Writing: Charles Soule; Art, Colors, Design: Ryan Browne; Letters: Chris Crank; Color Assists: Kevin Knipstein; Production Design: Erika Schnatz.
Lately I find that almost every time I read an amazing new story on the ol’ paneled pages, I turn back to the cover and see “Image Comics” confidently emblazoned upon some level of spectacular art. This week I had the pleasure of sitting down to read an advance copy of Image Comics’ Eight Billion Genies #4, the halfway mark in a miniseries that revisits the classic genie and the “Three Wishes” trope in a refreshingly — and devastatingly — modern way. It’s important to mention that I have yet to read the preceding issues of this series, yet I felt immediately informed and enthralled. Eight billion genies appear across the earth, one for each of the planet’s eight billion inhabitants. They’re small, they’re cute, and they offer the stuff of dreams: one wish for every person on the planet.
Naturally, everything devolves quite quickly.
Eight Billion Genies #4 depicts a world already fallen into disarray. People have wished for all manner of things, unspeakable things brought to life through Browne's confident and eclectic artistic style — a brutal style of creativity that can also be seen in Browne's God Hates Astronauts. In the midst of this broken world is a boy who just wants to be a hero, and a bar-full of people with nothing to do but bond. While I'm leaving out a lot of detail, these two stories run parallel and are balanced with ease. Soule's writing subverts a lot of the "loud" visuals with intimate moments of humanness. Despite my having no history with these characters, I felt immediately attached to them, invested in them.
This issue merges bombastic — and frankly weird — art seamlessly with nuanced and developed narrative, a combination that managed to baffle me with every turn of the page. The Soule/Browne team-up (read Curse Words if you're not already familiar) blazes a unique trail of punky linework and vibrant color that mask more sentimental and complex emotion. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the heavy lifting of Crank's lettering, which bounces, appropriately, between informality and precision. The lettering, to me at least, greatly impacted the tone of this issue and gave it a vibe slightly to the left of Douglas Adams. If you've already been following this series, what I can only imagine are big revelations are made in this issue that expand the implications of the genies' arrival.
Eight Billion Genies #4 is a great jumping on point for new readers and an expansion of the story for those returning. This comic somehow balances this dual-responsibility while delivering an original, wacky, and downright depressing story. I don't often find myself jumping head first into the middle of a series, those rare occasions marked by intense confusion; however, Eight Billion Genies #4 seems to be a wish come true as it's as welcoming as it is interesting.
I rate this issue 4 POPs out of 5!
Pick this book up this Wednesday, August 10th, at YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP (!!!) or at the very least from the Image Comics website here!
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.