Crowded #1
CROWDED #1 by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell, and Cardinal Rae
CROWDED #1 is a unique comic with leading ladies that have their own mysteries. This first issue keeps me wanting to know more about the characters and the secrets the plot holds. Although the legality of things is in question, the overall story is a bombshell of a good time.
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Have you ever thought about how far technology has come? Just think about the good and bad that technology can do. We have fun apps and augmented reality that can morph our faces into silly emojis. But what about the other side of the coin? It’s easy for people to track your phone or steal your information with just a click of a button. Well, technology gets too real in Image Comics’ new series CROWDED #1 by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell, and Cardinal Rae.

CROWDED #1 introduces readers to a society with more advanced technology and interesting apps, but technology in the comic isn’t too far from what we already have. In restaurants, you just push a few buttons and have food almost instantly. There are two main apps that drive the plot of CROWDED, DFEND and REAPR. REAPR is a dangerous app that lets people put hits out on others. Hits are run in the same way Kickstarter campaigns are run. However, to protect yourself from the said campaign, you can use DFEND to hire an armed bodyguard.

Meet Vita and Charlie

The two main characters are Vita, a bodyguard that offers her services through DFEND, and Charlie, a workaholic with a hit on her head. Vita is the lowest-rated bodyguard on DFEND. In CROWDED, bodyguards that kill to protect their clients have higher ratings than those who don’t. Vita doesn’t kill but all of her patrons have survived. Unfortunately, DFEND does not take this into account. This disadvantage makes her a minority in the DFEND community. Fortunately, this doesn’t stop Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Ellison from hiring Vita when people are after her.

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Charlie has a busy yet boring life. She has around twelve jobs. She babysits, walks dogs, rents out her clothes, befriends old people, and whatever other random jobs she can get. Charlie seems like any other workaholic, right? Then why are so many people disparate to kill her? Why has someone set up an expensive REAPR campaign against her?

And so, due to REAPR and DFEND, Vita and Charlie meet amidst a hail of bullets and quips. CROWDED does an excellent job of getting these characters set up together in an energetic, fun, and organic way. Chris Sebela does a great job of weaving plot threads together quickly. Letterer Cardinal Rae handles dialogue and captions admirably, while the artistic team really turns it up to eleven.

Crowded #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

Art That Speaks for Itself

The art is interesting, unique, and a great reflection of the character’s personality. Although the colors brought by Triona Farrell are bright and fun, the line work by Ro Stein and inks by Ted Brandt give us an implied sharp edge that is embedded in the comic. This balance between fun and bubbly, yet sharp and stern illustrate the balance between Charlie and Vita.

The way Charlie’s drawn is cute, curvy, and colorful. She is the only character drawn with an unnatural hair color, grabbing your attention from the start. We see her as modern, fun, and innocent. She has a hit put out on her and, from what we’ve seen so far, there is no reason for it to be happening.

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I personally like how Vita’s styled and that her edginess reflects how much of a badass she is. Vita’s androgynous figure design by Stein speaks wonders for people that identify as non-binary or simply don’t conform to gender expectations of mainstream media. Vita isn’t afraid to be herself and neither should we.

A Plot That Keeps You Guessing

CROWDED’s hook about a killer Kickstarter-esque campaign is enough to draw the reader in, but Sebela adds plenty of layers, too. The story hints that our leading ladies are hiding their true selves. This leads us to want to know more about these characters and question who they really are. Charlie seems endearing and lovely, but over 2,000 people are eager to see her dead! What the heck did she do? And although she seems cheery despite what’s going on around her, she can be deceitful, especially once Vita brings her to the safe house.

Vita has her own history, one she doesn’t want to discuss. And while she says she doesn’t kill, she has left some dead bodies in her wake. Add all this together with a REAPR campaign that lasts a month and we can expect a lot of clashes and reveals before this story ends.

Crowded #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

However, the only shortcoming CROWDED has is giving the reader the ability to understand whether or not murder is legal. The mere existence of DFEND and REAPR points to the conclusion that murder has become legal. At no stage does law enforcement appear, which supports the argument as well. However, without this point being clearly defined, the audience is left assuming.

Final Thoughts on CROWDED #1

Despite one shortcoming, CROWDED #1 starts out a strong series that’s worth following. While providing hints towards our leading ladies’ hidden personalities, the plot delivers a sense of mystery, intrigue, and action. With that said, stay tuned for CROWDED #2, coming in September!


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