When society’s deepest fears become reality and try to burn the citizens alive, and only a select few have the special ability necessary to fight them, you’d think those select few would be compensated generously, right? Think again. In TerrorWar #1 from writer Saladin Ahmed, artist Dave Acosta, colorist Walter Pereyra, inker Jay Leisten, and letterer Shawn Lee, saving the world is frustrating contract work that looks like a terrible way of making a living. It also makes for a great comic.
The first issue of this Image comic introduces us to Muhammad Cho, a “Terrorfighter” whose brain can charge a gun that can actually hurt “Terrors,” fears made huge and tangible by some unknown source. He lives in a bad neighborhood, gets covered in iridescent terror entrails, and doesn’t even get paid for destroying the things unless he gets a license first. Ahmed creates an incredibly dark capitalist world here that will literally rip you apart if you get into too much debt. The unseen hand pressing the impoverished deeper into the ground creates a sense of terror more than any monster could.
The worldview may be dark, but the art is full of life. Acosta builds a sprawling metropolis and distinct figures to populate it. Muhammad’s fellow Terrorfighters all have their own look and feel that match the specific voice that Ahmed is giving them. Leisten gives the pages incredible depth and shadow, while Pereyra makes the foreground pop with pink, purple, and turquoise. The phenomenal cover does a great job of telegraphing the vaporwave aesthetic that you will find inside the book. And I won’t spoil it, but when the first “Terror” appears, you know you are in for a wild ride.
This first TerrorWar issue is effective in creating both short-term and long-term stakes and mysteries that can be explored over the course of the series. What these “Terrors” actually are and if they can be stopped for good could be something for the overall story to explore, but just like with the characters themselves, the day-to-day is offering plenty of problems to deal with. There are the deadly “Terrors” themselves, but also rival groups of Terrorfighters to compete with to simply be able to pay the rent. Seeds of conflict are already beginning to sprout here, and I can’t wait to see them grow.
Ahmed has a successful track record in balancing the scale of larger-than-life battles while not losing the down-to-earth storytelling with characters like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan. That’s what makes his Image Comics debut so exciting. His freedom to go as hard as he wants to in critiquing our capitalistic society is already so apparent. Who knows how complex this story is going to become? It’s not often that a comic’s tone and style feel so fully formed so early on, so TerrorWar #1 is a great first issue to look for when you next go into the comic book store.