Kept under wraps in a secretive development process since 2015, Oblivion Song, published by Image Comics for Skybound Entertainment, marks Robert Kirkman’s foray into a new sci-fi story, the product of ten years of a concept that evolved as he grew as a person. FanBros.com was among a select few outlets invited to a press conference where Robert Kirkman and the rest of the Oblivion Song creative team provided valuable insight into what the story is about, what we should expect, and how it all came together.
The catalyst of Oblivion Song was an incident occurring a decade before the start of the story when a parallel dimension transposed itself within the entire physical plane of a 30 square mile section of Philadelphia (for reference, Philly is 141.7 sq. miles). The dimensional shift, canonically referred to as “The Transference”, occurred without any warning whatsoever and resulted in the sudden loss of 300,000 citizens to the “apocalyptic hellscape” known as Oblivion. While those people (and the buildings, cars, infrastructure, etc.) were in essence, transported to this other dimension, the residents of Oblivion, grotesque monster-animals that come in varying shades of WTF, crossed over into sunny Philadelphia. Needless to say, the city had a bad time of it, with tens of thousands of people being killed during the rampant monster attacks. Although the situation was eventually contained on the Philly side, you still had the matter of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children that seemingly disappeared into thin air.
The government of course gets involved, as they should, making every attempt to recover these people. An agent named Nathan Cole, our weathered protagonist, gets involved as he’s built devices that allow the operator to transpose themselves and others, to and from Oblivion at will. As within our human nature, when you lose something with the hope that it’s still around somewhere, your first inclination is to search madly about to find that something–until you don’t. While the government is able to find a few people early on, that stream of hope dries up and people stop getting found. Eventually without being able to justify the spend on a project that isn’t yielding results, the government shuts down the search operation. Instead, they elect to build a monument/barrier in front of the crater where a chunk of Philly used to be, inscribe the names of the presumed dead on it, and take an L. Afterward, most everyone moves on with their lives to varying degrees of success; some people forget the whole thing happened, and others make a movie about the incident–a fitting translation of how we actually handle our national tragedies in the real world.
That’s not the case for our boy ‘Never-Say-Quit’ Nathan. He’s one of many that lost a loved one, namely his brother Edward, to Oblivion. But because of his addiction to hope and optimism, his strong willed nature and perhaps obsession with Oblivion–or just plain poor judgement (it’s definitely somewhere in between), he continues looking for people–primarily Edward. He’s convinced there’s still tons of people alive, just looking for some form of assistance to help them get out of nega-Narnia. He makes daily trips to the horrifying dimension which is completely covered in offending color combinations with surreal tones (a smart move by colorist Annalisa Leoni), mold and fungus, monsters with both odd and even numbers of appendages and rows of teeth (Lorenzo De Felici’s parents are biologist which explains that one), all of which are decorating the dilapidated buildings and roads that were once bound to Earth. Nathan quite literally risks his life on every journey, in order to find and rescue the leftovers. Since the government has effectively abandoned the rescue efforts, he’s doing this with limited resources and shoddy equipment. In spite of everyone and everything saying otherwise, he refuses to acquiesce to a situation that clearly appears to everyone else as defeat.
Oblivion Song is co-created by Robert Kirkman who writes the series and Italian cartoonist, Lorenzo De Felici who directs the artwork. Fellow Italian creative Annalisa Leoni, provides the color work while Image Comics vet Rus Wooton does the lettering. Sean Mackiewicz, who recently published his first comic Gasolina, serves as the editor. The story is formally touted as “living somewhere in between being less depressing than The Walking Dead, but not as fun as Invincible when it’s at its most fun.” When asked why he chose to name the series Oblivion Song he commented with a laugh, “I think it sounds cool! I want people to hear [that title] and be like ‘well, what’s that about…’ and want to find out more.”
In what may be considered by many as a welcome change of venue, the story is set in modern Philadelphia as Kirkman believed it be the best location for the series as he felt too many big cities stories end up in L.A. or New York. Philadelphia represented a fresh location that hadn’t been used as often, but still had a metropolitan feel that retained some relevant iconography such as The Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin Bridge. The artwork is an entirely new direction and fits the overall narrative beautifully. As to how Kirkman found De Felici in the first place, he credited his Invincible co-creator Cory Walker with introducing him to De Felici’s online work via DeviantArt. Between Leoni’s coloring and lighting techniques and De Felici’s designs and angles, they were able to effectively create a world that both felt of death yet was filled with an unnerving number of alien life forms–so a horrible setting for anyone stuck there, but but not exactly depressing as you would more than likely live in a perpetual state of fear. De Felici’s strategy regarding the character models was straight-forward. As the people who were rescued from Oblivion suffered heavy trauma he wanted them to appear as if they aged five years more than anyone else. When it was noted that all of the characters were generally ‘unpretty’ he added “I try not to draw anyone very pretty. I don’t like when you read comics and watch shows and everyone is a model. I really don’t like it. So I try to avoid that.”
Generally speaking, the comic is a story of what happens (and then, doesn’t happen) when a shocking and tragic event inexplicably occurs in the middle of a populous American city. If this already sounds even vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s supposed to. The difference in this case is that this is an entirely different flavor of apocalypse which includes supernatural, sci-fi elements. But don’t be fooled. It’s within these common base ideas where Kirkman lures you in, then subsequently hooks you; quickly investing your interest in the story arcs. He knows how to position you right where he wants you–at the mercy of his pen. That says, Kirkman insists that while he’s open to the idea he did not make Oblivion Song as a TV show “It’s not why this project exists. I love the medium [comics] as an artform and I’m most comfortable with it.”
When we inquired as to why the entire process was so secretive, Kirkman shared that he has a pet peeve with projects being talked about publicly that are still under development, “It’s better to come out the gate formally where you are finding all the information out in an exciting way. I feel like learning something new is exciting and not keeping things secret makes things less so.” Lucky for us we got to read the first three issues and were immediately intrigued by the style and the meticulous world building. While the story isn’t moving at a breakneck speed, issues #1 -3, aren’t sluggish either. You’re deliberately dropped right into the action from the first panel, however the narrative is methodically built around the reader as the world of Oblivion Song materializes. When asked about the pacing of the story, Kirkman noted,
“We reveal more things more often. There’s big reveals pretty much at the end of every issue. Some issues there’s multiple things going on. There’s really a lot of story to tell. I want people to discover something new every issue.”
Kirkman added on that the story would continue to “snowball into this massive epic by the time we get to the 25th issue,” and that we are “not going to really know exactly where the story is going.” He confirmed that the reader would find out more about the dimension of Oblivion and about the things happening on Earth. In regards to overall themes present in the story, Kirkman expressed:
“I started to think about people who deal with loss, and how complacent we are as a society. I am now somewhat socially aware and have children and care about the world which, in your 20s it’s not really a thing that happens.”
So far, I can say I am enjoying the story concept. You do indeed feel that Kirkman is paying what he owes to the reader in each issue and gives us something to really bite down on until the next piece of the story becomes available. The setup is easy enough where even first time comic readers could easily get into the story and journey their way through, while long-time Kirkman fans will appreciate something new.
The first issue of Oblivion Song will be released on March 7, 2018 and will be an ongoing series. The trade collections (Issues# 1-6) as well as Issue #7 will ship in September 2018. You can watch the trailer for the series and peruse the first eight pages of Issue #1 below.