Shortly after I picked up Cell #1, I saw that the third issue had been solicited as “#3 of 3″. So I figured I had the beginning of a nice little limited series. Not exactly. In fact, what happened is writer/artist Derek Kirk decided to the put the series on hold - indefinitely - after the third issue. He wasn’t ready to finish it, he explained.
The reason this really annoys me is not so much that I “wasted” my money on those three issues. It’s that from the very beginning, Cell was a very well-done work of comics, with sharp realistic art, interesting characters, and more than a little mystery about what was going on and where it was headed. I was hooked, and was eager to see where things went. And to make matters worse, Cell #3 ends right in the middle of things, with a new development just getting underway, and absolutely no resolution whatsoever.
The main mystery of the series is the question implicitly posed in the opening pages: Who is the naked man who appeared in the alley, and where did he come from? What is the tiny object he’s so possessive about, and why? How will Annie and her erstwhile boyfriend Sal figure into the unfolding of events? Are the street gang important to the outcome?
The art is very impressive. I suppose I’m impressed by it because this is very much how I wish I could draw. There are lots of artists I admire out there with varied art styles (e.g. McKeever, Pérez, Parobeck, Ross, Tanaka, J.P.Leon); Kirk’s fairly simple, well-proportioned, realistic figures and natural-looking settings are what I aspire to. You can tell from the first two-page spread, without a single caption, that this story is set in a not-too-distant future, and get a sense of how society has changed (not much for the better, I’m afraid). And there’s no mistaking one character for another, no matter what angle they’re drawn from. And, as icing on the cake, he’s not afraid to draw the “naughty bits” when the composition of a particular panel featuring a naked man calls for it. I appreciate that not for prurient reasons, but for the sake artistic integrity.
After putting Cell on ice, Kirk was supposed to be working on another series called Haana while he ruminated over whatever creative issues he had with the continuation of this series. That might have been a fair “consolation prize” for a while (assuming Haana was of similar quality), but after a couple issues were solicited, that seems to have been postponed or cancelled as well. At least this time we didn’t get the teaser of just a few issues first.
I do want to praise Kirk’s work (and the backup stories featuring the work of his teenage brother Brent, who’s done some funny, alternative slice-of-life-in-high-school comics). I really like what I see. But leaving a story just hanging like this is one of the reasons people are often reluctant to try new small-press series. So that’s why I can only give a qualified endorsement of Cell.