Writer(s): Ken Krekeler
Artist Name(s): Ken Krekeler
Cover Artist(s): Ken Krekeler
Warning: Contains Spoilers
On one level, Dryspell is a deconstruction of the superhero genre. On another, it’s a tragedy. It’s the human element that prevents the comic from simply retreading old ground.
The art is deliberately rough and effective. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of noir comics in the use of heavy black and deep shadows. The combination of this with uncluttered line work reminded me of David Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman: Year One. And that’s high praise indeed.
Expressions are subtle and speak volumes. You feel for the characters and because of this, you forgive them their bad choices. The color palette is sedate, almost naturalistic, breaking away from the muted colors to explode into brilliant yellows and reds when appropriate.
The dialogue shines. Unlike much comic dialogue, it sounds believable. You can actually hear the characters’ voice in your head. Ken Krekeler has mastered the hiccups and rhythm of speech, the little telling pauses, the silences that say more than words.
This is a very clever comic in that the artwork, coloring and writing mesh together perfectly, making the it somehow larger than life while remaining emotionally accessible to the reader. Dryspell takes the dissatisfaction many of us feel with our lives and plays it out on the biggest stage possible – the world of super-humans.
Deconstructing the superhuman genre has become common in recent years. Sometimes it’s handled delicately. Other times, it’s handled with all the subtlety of a fog horn.
Dryspell stands head and shoulders above most attempts and the reason for this can be summed up in one word – characterization.
Ken Krekeler goes to great lengths to make his characters relatable. We might not always condone what they do but we do understand it.
Tom Ferris is an ordinary man trapped in an ordinary life. Like many of us, he is stifled by mediocrity masquerading as stability. Like some of us, he has a dark secret. But unlike us, his secret relates to a world of super-humans and fantastic crimes.
Tom used to be a super-villain.
The theme explored in Dryspell is a common one. Middle class white man ensnared in a middle class life, as surely as a bug trapped in amber, seeks to empower himself by breaking away from the conventional script of his life.
When handled poorly, this kind of story quickly degenerates into a juvenile power fantasy. This is not the case here.
Dryspell explores the ultimate outcome of such actions. Tom sees himself as a frustrated artist but as he’s sucked back into the world of costumed heroes and villains, he does not explode in an orgy of creativity but one of tragic destruction.
His return to the status of costumed villain begins to unravel his life. He seeks control and power through his super-villain persona (known as Black Baron.) It works in the short-term – his relationship improves, he’s more assertive at work – but of course, it’s just one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Or in this case, tragic. A bank job, pulled with several other super-villains, goes horribly wrong. His personal life falls apart. And he’s driven to realize that in his quest for control, he has in fact, lost control of everything.
The only thing left is power. The dry spell ends in a terrible city-wide slaughter. Sated, Tom waits for his super-hero nemesis, Apollo, to come and apprehend him.
This reveals another terrible disappointment. Super-heroes are as shallow and self-serving as the villains.
Apollo’s motivation is as disturbingly selfish – and believable.
In this book, super-humans aren’t better or worse than us. They’re just us, with our problems and flaws and screw-ups.
And ultimately, this is why Dryspell works.