VS. #1 ReviewVS. #1
Image Comics
Written by Ivan Brandon
Art by Esad Ribic and Nic Klein
32 pages for $3.99

Solicit: War has become a spectator sport. Privately funded armies of superstar soldiers march into battle for fame, profit, and the glory of their sponsor nations. When a new generation of soldiers arrive, top gladiator Satta Flynn is about to discover how fleeting the limelight can be.

“Space Gladiators” was Ivan Brandon’s elevator pitch to Esad Ribic when they came together to plan this series, and VS. #1 delivers on that for sure. As the solicit says, Satta Flynn is the greatest warrior in a bloodsport that dominates the culture of a futuristic, alien world. Everything is on display for the masses, and is incorporated with messages from corporate sponsors, including final kill shots and time spend getting patched up off the battlefield. For Satta, the war is everything, and so this issue doesn’t really offer much more in the realm of world building or character development. I don’t really mean that as a negative – we’re viewing things through Satta’s point of view, which is decidedly limited. We do get the sense that Satta is stubborn, but honorable, playing by the rules of the game and the whims of the sponsors. But we don’t really learn much more about this world or its inhabitants, or about Satta’s life outside the arena, if such a thing exists. Where I think the story will branch out is the final page cliffhanger and what happens next.

Brandon’s script helps give some context to the world and these events, but it’s the art duo of Esad Ribic and Nic Klein that bring the world of VS. to shining, bloody life. The issue opens with several pages of gorgeous establishing shots as we approach the planet and the slaughter happening on the surface. Outside the battlefield is a sprawling alien metropolis, full of gleaming architecture and bizarre inhabitants that hang on Satta’s every word and action. It’s unbelievably gorgeous. As good as Esad Ribic is on his own, the addition of Nic Klein’s colors elevates the visuals to the next level.

While I thought the plot was a little slight in this first issue, I think the story is headed in some really interesting directions, and the artwork is just phenomenal. I’m definitely invested in seeing where VS. goes from here.

Rating: BUY IT

Joe Patrick is the Co-Founder and Co-Host of the Two-Headed Nerd Comic Book Podcast, and the Editor-In-Chief of twoheadednerd.com. If he could have built a career out of correcting Matt Baum’s mistakes, he would have left you all behind years ago.