Review: The Few #3

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WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS

With the help of Peter and Davey, Edan Hale has infiltrated the headquarters of the Few, enemies to her home, the Palace. Edan now must make a decision between completing her mission or starting a new live with her new friends and the baby she saved. Unfortunately, Herrod and his Ragers are not far behind but hot on the trail. Captain Jariks and her special Palace forces are also on the trail. Will Edan survive? Will she finally choose a side to fight for?

Violence is a cycle neverending. It inspires conflict, motivates conflict, and ends in conflict. It seems that the only solution to it is non-violence, right? If an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, then why not turn the other cheek?

Well, then you run out of cheeks.

How is nonviolence morally superior when, say, you find yourself in a situation where you choose to stand by and let something horrible happen, like the murder of innocent people? Nonviolence becomes selfish and immoral. After all, that won’t really stop the violence but cause more of it to happen.

Violence is complex. The pro-violence or anti-violence routes are never clear cut. Even motivations are questionable. Were you justified in your actions or did you just make the worst decision ever? Are you ready to face the consequences?

How do you know what is the right decision when there could be so many reasons it’s wrong?

The cycle of violence is the central theme of The Few as conflict revs up to a dramatic midpoint and more of Edan Hale’s dark past is revealed.

As always, Hayden Sherman is on point with his covers, designing simple yet striking covers that are but a small taste of his great talents with minimalist colors and composition. Also, #3’s cover has interesting symbolic meaning. The protagonist Edan Hale is in a framed photograph but there is a crack in the glass and spots that look like blood. This symbolizes that Edan’s pass is a troubled one marked by violence. It’s a simple design, but one that speaks a lot to the story contents. When attempting to convey symbolic meaning on a cover, it does not have to be complex. It just needs to hint at the story contents in anyway effective way.

It probably doesn’t need to be stated a third time, but Hayden Sherman continues to be outstanding at interiors. He creates a unique world thick with an atmosphere of death and uncertainty, huge white negative spaces dominating the page. The world feels empty of hope, life, and soul, yet there is a strange, sad beauty to it all. The dominance of white negative space does not mean the art lacks details. Characters have unconventional body shapes. Their clothes are drab military and winter wear, but match the dreary atmosphere.

A flaw I did not realize until now was that characters don’t demonstrate organic changes in emotions, sometimes very little emotion at all. However, when Sherman conveys an emotion on a character’s face, it hits home. Most striking is a splash page of Ephram Charr, Edan’s trainer. It’s a close up of his face. I felt my heart actually sink, sad for this man and his disappointment.

Splash pages and two-page spreads are prevalent in this issue, and they serve to display extraordinarily detailed scenes. Understand, when I refer to Sherman’s art as minimalist, I don’t mean a lack of details. It’s obvious by looking at the panels that he has plenty. I call it minimalist because it’s not hyper realistic. Sherman chooses to craft his world with an expressionistic style. It’s what gives the world a unique vision along with the limited color choices responsible for the moody atmosphere.

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The most impressive use of large page displays is a chaotic, brutal battle scene between the three factions of the series. I was reminded of one time in elementary school when I sketched the octopus fight scene from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. As an eight-year-old, I had no sense of proportion or scale. Heck, it wasn’t even accurate to what happened during the scene. I just kept drawing what I thought looked cool until I got bored. I did, in my opinion, come up with a rocking portrait of weapons, dead bodies, blood, and limbs flying around. This is the type of scene Sherman captures, and unlike little me, he has way better art.

The enormity of the scene does not detract the seriousness of the violence. This is not a glorious blockbuster fight out of the Avengers smacking down faceless goons but flesh and blood people fighting to the death for what they believe is a better future. In this context, it’s a grim, depressing battle that robs the reader of enjoyment. Conflict does not lead to riveting adventure but bloody mayhem.

Sean Lewis continues to delve deep into the backstory of Edan Hale, from her childhood home to her becoming a Palace soldier. Edan had a happy life with a stable home, a family that loved her, and plenty of resources. She is told that the Few are evil people that want to take away all of it, even though the Palace technically stole those resources from them. As I discussed in my review of the second issue, Edan doesn’t see this as a moral failing because she is lead to believe it’s necessary given the current state of the world. Since the only members of the Few that Edan encountered were saboteurs, it was easy for her to kill them without question. Her privileged life and lack of exposure to the outside world lead to dehumanizing anyone that opposed the Palace.

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A counterbalance to Edan’s brutal “us or them” philosophy was her ex-commanding officer Ephram Charr. Despite looking like Solid Snake, Ephram operated on the basis on empathy. According to information provided by Edan’s narration, Ephram spent time outside of the Palace. This implies that he lived among the Few and other survivors. Not only that, but he seemed to develop an understanding of them. Ephram would fight to defend the Palace like any other good soldier, but refused cross a line he deemed inhumane.

Ephram and Edan butted heads despite their mentor/student relationship. Edan constantly referred to him as “Ephram the Beloved”, so much so this implies she highly revered the man. However, Edan could not learn empathy. Her deep indoctrination into anti-Few sentiment made Ephram’s lessons seem illogical. Her focus first and foremost was eliminating all threats. This headstrong mentality led to Edan committing a despicable act, and the beloved Ephram became her enemy, and it ended in betrayal. This is why his ghost now haunts her.

This is the most poignant moment in Edan’s character development. Even now as she infiltrates the Few, memories of her past come back, bringing guilt and regret with them. It could be these are slowly changing Edan. After all, betraying Herrod and the Ragers to save a random baby does not sound like something the old Edan would do, not if it compromises her mission. Perhaps she is trying to make amends for her actions, but is it enough for things she has done?

This much emphasis on Edan’s character shows a glaring flaw in The Few. While Lewis is doing a fine job of developing her as a complex character, everyone else is less developed. Peter, Davey, and other players are given moral complexities (Peter in particular for this issue as he makes a serious threat to Edan), but they are not nearly as deep as Edan. She is the narrator of the comic. Everything the reader learns about the world comes from her. As such, Edan’s encounters with other characters gives the reader only small doses of information about them. She can read into them, speculate what they’re thinking, but she will never truly understand what’s going on in their heads, and neither will the reader. There are scenes showing some characters to develop freely without the limited scope of Edan’s perception, but not nearly enough.

Also, Edan’s develop is formulaic. Three issues in, and there is a common narrative pattern. The comic usually starts with either a flashback or at least a scene that quickly leads up to a flashback. These flashbacks center solely on Edan, and they all seem to involve a chase scene. These chase scenes are action-packed ways to develop her character, and they work in that regard. However, they take up huge chunks of the comic, impressive given these issues range anywhere between 40-60 pages! While I do enjoy them, I think they take away space that could’ve been used to show Edan spending more time with her companions, talking to them and getting to know about them. The issue of Edan’s limited perception would still be an issue, but at least there would have been an opportunity to develop other characters. Now, I understand that despite its strong socio-political themes, The Few at its heart is an action sci-fi comic. It still has to entertain, it can’t be all talk. I think the series would have benefited from being a longer project, perhaps even an ongoing instead of a limited. This might come off as demanding more than is possible, but in a story with three major warring factors, I like to know what is going through the head of everyone involved, to understand why they’re doing what they do and their justifications.

Speaking of justifications, the justification of violence is the central theme of this issue. The Few has the most justification for using violence. They are outsiders, deemed “undesirable” by the Palace and left to survive in a land with next to nothing. However, it is shown that the Few aren’t above putting the lives of civilians in danger. These civilians are citizens of the Palace, so probably just as guilty in the Few’s opinion, but still. It’s hard to get people on your side with collateral damage. In a strange way, it could be said the Palace is also justified, or at least their actions have logic. The United States fell apart, making resources scarce, so of course they would use their power to hoard what they could get. The only side that is irredeemable are Herrod and the Ragers, who are just bloodthirsty murderers out for revenge and sadistic pleasure.

Justified or not, the violence all leads to more violence. No matter how many times either side beats the other down, they come back for more and nothing is accomplished accept new graves. The major battle scene in this issue is a testament to this point, a culmination of the tension between warring parties, but there are no winners, no end. More violence is bound to happen. It’s a cycle. The Palace steals from the Few, the Few attack; the Few attack, the Palace strikes back. Violence repeats itself.

However, this doesn’t mean the message of The Few is non-violence. In fact, it’s a much more cynical message. Like the past two issues, the story starts off with a quote, this time by the Greek tragedian Aeschylus:

“This is the law of the land: blood spilt upon the ground cries out for more.”

The message here is not that violence is right or wrong, but necessary. it’s not like non-violence could work in this scenario. Is either side supposed to roll over and let themselves be gutted while their enemy reaps the rewards? Non-violent protest can only work in a stable environment where peaceful resolution is possible. That’s not possible in an unstable world where at any moment, you can die of anything. “It’s necessary” might be a dangerous term used to justify horrible things, but perhaps traditional ideas of good and evil no longer apply. It boils back down to survive or die.

This makes The Few #3 sound like a pessimistic issue. It is, and there’s only three issues left, so who knows how this mess can work out for a happy ending? I have to stand by the pessimism though because I feel more and more that this series is a warning to America: If we do not find solutions to our current political climate, ones that can either put a stop to or decrease the tensions between race, class, gender, etc., it will end in a massive conflict, maybe even a second civil war. It’s a lot more complicated than that, and, again, that doesn’t mean marginalized groups should roll over while dudes like Trump use “legal” means to harm them, and then Internet fascist like Richard Spencer fuel the flames of white nationalism. Stay angry and fight back. Just be careful and consider the impact your actions will have in the future.

The Few #3 is another riveting entry in the series with yet more great art and deep, meaningful story involving the growth of Edan Hale’s character and exploring relative topics. It does suffer a little from formulaic story beats and not giving characters equal development, but the emotional impact should keep readers engrossed.

                                                                Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review