No, I havn’t cropped the horizontal plane of Harvest‘s striking cover image; the boy’s was only half there in the original, his other half comes next month. For this book’s covers interior artist Colin Lorimer has taken one long landscape image and spliced it into sections, removing a piece from the whole and selling it separately. Not only is this a cool idea, it’s also a telling one and what it tells us about AJ Lieberman’s book is this: What you are getting here is only part of the story, that story is a quintych and it is a story about separation, about pieces parted from their wholes and the holes these leave; more specifically it is a story about stealing organs.
The cover is also telling in another way, a way that the above image is not. What you see there is obviously a draft or early version, because cover features a few small differences. Most of these are simply a matter of shading, focus and tone but tellingly Lorimer has added three items to the tables inventory: an orange bottle of pills, a small bloody saw atop the books and next to that ticking clock. These aren’t highlighted or even noticeable on the average glance but more than anything else they sum up the content to be found inside the comic: this book plays with time, it’s characters play with pills and the results of both are bloody.
The thing that most intrigued me about the inside of this book, besides the stunning story and gory graphics, is another such intricate detail. The story opens deeply in media res for a few pages then flashes back from there, hinting at the future awaiting or ‘hero’. This mysterious sequence opens up a lot of big questions about where the book is going and where this will sync into its story, but for me the biggest one goes unasked and that is: Why lie? There is an exchange here between our protagonist and his prisoner – a Mr.Bennington who lays strapped to a hospital bed, tangled up in intravenous tubes – nearly all of which is undercut by a newspaper hidden in plain sight on the previous page; the prisoner is depicted, but by a different name. What it means and whether it will be important I have absolutely no idea, but I was hooked from there on.
Which is good because all we really get in this issue are hints of the story, a series of single hooks dangled enticing before our eyes. The content of these chapter-esque sections though is not only stellar but utterly unique: a down on his luck douche-bag doctor comes down hard from a high, an ominous Japanese mobster offers him an offer he can’t refuse, a dangerous pair of organ thieves operate boldly by the bay while in the suburbs a sheltered seeming family starts out their day. Add to that the ambiguous cold open and you have one heady mix that I can’t wait to decipher and decode the connections between.
All of that though makes this sound like an overly contrived and cerebral comic when it is truthfully the opposite. I’m not sure what genre I would class this comic as: it’s certainly not a comedy, there are crime elements but it’s not Noir, some personal drama but it’s too high concept to be a simple character book. If I had to I guess I would say that it has the feel of a horror film despite lacking any obvious monsters (though murderers aren’t in short supply). It just inspires such dread in you, thanks mostly to the illustrations.
The art is textbook in a literal sense; it depicts events very realistically, especially the bloody surgical procedures that punctuate the book in place of action scenes. These are gruesome but never in a gaudy way since Lorimer dissects but never takes delight in doing so; the wounds are never over-focused or forced in your face, instead he simply allows the eye to direct itself to the red patch in each panel. This cold and clinical approach though is much more sinister and unsettling than the usual one.
So all things considered Harvest is a stunning debut issue regardless of how you look at it – shallowly skin deep or with a surgeon’s eye – and I imagine that it will only continue to grow in intensity and imagination as the pieces all come together and the picture becomes whole. That is something I cannot wait to see.