Review: The Few #5

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WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Last time, Edan, Pete, Davey, and the remnants of the Few squared off with Herrod and the Ragers. Herrod was defeated, but the Few took heavy losses, and Davey’s life is now hanging by a thread. Worse, Edan’s secret has come out, and Pete must decide what to do with her. Meanwhile in the Palace, decorated soldier Colonel Aliss Hale has learned of his daughter’s treason, sending him into a deep depression. Will his love for Edan trump his loyalty to the Palace? As the end approaches, pre-existing tensions will reach a boiling point in this issue, and after the events that transpire, there will be no turning back.

I’ve reviewed this series since issue #1, and I must say that no other issue has awed me with its visually beauty while simultaneously experiencing emotions of despair, joy, and anticipation quite like it. This for me is the best of the series and here is why.

As always with my reviews, it starts with the cover. The photograph is of Tracee, the young sister of Pete and Davey. I won’t reveal why, but she ties Edan’s dark past to her current predicament, the first connection with the Few that now weighs heavy on her conscious. Sherman’s color choices have always been fascinating, but I find symbolic relevance here. Tracee is ethnically black yet colored white. I’m guessing a mark of innocence. The background of her photograph is orange, intensely so. There’s something beautiful about this choice, capturing the energy of a happy disposition.

The gray hand holding Tracee’s photograph is ominous, a deathly gray contrasting the lively orange. Did something bad happen to Tracee? Is looking at the photograph filling the person with a dark feeling? Mind you, I read this comic and know what happens, so maybe I’m making up crap in order to give this cover more meaning than it has. I’ll let you decide on that.

I’ve repeated ad nauseum about Hayden Sherman’s amazing art, his mastery of panel layout, experimental coloring, and moody atmosphere. Issue #3 and #4 were more action-packed, allowing him to draw brutal destruction that would give Mad Max a run for its money. Issue #5 has Sherman return to atmosphere but just so happens to be his best work because of how it illustrates the raw emotion and thematic significance of Sean Lewis’ script.

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It starts with the opening pages of the Few entering a small town via RVs. It is surprisingly pristine, appearing to be closed down due to weather and not abandoned. Edan reminisces how even her father respected the Few for keeping their old homes intake, as though it’s there way of saying “We’re here too.” This scene is thematically part of Edan’s arc as she comes to recognize the humanity of the Few instead of little more than faceless terrorists. Lewis wrote this arc in a beautiful, heartfelt way and it has come to its peak. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Edan’s saved.

The next scene is an intense interrogation as she confesses to Pete. Sherman decompresses it with close ups as the two exchange dialogue back and forth, tension boiling naturally. Edan’s arc might have come to a significant turn, but so has Pete. He now realizes his duty as the leader of the Few, to protect them from all potential threats including Edan. It is an intense and excruciating scene, especially with the photograph of Tracee present. It is an object that reminds Edan of her sullied past, how deep she truly hurt Pete. Death and melancholy are present in the dull, grayish color choices, a palette that has been omnipresent in the series to symbolize the desperation of the world, now more so given the scene’s emotional significance.

The story cuts to a new scene in the Palace. Captain Irks, who has been pursuing Edan, goes to a skyscraper for a meeting with Colonel Aliss Hale. Red is a prominent color in this scene, and something about its particular hue feels domineering. It seems purposeful, a symbolic representation of the authoritarianism and chauvinism running deep in the city’s culture. Colonel Hale is drunkenly sobbing, broken that Edan would betray the Palace. With the red around him and his figure cast mostly in shadow, one gets the notion he is completely brainwashed and willing to do anything for his country. A common theme in the series is the danger of necessity, the willingness to do even the most heinous acts if you feel the conditions are justified. This scene adds a scarier layer, one that shows a person can justify their actions when completely enamored with the party they serve. I think of all the MAGAs and Pepe memes online, how they staunchly defend far right wing politics to the point of psychotic behavior like harassment. Perhaps even more insidiously subtle are people that persist in showcasing their patriotism with an overabundance of American flags, bald eagles, and other paraphenalia. We can say it’s just extravagance, but what if they’re so enamored with the U.S., they’re neurotically driven to overcompensate, and any flaw in that vision causes a massive meltdown?

The next to final scene is a damning, yet brilliantly illustrated point to this rabid jingoism. It involves a swarm of drones using holographic screens to project a speech on-screen. The catalyst of the scene leads to a series of four two-page spreads, one of the panels containing this simple but devastating lettering:

The emotional context this spread has to the unfolding events is devastating. The Palace is not only detrimental to the Few but its citizens as well. They get to live a comfortable life but in exchange for their sanity and value of life. Pete discovers a similar problem in the Few, wondering if the two sides will ever stop killing each other. He knows that an attack is still needed or else the Few will be wiped out. The truly dark power of Necessity is that it ties people to take actions that repeat an endless cycle of violence because the only other option is roll over and die.

I’m probably making The Few seem like a pessimistic series. To a certain extent, it is. All dystopias are like that. You need a pretty dark outlook on the state of the world to envision nightmarish futures. However, there’s always a kernel of hope. It happens earlier in a scene with Edan having a moment with the baby she’s been caring for since issue #1. The baby has called her mama. The area they’re in is claustrophobic and gray, yet feels calming, a moment of peace. Outside her window, the ghost of Ephram appears and tells her “Now you can fight for what you really believe” before disappearing. This scene is one of forgiveness and growth. Edan realizes she believes in the shared humanity of the people she once feared and will protect them with her life. It is a beautiful scene, a glimmer of hope that gives Edan a reason to fight on. Even after the devastating scene of the drones, she takes her anguish and uses it to fuel for her cause.

It has been a long while since a comic, a single issue no less, has been able to make me go through a whirlwind of emotions like this, experiencing both the lowest of despair and the highest of joy. It’s beautifully rendered in word and visual by the amazing creative team. The one flaw to an otherwise fantastic issue is that I think the Few forgive Edan too easily for her crimes. Maybe save that after a major conflict in the final issue. It continues to bug me, but then I think of everything else the issue has achieved and learn to deal with it.

The Few #5 is the most visually stunning, emotional issue of this amazing, relevant scifi series. Both Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman bring their A-games with the kind of passion all comics should have. This is Eisner-worthy material, and I’ll be rooting for the comic when the time comes.

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