You ever want to read a comic centered around the dark underbelly of organ sales on the black market?
Yeah, me, neither.
That being said, Image Comics' Harvest #1 is a pretty damn good kick off. Death, crime, drugs, half naked chicks and misery are all mixed together like a pudding snack where one half is dark and the other half is really dark. Writer A.J. Lieberman gives not one fuck about offending people or disturbing them. I suppose you’d need that kind of iron writing stomach to pen a comic about illegal organ sales.
It’s a dark and stormy night (I always wanted to write that), and a young man in a hooded sweatshirt steps into a deli to buy all the ice they stock. Why would our mysterious man want that much ice? Well, it turns out he’s holding another man hostage and performing unnecessary surgery on him. What’s the catalyst for this morbid intro? Harvest #1 doesn’t tell you; instead it skips back ten months to a typical family, in a typical house on a typical day. A mother is herding her children to the car so she can get them to school and not be late for her train.
The scene switches to a bloody body laying on an operating table. A middle-aged doctor is removing this poor person’s kidney and arguing with a woman that represents his employer. This disgraced doctor wants to stop harvesting the unwanted for their organs. Unable to reach a compromise, this woman blows the doctor’s brains all over the body. Seems he was working for a company that doesn’t take kindly to early resignation. Remember the mystery man from the beginning? He’s also in this flashback, sitting with two drug whores promising him sexual favors for the blue pills. Apparently, at one time, our mystery man was Doctor Ben Dane. Ben stumbles out of the drug scene and to the hospital where he works.
Remember the typical family? They were in such a rush that it caused an accident and the mother, body riddled with damage, is now in front of Ben Dane, waiting to be saved. Problem is, the good doctor passes out from drug use and she dies. Ben loses everything, his job, his life and his money. Left destitute and alone, Ben ratchets up the drug abuse until a Japanese crime kingpin calls upon him to save his daughter with a back alley operation. Having nothing to lose, Ben saves the daughter. Returning home he finds the trigger-happy woman from before and her boss looking to make him a deal. The issue ends with Ben’s vision of the little boy from the typical family telling him he’s fucked.
There’s a lot to drink in with Harvest #1, but Lieberman manages to hold the story together nicely. I’ll admit, the fallen doctor turning to the black market isn’t a wholly original story, but Harvest's structure and characters keep you involved. Lieberman has a knack for writing realistic dialog and for keeping the story grounded. Too often, these types of comics put all their energy into being “dark” or “shocking”. Lieberman focuses on his story and lets the darker elements emerge organically. There’s also a '70s film pacing injected into Harvest – the first issue is allowed to unfold instead of racing towards the violence or going just for peaks.
Colin Lorimar is tasked with bringing Lieberman’s story to life, and his artwork fits perfectly. It’s thin line stuff, lots of strokes and small details to create the scene. Lorimar is especially adept at creating atmosphere. The rainy beginning, the dripping and foul room where Ben performs his first illegal operation; even the hospital scenes have a subtext of sadness and depression. Harvest is a very heavy book and Lorimar’s art reflects that. He also loves shadowing, the use of solid blacks and heavy inks help give the issue and overall feeling of being weighed down.
Harvest is a dark, twisted and interesting tale. A volatile mix of life, death, drugs and powerful people doing very bad things.
(4 Story, 4 Art)