Review: The Few #2

WARNING: SOME SPOILERS

The Few is a six-issue miniseries about a dystopian future where what was known as the United States has mostly disappeared, the majority of the country under control of a megastate called the Palace. Those that have not fallen underneath Palace control are called the Few. Civil conflict has broken out between the two factions, and loyal Palace soldier Edan Hale has been assigned the task of infiltrating the Few’s headquarters. Along the way, she unexpectedly saves a child and befriends brothers Peter and Davey, two members of the Few. They’re on their way to the headquarters, unknown to them that she is a spy. It’s not going all good for Edan. She is haunted by the ghost of her commanding officer, Ephram Charr. To make matters worse, the merciless militant Herrod and his army of Ragers are right behind them along with a squad of Palace soldiers. If the three factions intercept, there’s no telling what carnage will unfold.

In my review of the first issue, I criticized The Few for lacking story content. I now consider this unfair. The first cover showed protagonist Edan Hale running with a bundle on her shoulders. And what do you know? In the first major scene, she’s being chased. So, story content is shown, just not a whole lot. It’s probably better this way because showing too much content can give away the story entirely.

No, the ideal cover or poster is a clue to what happens in the story. #1’s cover did this superbly, and issue #2 continues this trend. Davey and the baby are shown with a bloodied figure behind them that looks like Solid Snake after a bad day. Turns out, he is a figure from Edan’s past, but more on that later.

The composition of the cover is exceptional, and the minimalist coloring sets the dystopian tone of the series. This issue has a variant cover as part of Image’s 25th anniversary, some of these covers being recreations of older ones. Recall that in my previous review, I said that The Few looked similar to another dystopian American sci-fi…

I KNEW IT! I @#%!ING KNEW IT!

…Anyway.

Hayden Sherman continues to prove he is a master of negative space to create a bleak, death-like atmosphere, arguably even more so as some scenes of snow are blinding in their whiteness. Character designs still have legs that appear longer than upper bodies that have a squarish outline. These designs are not bothersome, in fact there is something rather odd and unique about them. The choices of clothing, a series of jackets and boots and military gear, fits the winter climate. There is a surprising amount of detail put into these and character faces which are highly expressive. However, the sketchiness of the inking can cloud the reader’s vision. It works for vehicles and buildings, and arguably gives character’s a gruffer look, but it can be a bit much.

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It’s interesting that even though I call Sherman’s art minimalist, he has so much detail in certain areas. In fact, detail is the artistic highlight of this issue. Two locations are revealed: The Palace and the Few’s hidden headquarters. Both are introduced in two-page spreads and are breathtaking.

Only one section of the Palace is shown, a shopping center, but Sherman crams a maximal amount of detail. Streets are littered with pedestrians, each designed uniquely; walkways and skyscrapers have bolts and screws, metal supports and cracks, trash and stains speck here and there on concrete surfaces. Neon lights dimly glow, steam from manholes perspiring against their bulbs. The Palace in its gritty metropolitan splendor is brought to life. Sherman sticks to a minimalist color palette of brown, green, white, and black, yet somehow makes all the detail more intense.

The Few’s headquarters is equally detailed but with a different aesthetic. It looks more like an underwater city, shadowed metal structures only visible by the intense yellow glow of lights. It’s an eerie appearance, one that hints at conspiracy and danger.

If minimalism brings out the best in Sherman’s natural settings, then maximalism does just as much for the urban.

For issue #2, Sean Lewis expands the mythology of The Few, particularly the three main factions: The Palace, The Few, and Herrod and his Ragers.* Each faction is complex. All are guilty of deplorable actions and fostering a climate that makes these actions permissible.

Edan monologues explaining the backstory of how the Palace came to be. It suggests there was a second civil war over resources, and the Palace managed to take control by obtaining the majority. These actions caused massive suffering, but as Edan’s father told her, “it was necessary.”

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This word, “necessary”, is particularly unnerving. The Few is socially relevant given that many of its themes on civil conflict touch upon modern America. “Necessary” is another layer to this social commentary. In just three months, President Trump and his cabinet have passed borderline if not full-on fascist immigration policies, attacked and banned media outlets, and are in the process of butchering the Affordable Care Act, not to mention unraveling protections for transgender school students and other minorities. It is all deemed necessary to make America great again, and stubborn loyalists tell dissenters to obey (a massive hypocrisy given they did everything in their power to attempt at crippling Obama).

“Necessary” is a dangerous word. It gives an excuse for actions, no matter how horrible, even if they have devastating consequences. The Palace’s necessary actions created The Few and Herrod. Both parties actions against the Palace appears justified, but are just as brutal. The Few are so paranoid, they will even search and imprison their own for interrogation; they might even employ terrorist tactics. Herrod is a butcher, killing anyone, even women and children, he deems deserving. He will do anything for revenge on the Palace. Human lives do not matter to him.

It is hard to tell which side is worse, or even who the reader should be cheering for. The danger of necessity and conflict’s moral complexity are deeply explored and interwoven, allowing Sean Lewis to develop them naturally.

These two themes become parts to another essential theme in issue #2: the past coming back to haunt the present. Ephram Charr, Edan’s commanding officer, appears to her several times, even though he is not really there. Is he a ghost? A manifestation of guilt? Whatever the case, Charr drops hints that Edan is also willing to do whatever is necessary no matter what.

This is not the only scene where Edan’s moral is highly questionable. In a flashback, she is chasing down a teenage terrorist spray painting targets for smart bombs. The art for this scene is fantastic, Hayden Sherman using thick lines and frantic color splatter to capture the speed and intensity of the chase. Particularly interesting is the coloring of the terrorist as pastel red. It’s a unique choice for blood and scenes of violence over the traditional dark red, one that fits the art style perfectly. By the end of the chase, Edan makes a decision that while justified is still questionable given the perpetrator’s age.

There is no clear cut good and evil in The Few. Everyone has justification for their actions while still being deplorable most of the time. There are characters that even recognize the complexity of the conflict, such as newly introduced Captain Jariks. She is a loyal soldier of the Palace, but when she learns of Herrod’s origins, why he hates them so much, she can’t help but understand him and feel frustrated her side created the monster in the first place.

While I stated earlier that necessity is a dangerous excuse for heinous actions, what if the world gets to the point where all sides of a conflict are forced to and even justified as such? In a bleak world of survive or die, with no chance of reverting the mistakes of the past, maybe heartlessness is the new normal.

The Few #2 is an excellent follow-up to the series’ promising start. It expands on characters, world-building, and themes while delivering even more top notch art. There is no telling what will happen in the next issue, but it’s no doubt going to be epic. Go out and get this book now.

*I wrote in my first review that the Ragers were fighting for a mysterious man named Herrod. I was completely wrong. The crazy old guy leading them is Herrod. My bad.

Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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