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Madson, Justin – Carbon

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Carbon

Technical note: I use a flat scanner, meaning that when I try to scan images from a 600+ page behemoth of a book, the edges end up looking a little smeared. My apologies. Still, plenty of images are available at Justin’s website, if you’re interested…

I’m always delighted when I run into somebody at a convention who’s work I reviewed in the early days of the website but haven’t seen in awhile, and that’s when they have a new mini or two out. Imagine the thrill when I saw that Justin had this brick of a book available! He’s been working on it for a decade, roughly, and he originally released it in 6 different graphic novels (that I completely missed somehow). But hey, that just means that this is all new to me. How to describe this sucker without taking away all the fun bits for the new readers? I’m going to skirt around the edges, that’s how! This is a sprawling epic of a tale, with a huge cast of characters. Justin was smart enough put a dozen of the characters and some brief bios in the front of the book (and yes, I did reference it frequently), and even with that he probably could have done a few more pages with character bios. There’s a lot happening in here, is what I’m saying. This book deals with a society in which psychics (real ones, not the nonsense you see advertised on tv) have been around for decades, so they’ve already dealt with their discovery, the public reaction good and bad, being used, being abused, using their powers for evil, etc., and Justin does a fantastic job of using flashbacks sparingly but effectively. There’s a big, completely thought out world here, and it’s clear that he could go back into any of the material he’s written and answer whatever questions anybody might have. This book starts maybe 20 years into all of this (if he listed an exact time frame I missed it), where the anti-psychic (called Seers) sentiment is running very high, with proposed laws on the way promising all kinds of terrible things. We’re shown this world through the eyes of a Seer and her non-Seer brother (the former wrote a tell-all book about her childhood, which led to all kinds of problems with the latter), their father (a former cop and Seer whose mind has been ravaged by the years of using his powers), a mysterious woman who’s questioning her life choices and hiding a whole bunch of secrets (that play out throughout the book; her brother also pops up a lot), the anti-Seer contingent and the pro-Seer contingent (and how both sides are trying to deal with the other), and a kidnapped little girl and how just about everybody ends up coming together to try to help her. I’ve been writing for a while now and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Taking the time to really establish these characters as people really makes this book something special, so hey, young cartoonists, maybe spend a decade on your books too? OK, maybe that’s not realistic, but the more real your characters seem, the better off your narrative is going to be. There were constant surprises and escalations, a satisfying conclusion, and the general sense that Justin could put out another book about this world of this size or maybe even bigger and still have a lot left to tell about this world. That’s a complete success as a graphic novel as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a long time reader of this website and have also been wondering what he’s been up to, you won’t be disappointed if you check this out. If you’ve never heard of him until now, I was going to suggest maybe starting with some of his older minis for financial purposes, but it looks like all of those are all out of print. You’ll have to try your luck with a graphic novel, and you could do a whole lot worse than making it this one. $40