Crowded #1 is Contagious Fun

Writer: Christopher Sebela
Pencils: Ro Stein
Inks: Ted Brandt
Colors: Triona Farrell
Letters Cardinal Rae
Published by Image

Crowded is contagious fun. It’s easy to see after you put down the first issue why the entire creative team has been talking and tweeting about it incessantly. It’s not just easy publicity and hype to get the word out about their latest project. They are proud of it and rightfully so. Christopher Sebela and his team have crafted a very plausible reality where there is an app to literally make anything a part of the "gig economy"--even murder. In the current day where you can order a carpool ride or food delivery from complete strangers for a fee, Crowded takes this idea as far as it can. Charlotte Ellison’s world is one where you can double dip into multiple doggy walking services, loan out your finest evening wear, and rent yourself out as a best friend for a price in order to make ends meet.  She’s sassy and stylish. She appears confident because she’s been doing it forever. She’s a woman who has perfected the art of flexibility to meet the on-demand life her smartphone affords her

Charlotte is also the target of a crowd-funded online campaign that has made her the target for assassination. The enormous purse goes to the person that punches her ticket. Good thing there’s an app for that.

Charlotte hires Vita through the DEFEND app to be her bodyguard for hire and keep her alive as she’s taking fire and racing for cover in broad daylight as every granny and corporate worker bee are out to cash in on what seems like an easy payday. Vita lives by strict rules in order to keep her client’s alive and to keep her 100% success rate in tact. Her 1.4 star rating on the DEFEND app says otherwise.

Chris finds a great balance of humor and carnage in this title. As with many of his projects before that have contained high concept gun play and assassins, the script knows when to take a beat for a joke or a body to land so that it’s most effective for the story better rather than his own amusement. Originally, I was a little nervous that there was already a shotgun blast and a body count before the first page ended. I feared that it was going to be too much too quickly, but the story sticks the landing when it utilizes the Tarantino device of giving you the answers first and then asking the questions later making the exposition all the more engaging.

The amount of thought that the Crowded creative team has put a lot of thought in how these characters look and speak so you get a sense of them right out the gate is incredibly apparent. Ted’s inks over Ro’s pencil work give the comic an old-school feel that sits comfortably in its new-school world. The art team executes the difficult task of building upon Sebula’s dialogue with how the characters gesture. Charlotte’s movement compliments her attitude and Vis’ rigid demeanor keeps the reader at arm’s length in just a single panel many times over throughout the issue.

Crowded shares some DNA with another comic from years ago I loved called Scud: The Disposable Assassin, that explored the idea of paying to have someone killed off on a whim that utilized warped humor and took place in an insane world caught in a war between a hijacked Heaven and an overthrown Hell (I’m seriously underselling just how mad this title was). It had complex characters with conflicted feelings exploring how far they would go to be with the person they cared about. It’s because of some of these similarities that I was particularly fond of the issue after I was finished. Now I’m more excited to see what is at the root of Crowded as the series continues when that same type of familiar insanity is all taking place in a world that is so recognizable to our own reality today.