Progress #4

Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2004
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Progress #4 Creator(s): Jared Lane
Publishers: (Self Published)
From: New Zealand
Price: $8.00 +p&p (NZ)

Jared Lane continues to play with our heads. He has been teasing us with Progress for four years now, drip feeding us one edition per year. It is a stunningly good comic and this makes the yawning eternity between editions all the more frustrating.

It started back in 2001 as a well- drawn Kiwi comic, well presented and produced and drawn in a distinctive and tight style. It has developed into a world. Over the years Jared has fleshed out his futuristic world until it has become almost tangible. The comic has become increasingly sophisticated. There came a time when Herge realised that he had nailed his characters and turned some of his attention to creating precise and detailed worlds for them to run around in. In his own way Jared has done something similar.

Progress is an ongoing story set in a futuristic Christchurch [New Zealand]. It is now a huge sprawling metropolis containing at its inner core a myriad of slums and canals. It has a Blade Runner feel about it complete with the drizzle. Jared has been meticulous in his creation of the setting and with each edition the attention to detail has increased. Visual puns abound and while local readers will chortle at the Black and Decker Stunmaster gun everyone will be able to enjoy spotting the Homer Simpson T shirt and the Puritan organic food gag [despite the futuristic setting shop assistants at the 24 hour organic food store are dressed as Puritans and we see one of them enjoying a fag as she makes her way home from work].

The attention to detail is inspirational and serves as to make this new Christchurch as real as the current one, in fact the toilet scene in this edition could have taken place in either locale.

Artistically then this comic is a treat but that alone does not a great comic make. Jared has populated his world with real people. They may be sharing their cess pool of an inner city with Robots, fascist security guards and web junkies but they have the same fears and loves that we do. They shake with fear when the bullets fly, bruise when they hit the concrete and get hacked off with their mates, just like we do [would]. The main character, Nathan, is a cleaner at the University who is in deep trouble as he has stolen a robot that seems to be his ex girlfriend, Jasmin Woo. If this is so then who is the person who looks like Jasmin, sounds like Jasmin and who the world believes is Jasmin.

Jared has a great ear for dialogue, the colloquial language is real and the characters all have distinctive and believable voices. In fact it is pretty hard to fault this comic. The pace is well controlled and blends action with narrative development. The page layout is varied and matches the narrative. For example when the shooting starts the frame shape becomes less regular. As if all of that was not enough. The variation of angle and perspective adds an extra level of dynamism to an already impressive looking comic.

Progress 4 is fleshed out with two stand alone comics. The first Hear Tis is a humerous little tale of voyeurism and blackmail. The second Judge Saragin is a homage to Judge Dread [2000AD] and contains an interesting look at hero worship.

Be warned though Progress is an ongoing story. I see little point in starting your reading with Issue 4. Take the time to track down the first three, it will be worth the effort. Overall the wait between editions is long but worthwhile. The last word in the comic neatly sums up my reaction "hooyah."

In a Word: Sweet.

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