Did you think The Wicked and the Divine could’ve used less idol worship? Did you think Stray Bullets could’ve used more weirdness? Did you like the art in both, but your tastes go more to the Matt Kindt side of things? Curt Pires and Jason Copland cooked up some mad science, and Pop #1 might be the book you’ve been waiting for.

We live in the era of the genre-bender, and this could easily get caught up in the mix; it really shouldn’t. Pop does enough to set itself apart from the pack and from the typical; there are little touches that might remind you of the Venture Brothers, the Fifth Element, a fellow Dark Horse book in Mind MGMT, and — in general — the vibe you get when you’re reading something really good.

Pop is a neat sci-fi / suspense joint that uses both sides of the scale well. Characters come running, stumbling, screwing, and confidently-sauntering into frame; the narrative jumps into and out of convention; you get some normalcy and you get a whole lot of weird. There’s enough weird science and enough ‘what’s going on?’ to keep you moving through the story. The gist of the high-concept ‘come back next month’ line is: in this world, pop musicians are created in beakers, more or less. The next one that’s set to come up breaks free and ends up on the run. During said run, she comes across a stoned, aging, disaffected nerd named Coop — and from there, we’re off to the races.

Once in a while, the dialog gets a little too mired in itself; luckily, that’s balanced by how spare and effective the rest of the dialog is. Don’t let yourself scan the book while you’re in the shop; read from the beginning. There’s the occasional weak page in terms of exposition, but that’s to be expected with a first issue. This isn’t Curt Pires’ first time to the dance, and it shows; he gives you things to go on, but doesn’t throw so much information at you that it becomes overwhelming. There’s an impressive balance struck.

Jason Copland’s art is the perfect complement to Pires’ story. Some of his character designs smack of anime; particularly Lupin III and Cowboy Bebop; his sequentials bring to mind the scratchy-but-precise styles of the aforementioned Matt Kindt and David Lapham. There’s no disjoint from panel-to-panel, even when things stray to abstraction or ridiculousness. The book is worth flipping through for Copland’s contribution alone; the story will keep you there.

Color duties fall to Pete Toms, who does a fantastic job. The washes, matched with some of the character designs, evoke 70s actions films like Death Race 2000. Toms’ versatility plays well with the range of characters, settings, and tone — as well as the speed with which they hit the reader.

Altogether, Pop #1 adds up to a promising debut. There’s just enough quirk, just enough character work, just enough bizarre high-concept, and plenty skill on the sides of the creators. This is another one of those books that could get lost in the sea of concept-porn and flashes-in-the-pan, but it’s much more than that. Curt Pires and Jason Copland, instead, turn it into something well worth your time.

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