Montreal Comic Con is going on this weekend here in my home town. We applied for press passes, but they politely declined to have us there. Well, politely in a generic, devoid of personal contact form letter sort of way. But I’ve still got comics on the brain, and as such I sat down to read some stuff that might be a bit under the radar.

Complex 1Out from Alterna Comics is a book called “Complex“, by Michael Malkin and Kay. Currently, it’s a free download on Comixology, so there is no reason for you to not check it out. I was raised on Marvel and DC comics, but since both Disney and Time-Warner are still opponents of net-neutrality, I don’t really buy any of there stuff anymore, and especially nothing first run. Most comics I read regularly are being put out by Image (Saga, Manhattan Projects), IDW (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), or Dark Horse (Conan). So I do have an appetite for both licensed and indie comics, but I admit I have a tendency to stick to more well know creators or properties.

I have no clue who the creators of “Complex” are. I went into this book blind and just hoped it’d be okay. What I got was a dark, foreboding story with sharp art and a mystery that was enticing along with a cast of characters that all seemed to have solid, unique motivations for their actions. A dark neighborhood, wives secretly drugging their husbands, a series of shadowy scientists and an attempted murder. A little bit like turning into the X-Files for the first time in the middle of an episode somewhere in season two. You know it’s good, but you’re not really sure why or exactly what’s going on.

The art, by Kay, is very chiaroscuro and has solid storytelling chops, but there could be some more experimentation with the media going on. The consistent grid of the panels doesn’t always match the weird, trippy confusion that the plot is running. and that’s a bit of a shame. The characters however do look unique from one another, and the facial expressions and body language in the art is above average.

I’m not getting too much into the plot of the first issue for a couple of reasons. One, it’s strange, but it’s also a mystery, and I think a part of it’s appeal for me was reading it going “What the fuck is going on here?” and it gets to be (a little) clearer as you go through the issue. The other is that I’m worried I’m going to make assumptions about the plot that’ll be wildly wrong once I read the next issue, and I don’t want to be caught making stuff up.

Complex #1 gets a rating of 4 poison rings from me.