With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.
Story by Hoang Nguyen, Khari Evans, Paul Gardner, and Mike Kennedy
Art by Khari Evans, Kinsun Loh, and Hoang Nguyen
Script and Lettering by Paul Gardner
Published by Image Comics
Carbon Grey is a true collaborative effort that has been over eight years in the making. Hoang Nguyen came up with the idea for Carbon Grey in 2002, and began assembling a crew to work on the book. The book has found a niche market, but, in my opinion, it has an appeal that transcends any label that is applied to it: steampunk, action, or horror.
Carbon Grey follows the sisters of the Grey family. Sworn to protect the Kaiser at all costs, there were always three sisters, one for strength, one for grace, and one for wisdom. However, with this generation there were twin sisters, making the total four and signifying a revolution.
Surprisingly, it’s not the fourth sister in hot water, but the third. With the Kaiser mysteriously dead on her watch, Giselle has to not only outrun military soldiers, but also her sisters. The older two sisters, Eva and Anna, begin to hunt down Giselle, as twin sister Mathilde guards the queen from attack. Add in secondary characters Dina and Elliot, who are in deep trouble of their own after enraging The Baron. We find out that the Carbon Grey is a mystical, fragmented rock that holds the power of the Grey family, and it is Mathilde’s destiny to take the rock and become the leader of her people. Finally, by the end of the three-part miniseries, we find out that the Kaiser took his own life, leaving the sisters Grey to clean up the mess.
This is one of those series where you can tell that the story is already fully fleshed out. There are convoluted twists and turns that the first story arc doesn’t resolve. While we are already three issues in, we are just now primed for the story to begin. The main story of Carbon Grey will be told in 13 issues, with small offshoots here and there to supplement the main plot.
Carbon Grey has a steampunk vibe to it, but not in the way that most people think of steampunk. Instead of shiny brass and quirky flying machines, we get a gritty, dystopian reality that relies a bit too much on brown leather and bad guys wearing masks. However, while steampunk usually deals in science, Carbon Grey deals in the mystical. At one point, Giselle alludes to the fact that she can’t hear her twin, meaning that they possibly had a telepathic connection. Also, the Carbon Grey supposedly has magical powers, and the young queen might possibly be some type of sorceress.
If there’s only one reason to get this book, it’s for the artwork. Khari Evans, Kinsun Loh, and Hoang Nguyen are an amazing art team. Nguyen provided the basic layouts for his story, Evans did the bulk of the penciling and inking, and then Loh provided the gorgeous colors. Each page looks like a combination watercolor and oil painting, painted digitally with incredible detail.
Add to this the fact that this book is very graphically violent, and that Carbon Grey is drawn hyper-realistically in regards to the death and destruction. Each sister, except Mathilde, leaves a path of dead in her wake, as well as other characters such as the Wolf General, Dina, and Elliot. In one significant scene, Giselle lies in a large pool of dismembered soldiers, the blood staining her blonde hair permanently red. In the opening scene of the first book, you see Giselle through the large hole in the Kaiser’s head. The violence continues to escalate from there, sometimes coming across as gratuitous until explained later in the series.
Carbon Grey gets a rating of 5 out of 5 decapitated soldiers. If you’re a fan of action, horror, or steampunk, you should definitely give this book a try. The first three issues will be released in a 96-page trade paperback with additional content on September 14. Carbon Grey Origins #1, which will be a collection of short stories, goes on sale on October 26. You can find out more about Carbon Grey at http://carbongrey.blogspot.com/.