Built more for thrill than profound story-telling, Adam Cheal’s creator owned graphic novel, “Toxic Storm”, is a subtle ode to the exploitation films of the 80s. But underneath the delicate homage of said bygone era of film, there’s a prepossessing energy and spirit that compliments Cheal’s imaginative take on the style. The writer embarks on a challenging exercise in supernatural-horror, and artist Alberto ‘Renzo’ Rodriguez is along for the ride to effectively illustrate Cheal’s impossible world on paper.
WRITTEN BY: Adam Cheal
ART BY: Alberto ‘Renzo’ Rodriguez
PUBLISHER: AAM / Markosia
RELEASE: November 6th, 2013
Originally, the graphic novel was marketed as “Zyklon-B”, the cyanide-based pesticide used in multiple gas chambers during the Holocaust. But for whatever reason — perhaps to do with the trade name infringing on intellectual property laws; or concerns surrounding the marketability of such a controversial title — the creator decided to rebrand his series as “Toxic Storm”. With an eclectic mix of genres and themes, Cheal’s first two installments highlight the abuse and corruption of power, the injustice of a broken judicial system, revenge and ultimately, redemption.
The story follows wrongfully convicted Simon Fisher, who’s sentenced to death by gas chamber in San Quentin Prison. Under the guidance of his occultist cellmate Caleb Fontana, Simon is able to use black magic to transform himself into a toxic gas, and successfully escapes his execution. Unsurprisingly, the first chapter takes readers on a journey of revenge and murder, as Simon vows to make all those responsible for his mutant condition pay. Issue #2 sees the introduction of a key player in Cheal’s series, Special FBI Agent Jack Storm, who strikes a deal with Caleb in exchange for Simon’s whereabouts. Without spoiling the reasons why, Agent Storm turns rogue in his quest to apprehend his target, and will stop at nothing to retrieve him.
What’s interesting about “Toxic Storm” is that Cheal presents readers with a protagonist who has yet to prove himself as a ‘hero’, and a villain who is, essentially, just as ‘good’ — or ‘bad’ — as the lead. He establishes this dark and unfair world, where the majority of the people characterized within the pages are generally awful; so, the line between ‘Good vs. Evil’ is a very thin one. His narrative travels at such high speeds that it’s sometimes hard to keep up with all the plot developments and unexpected twists. But while the fast pace of the story is extremely conducive to his narrative building, certain aspects of character development and likability seem to be suffering.
Alberto “Renzo” Rodriguez and Joel J. Cotejar shared artistic reign in the series opener, but the latter failed to impress with his pencils. Fortunately, Rodriguez provides his stylistically distinguishable talents for the entire second issue, with Mike Summers assisting with colours. His lines are clean, boldly defined, and offer a finished look to Cheal’s dark world. He produces finely detailed illustrations and expressive characters that nail the script’s horrific beats. And his renderings of Simon in his toxic gas form are particularly interesting, especially with Summers’ greens to finish it off. Summers uses an infinite palette of colours to bring Rodriguez’ pencils to life, but he excels where the scenes call for less. There’s a fantastic flashback scene where he opts to work with grayscale to distinguish time, and he uses contrasting reds on things like occult symbols and blood, to make the panels pop.
Issue #1 of Cheal and Rodriguez’ “Toxic Storm” will be making its digital release via ComiXology, on November 6th, with monthly installments to follow. The trade paperback will be released by UK publishing company Markosia Enterprises Ltd in February, 2014. For more information, check out the graphic novel’s official wesbite.
Reviewed by – ShadowJayd