Carbon Grey is a beautifully presented comic. The simplicity of the narrative blends in a poetic way with the detailed art. Orange, red, and peach hues tint the world through their reflection of the colors present in the vast amounts of fire, blood, and bare skin. Though the narrative was well-done and the art was amazing, the story itself was complicated and hard to follow. This is undeniably a book you read twice to really understand what is happening. That being said – I loved it.
The storyline is hard to summarize concisely, so allow me to rely on Image Comics’ own description:
To a noble family twins are born: Mathilde and Giselle, the Sisters Grey. For generations the Sisters have protected and counseled the Kaiser, ruler of Mitteleuropa. But this is a different time. At the birth of the industrial age a great war is raging. When the Kaiser is assassinated, Giselle is accused. Pursued by her sisters and hunted by the enemy, Giselle must unravel the prophecy of the Carbon Grey before history itself is rewritten
Comics have a story-telling advantage in that they, unlike regular books, can introduce a background story directly from the first page through a lengthy narrative that is telling the reader everything that happened before this point. The reason it can get away with that without coming across as wordy or boring is because it is simultaneously throwing us into the action of the plot through the imagery of the illustrations.
This is exactly how Carbon Grey begins. One of the sisters Grey is mentally narrating the history of the Kaiser and the long-dead hero, Gottfaust the Grey, while simultaneously demolishing an entire troop of soldiers – a sword in one hand and a very impressive gun in the other. May I just say – it was totally sweet.
This book has a steampunk meets anime feel to it. The setting is a technologically/mechanically advanced society at war. Both guns and blade weapons are used liberally and the dress code is an odd, but well meshed, mixture of WWII-like uniforms, black leather, and regal Napoleonic finery.
I am going to take a moment to switch gears in order to complain about something I usually have a high tolerance for, but in this instance really quite annoyed me: let’s talk about the scene with the boobs. I’ve seen some disproportionately illustrated women in my day, but good lord! This just came out of nowhere! The switch to the painfully large jugs was supposed to be a comical break in the midst of serious story-telling and bloody imagery… I think. They are later somewhat deflated and admitted to not being real. But unlike when a movie breaks scenes in a dramatic way where music and background chatter can immediately change a mood – this break is abrupt and the comedic air is lost until the later revelation. Seriously. Check it out:
To balance this, though, you also have to see one of the more eloquently portrayed scenes:
As I said before, the plot was complex and hard to get a good grasp on in some ways. Characters were seen at a glance, but we really don’t know anything about these sisters or their enemies yet. In fact, we know little more than the back story of the book. I am seriously hoping that future issues will make both plot and characters much more clearly defined. The first story-arch will be told in a three-issue mini-series. From there, the entirety of the Carbon Grey story will be told through a total of thirteen issues. Iam quite sure that once the plot starts rolling the issues will only continue to get better. Therefore I am absolutely recommending Carbon Grey. I will be patiently awaiting the next issue, myself.
For more information about this new series, check out the Newsarama interview with author Hoang Nguyen.
Story: Hoang Nguyen, Khari Evans, Paul Gardner, Mike Kennedy
Script & Lettering: Paul Gardner
Art: Khari Evans, Kinsun Loh, Hoang Nguyen