HiHigh Level #1 Review
Vertigo Comics
Written by Rob Sheridan
Art by Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo
32 pages for $3.99

Solicit: Hundreds of years after the world ended and human society was rebuilt from scratch, a self-interested smuggler is forced to traverse a new continent of danger and mystery to deliver a child messiah to High Level, a mythical city at the top of the world from which no one has ever returned. Don’t miss the start of a new series from writer Rob Sheridan, co-creator of Nine Inch Nails’ groundbreaking Year Zero alternate-reality game!

Here we are again with another title in Vertigo’s troubled relaunch. I’m happy to report that High Level is one for the win column. The series follows Thirteen, a young sewer scavenger trying to build a life for herself in what passes for society. She’s trying to keep one step ahead of the authorities while looking for her next big score. Rob Sheridan’s script has a very Firefly feel to it, with settlers on the outskirts trying to eke out a meager existence in the shadow of an oppressive government. Meanwhile, there’s a mythical city where citizens can aspire to go to find happiness, but where some see a chance for salvation, others fear something much more sinister. Sheridan does an excellent job setting up this world and Thirteen’s place in it. She’s content where she is, rooting through shit for enough to get by. So of course something comes along to set her on a path that will take her away from the home she knows, on a quest that will likely get her killed. There are a lot of familiar sci-fi/fantasy tropes at play here, but I think Sheridan plays with them really well, and I’m very interested in this world he’s created.
Omega Men’s Barnaby Bagenda is on art duties here and his work is just outstanding. He’s designed a rundown future world that looks completely believable. It’s grimy and ramshackle and yet still futuristic somehow. Similarly, his character designs invoke a bit of a Mad Max vibe, with a dash of Blade Runner. There was no credits page in my copy, but thanks to the Internet, I know that Romulo Fajardo is responsible for this issue’s vivid colors. He and Bagenda come together to produce some really spectacular visuals. I also want to give props to the letterer, whomever they are. The world balloons aren’t perfectly elliptical, and they don’t have the black stroke around them, so the stark white balloons kind of meld with the art. It’s really well done.
Vertigo is stumbling right now, with their books mired in scandal or cancelled before they’ve even been released, but the old girl still has some life left in her. If they can keep bringing surprising, high concept stuff like High Level to the stands, I’m all for it.
Rating: BUY IT