Review: Narcopolis: Continuum #4
“While issue 4 is the conclusion of Duvall and Singh’s tale, their work on the miniseries makes me hope that they or another creative team revisit the world of Nacropolis, as the duo have taken time travel tropes that have sometimes been beaten to death and made them fresh and engaging.”
Narcopolis: Continuum #4
Publisher: Heavy Metal Media
Writer: Scott Duvall
Artist: Ralf Singh
Release Date: Wed, April 6, 2016
Are we the architects of our own suffering or are there external forces that will push and pull on our lives no matter which decisions we make? That’s the question writer Scott Duvall and artist Ralf Singh want to answer in Narcopolis: Continuum #4, the conclusion to the Heavy Metal Media miniseries based on the sci-fi film Narcopolis. After suffering the loss of his father yet again, Ben is now face to face with Todd Ambro, his employer and thorn in his side ever since Ben created his time travel drug. Whether Ben can keep Ambro from weaponizing it will affect not only his future, but that of the greater world at large.
Here’s the thing about time travel stories that have a tendency to make or break them: There has to be a payoff, and it has to feel big and complete. Not that that isn’t the case with stories in other genres, but time travel stories in particular have a heavy load to bear. Firstly, the resolution between characters and the general conceit of the plot has to stick the landing, just as in any other yarn. However, tales of time have the added burden to make the conclusion feel complete and novel or, at the very least, leave the reader mulling over Big Ideas long after they’ve walked away from the story.
Duvall had to consider those matters within the context of adapting someone else’s already-established sci-fi world, without the benefit of creating the basic building blocks he’d have to manipulate himself. The fact that he succeeds in any sense would be a feat. The fact that he succeeds and sticks the landing is to be lauded. With how he shows what Ben ultimately does to keep the time travel drug out of the hands of Ambro, Duvall poses questions of the immutability of time and creation and, ultimately, the culpability we have in the results of our actions. While Ben is given a somewhat happy ending, what will be the cost of that joy? Will time correct itself? And, if so, will time prove to be a circle or a straight line? Duvall manages to pose all of these questions without coming off as autodidactic and give readers a conclusion that gives us a glimmer of hope, no matter misplaced it might be. The effect is alternately celebratory and tense.
The angularity of Singh’s linework helps to enhance the tension that Duvall has helped to build throughout the miniseries, and that tension is at its most fully realized here. While beautiful, Singh’s creative decisions create an uncomfortableness to the forms he puts to the page, making the reader feel claustrophobic even in scenes that take place in wide-open vistas. The choice, I suspect, is deliberate, and it fits perfectly with the story Duvall has worked to craft. I know I can’t be the first person to liken Singh’s work to that seen in MTV’s Aeon Flux cartoon, but that’s not meant to suggest that it’s derivative. On the contrary, that type of stylistic choice couldn’t be better suited than it has been in the miniseries.
While issue 4 is the conclusion of Duvall and Singh’s tale, their work on the miniseries makes me hope that they or another creative team revisit the world of Nacropolis, as the duo have taken time travel tropes that have sometimes been beaten to death and made them fresh and engaging.
Narcopolis: Continuum #4, written by Scott Duvall with Ralf Singh on art, is on sale now from Heavy Metal.
From the official issue decription:
All paths lead to this moment in time as time traveler Ben must put a stop to what he started when he unlocked the key to time travel. A lifelong desire to discover the truth behind his father’s disappearance has led to nothing but a path of destruction and put Ben’s loved ones in harm’s way. He will do anything to reverse these events even if that means putting an end to his own life… before he was ever born. The conclusion to the 4-part series starts here.