Review by C.J. Bunce
The future Earth story Number 13 was first seen in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and like many popular stories from that anthology series it made it to its own series. A few weeks back the collected stories were republished in its own Issue #0, and in two weeks Number 13 begins a three-issue mini-series. If you haven’t picked up Issue #0 it serves as a good starting point for the world of Number 13.
In Issue #1, Number 13 is the name given to a boy found buried in a desert with a bionic Tony Stark-type, chest-mounted power device, who appears at first to be dead until he sparks back to life as he is discovered by a group of motley, wandering “Fecteds” on the lookout for “Mune” raiders. The boy has the number 13 printed on his head and nothing else is known about him. Some of the backstory of how Number 13 got to the beginning of this story can be found in a prior Dark Horse Number 13 mini-series and Issue #0. Here, the character Number 13 has lost his memory, and seems to be searching desperately for his father.
We learn in the first pages of Issue #1 that the Earth we know is long gone, the human race was wiped out by a plague and humans were replaced with the two classes of warring beings that remained on the planet. Sixty years after the end of the world, we meet the roving band of aliens who discover Number 13–five mutants, a purple girl who flies like a wasp, a giant thug, a cyclops, a red creature that looks like a cousin of Hellboy, and a girl with tentacles instead of arms whose name is Jeebie. They’re a likeable band, as we find them helping a couple running from a giant Bug Muncher.
We also meet a group of observers, those who know the truth about Number 13 and have been searching for him for years (who wear very cool, nicely rendered supersuits). A hint of the old British Prisoner series is here with the numbering as a name, that same uncertainty of what is going on, and the watching of the protagonist from afar. These observers believe Number 13 is the secret to a cure for the plague. Meanwhile the group with Number 13 take him to a wise woman named Mother Goose, who may know the secret behind this boy, setting up for a likely confrontation in later issues between the watchers and these Fected beings, and we don’t know who will help or hurt Number 13.
Number 13 has a beginning like Creator-Owned Heroes serialized story Trigger Girl 6–we get just enough information to see that the main character has special skills that will be used later and uncovering the backstory will be part of the mystery throughout this series.
Robert Love and David Walker’s story is quickly paced, filling in a lot of detail in not a lot of space. Robert Love’s art is cartoony but it serves the story well–you get the feeling like this mini-series could be for all ages, and the Fecteds could be viewed as an updated, future version of The Cosby Kids meets Superfriends. The animated series vibe of the story just matches the genre of a sci-fi/bionic mutant story you might expect, and the result is a fun story with plenty of thought given to world-building and character development. Like the Jennifer Blood series from Dynamite Comics, you can see how its story can merit several different mini-series that ultimately should allow the character to get a foothold with a permanent monthly. It also feels a bit like the After Earth comic book that is being released as a Will Smith motion picture in 2013. All said, it’s an interesting story that should appeal to fans of the lighter side of sci-fi mutant stories.