It’s exciting to see independent creators turn their aspirations into reality. That’s just what Dan Lee did with EVERLAND #1, a recently Kickstarted project aimed at putting out the first issue in a high-concept comics series. The Kickstarter was a huge success, too, bringing in almost ten times the amount it originally aimed for. With that kind of build-up, even though EVERLAND #1 is still a one-issue project by an independent artist, the project seems too big to fail. As a first installment, it lives up to expectations.

everland, Dan Lee
Gritty action and bemusing slice of life meet in EVERLAND #1.

EVERLAND #1 tells the story of a mysterious retro utopia walled off from the world somewhere in the Middle East. Inside, 60s-esque characters interact to form a happy-go-lucky community. We follow Hadrian Vark, a former private military contractor, as he enters Everland on a secret mission. Meanwhile, we get a peek at the workaday lives of two Everland citizens as they experience romance, humdrum job worries, and prospects for the future. It seems that the saccharine society has more to it than meets the eye, however, and Hadrian Vark is charged with uncovering the ugly truth that lurks beneath the candy coating. EVERLAND is one part hardboiled cop drama, one part Disney homage, and one part slice of life. It’s an exciting and fun read that does not disappoint, and this is only the first issue.

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Visually, EVERLAND is stunning. Dan Lee is a master of color, achieving lush tones that make the story and the setting come alive. The use of pinks especially feels both sickly sweet and jarring. Importantly, the visual components serve the heavy world-building that the story hinges on. This first issue only hints at the world’s underpinnings, which is a smart move – much of the drama would be lost if we knew all the ins and outs of Everland up front. Instead, we enter the atmosphere much as protagonist Hadrian Vark does, bewildered and out of place. It’s a pleasurable disorientation that leaves a lot of room for wonder.

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Of course, the problem with putting out only the first issue is that it places a lot of pressure on the follow-up. EVERLAND #1 is by no means a complete story – it only contains the seeds of what is to come. Its main selling points are the incredible display of world-building Dan Lee has achieved and the characters’ strong personalities. This works very well as an introduction, but by the end of the comic, it’s clear that issue one is only a springboard for what’s to come. It’s hard to predict the next move the series will make. This is a good thing – EVERLAND is in no way predictable, and its central idea is charming. The idea of people living and attempting to flourish in a literal Disneyland is a concept that merits exploration. But the stakes are high. It’s important that future issues of EVERLAND live up to the high standard set by the first. In any case, I await the next installment with bated breath.

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