David Schulner knows a thing or two about writing…television. His credits include The Event, Trauma, and an episode of Desperate Housewives. Clone is his first foray into the world of comics, and it shows. While the concept is strong and there are some interesting moments, there are also some real dud moments.
Dr. Luke Taylor seems to have it all. A successful career. A beautiful wife. A baby on the way. Life couldn’t be much better. Then a bloody, gut-shot version of himself shows up on his kitchen floor and tells him that he is actually a clone, his life is not what he thought it was, and his family is in danger. It is a solid setup for a story, one ripe with opportunities. Potentially this could take the “nothing is as you thought it was” concept and turn it on its head. Potentially.
I’m still not convinced it will happen.
Schulner opens the book with a chase scene between two un-named people. One is trying desperately to escape, but the other is dogged and determined. It ends with the would-be escapee shot through the gut. this is a good entry point into the story as it gives the reader a bit of action as well as starts off with a mystery. The book then flashes to what appears to be the person who was just shot, waking up from a nightmare. Clearly he has just dreamt the whole thing. And this is where Schulner’s familiarity with visual storytelling comes in. As the now-awake man walks out of the bathroom, convinced it is all a dream, behind him is a bloody handprint on the window. It is a great image, subtle enough that it might be missed, but it adds so much for the people who take a look a the details of the panel.
The next quarter or so of the bok is dedicated to setting the status-quo. The pregnant wife. The good job. The house in the suburbs. All solid storytelling and all hammering home the fact that Luke Taylor is just an ordinary average guy. It helps to sell the shock of it all when the clones start showing up.
And that is where it all starts to unravel. While the concept and plot may be strong, the scripting is not. The typical conversation pieces are fine. But the action scenes, the scenes where people are under stress? Those are the scenes which feel stilted and wooden. Characters go from shock to recovery to aggression in a matter of panels, robbing any of the emotions of their power. Characters progress along an emotional spectrum in a by-the-numbers fashion that is not particularly interesting or challenging (for the characters or the reader).
By the end of the issue it seems that everyone, including the eight-month pregnant wife, is a badass with the exception of Luke Taylor. It is as if everyone else too the red pill and Luke wimped out. I’m fine with Luke taking time to find his inner badass. but when everyone else in the book discovers theirs within a matter of panels, it means either a: Luke is lame, b: everyone else in the book is special, or c: the writer really wasn’t sure how to handle all the other characters.
The art by Juan Jose Ryp suffered from some of the same problems as the writing. The set pieces were great and the conversations between the characters were fine. The facial expressions were a bit bland, but Ryp has never been known for his faces. He is the guy you call if you want blood, guts, and a bit of mayhem. So I was a bit surprised that the fight scenes were where he struggled.
In the opening scene where the man is being chased, there is a panel where the pursuer manages to grab the leg of the person being cased. Where his fingers grab the leg there is a bright red explosion. At first it appeared the man had grabbed the leg with such force that it had exploded the leg. People familiar with Ryp’s other work in Black Summer and No Hero know that Ryp is quite competent when it comes to depicting exploding body parts. However, there was no injury. This was just how Ryp was highlighting the fact that the pursuer how had the other man’s leg.
Later on in the fight scene jagged yellow explosions appear floating in the scene where Ryp indicates contact had been made. This looks like something out of a 70′s super hero comic and is entirely out of place in a book where the writer is trying so hard to establish a boring and normal status quo. Except that, later on in the book when there is a fight scene, these explosions disappear.
There were lots of other little things along the way which were constantly distracting me from the story. It is unfortunate because the concept is stron, but the execution struggles. I’m not quite ready to write off Clone just yet. But another issue like this one and I will not be sticking around.
Clone #1 is on stands now.