By Jarred A. Luján — Vault Comics has a new title out this week, Test #1, from writer Christopher Sebela and artist Jen Hickman. I know Hickman mostly for their work on AfterShock’s Moth & Whisper. Sebela, meanwhile, actually writes one of my favorite current ongoings, with the creator-owned book from Image Comics, Crowded. These two teaming up made me excited as soon as I heard about it, but it was really that Test’s concept also involves technology that got me truly fascinated. Sebela has done some sort of funny-while-tragic stuff involving the future of technology over in Crowded, so I was really excited to see him tackle the topic again, perhaps in a different way.
That…is not what happens in Test. Listen, the truth is that I’m kind of struggling to write this review because Test is so, so, SO different from anything I’ve ever read. It is a singular comic—really its own concept onto itself—and this becomes apparent early.
First and foremost, the ramblings of lead character Aleph really suck you into the entire experience of this book. The way that the captioning and dialogue works sells you on the disjointedness of Aleph’s entire being. Reading Aleph is less reading and more experiencing. Partnered with the way we sort of see glimpses of how Aleph got to this point, it just feels very unnerving and at a very rapid rate. It’s a high compliment that Sebela’s writing can establish such a visceral tone so (seemingly) easy.
Hickman is clearly the perfect compliment to this approach too. I’m struggling to find the right words to articulate why, but Hickman has such a unique style. It works so well with what this story is doing, feeling very natural. It’s as simple as square hole, square block with this pairing.
Hassan Otsman-Elhaou’s lettering also makes a great addition here. Using boxes that aren’t perfectly rectangle or square when it comes to Aleph’s captioning adds a personal feel to their confusion, their paranoia, their existence as a junkie.
In the end (and beginning and middle) Test is weird. It’s a strange tale, to be sure, and it feels like it’s only about to get stranger, but that’s what captures readers in this debut issue. The concept is more than enough to make me want to come back for more, and it’s aided by a creative team that perfectly executes a captivating story within a complex and interesting concept.
Overall: This book is uniquely bizarre, it is captivating, and its art is beautiful. Simply put, it’s going to make you come back for more. Give me issue #2 already, thanks. 10/10
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Jen Hickman
Colorist: Harry Saxon
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Designer: Tim Daniel
Publisher: Vault Comics
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Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.