances?) and rules over a small post-apocalyptic collection of people.
After making the arrangements with the boatman, The Shaman invites Sly and his to witness the evening's entertainment. The Shaman doles out barbaric justice, by use of his power, in a gruesome display of his madness. This of course doesn't sit right with our group but they are leaving in the morning, so Syl decides they will stay.
The last sequence, displaying some of the tightest art of the whole issue, shows the now skinless Oku as he pulls himself from the river at night. Still wounded, the Lurcher Oku is besieged by a wolf pack. He dispenses of them violently and begins to feast on them. As the book closes, one can only wonder, where will Oku go now?
Despite the rough edges that often come with an indie number one issue, there is a lot of promise and potential in this book. Both the story and art shine at times in a way that offsets any of it's imperfections. This book has a dark originality that shouldn't be overlooked. If Up The River 2130 has it's story mapped out like I think it does (21 issues are planned), it will grow into something uniquely evil and adventurous.
And I'll take that ride.