Recoil: Book 1 – Flood – Graphic Novel Review

Web comics have been growing in popularity ever since they first started appearing online. With it being harder than ever to break into the publishing world, some bold creators have taken to the internet to share their art, uploading one page of their stories at a time, building up their fanbase as they go. One of these such titles is Recoil, which began in 2014, by writer and artist Spire Eaton, and is now coming to print form in a new graphic novel.

Recoil: Book 1 – Flood takes the first five chapters of the web comic and combines them together to tell the story of Kalo, a teenage boy whose life is forever changed one day. When we first meet Kalo he’s your average teen, playing music in a band with friends, spending time with his girlfriend, and doing his best to get by in school. When Kalo finds his girlfriend Becca having an overdose, however, his life begins to spin out of control. Barely managing to get out a call for help, things go from bad to worse when the house collapses on top of them.

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When Kalo wakes up in hospital he gets some terrible news: Becca didn’t survive the incident. Barely holding it together, Kalo drifts through life for several days before deciding that he can’t go on, and sets out to take his own life. However, he’s stopped by a mysterious man named Sebray, and shortly after blacks out. When he comes to Kalo learns that he’s been kidnapped and placed inside a special facility, the Croft Centre for the Attributed. The people running the Croft Centre tell him that he caused the building to fall down thanks to the powers that unlocked within him, and that they can’t let him go until he can learn to use his powers safely. Now Kalo’s locked up with other teens with strange powers, and he’s determined to find a way back to his family.

Recoil feels a lot like the sort of story you’d expect to see from an X-Men comic: a young teen goes through something terrible that unlocks their special power, and gets taken away to a secret school to learn about it; but more if Professor Xavier was really probably evil and just kidnapping kids. As soon as Kalo arrives in the Croft Centre you know that this is not a nice place. Yes, it might not be some dark and dingy prison, but the fact that the kids are given numbers instead of names, and are fitted with collars designed to track them isn’t something that sits right.

Whilst Kalo seems unsure of the place when he first gets there, due largely to still getting over the trauma of losing Becca and learning that he has super powers, he doesn’t quite see these warning signs, and as such much of this first volume sees him building friendships with the other teens in the Centre. This isn’t a bad thing, as it gives the reader a good chance to start to get to know some of the other characters and figure out the kinds of powers and abilities they have. There are some interesting scenes that help us do this, including super-powered basketball, and some group therapy sessions.

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We also get to know some of the staff at the facility, and thanks to some good writing by Eaton I’m still not sure if all of them are actually bad, or if some might just be unaware of what’s going on. Characters like Dr Bhatti, who work with the teens to help them figure out and manage their abilities, and seem to genuinely care about their emotional well-being feel like they could end up in either camp, and I love that ambiguity.

Alongside having written the story, Eaton provides that art, and has a pretty distinct style. I’m not sure of the best way to describe Eaton’s art other than it looking like a comic and graffiti crashed together and this is what came out the other side. The art has big, bold lines with exaggerated proportions. Characters have distinct features that make them instantly recognisable, and the colours are vibrant and pop off the page. There’s not a single page in the book that feels flat or boring, and that’s a hard thing for any graphic novel to say.

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One other thing that I really liked about the book, yet is a really subtle thing, is the amount of representation that there is. Many of the characters are people of colour, and there are scenes where the rooms have different pride flags hanging up. So far none of the representation is really a focus, there aren’t really moments where race, gender, or sexuality really comes up, but the sheer fact that the book at least feels diverse and well populated with different types of people is a big plus.

Recoil: Book 1 – Flood doesn’t feel like a web comic. It feels like a slickly produced work that you’d expect to see coming out of a major publisher, so to learn that it was created by a single person isn’t just impressive, it’s astonishing. The level of commitment that Eaton has shown to have spent so long on this story, releasing it page by page, and going back and improving on those early releases now with improved art and new lettering is incredibly impressive. I’m sure that this book will be well received, and if this is your first time discovering Recoil it’s the perfect opportunity to do so.

Recoil: Book 1 – Flood is available for pre-order now from Quindrie Press.

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