Writer: Wyatt Kennedy
Artist: Luana Vecchio
Letterer: Brandon Graham
For me the summary of Bolero #1 was immensely intriguing. A woman running away from a broken heart discovers a mother-key into parallel universes. The rules are: The key can work on any door. The mother will only let you visit 53 universes. Do not ask to speak to the mother. Never hop more than 53 times. Who wouldn’t look for a different life, a different chance? The main character, Devyn, has plenty of reasons to.
It takes us half the book before we get to what I was expecting, where Devyn gets the mother key from. There’s a decent amount of setup. However, the setup is there for very good reason. The background is going to be really important going forward. We need to know who our main character is, and what her relationships are, because that seems vital to what she will explore in these other universes.
We get a strong glimpse into Devyn’s world. We see her relationship with Nat start, change and grow. We know it’s ended but we don’t know why. There’s little suggestions but we don’t get the full story. We get one side, filtered through Devyn’s memories. We see enough to realise that something happened between her and Nat and that’s what started her life, once so promising, to lose its shine. Devyn has spiralled into a self-pitying world where she’s not even there for her friends.
Devyn is a character who elicits sympathy but you can still get annoyed at her. She’s very real. On the one hand you can empathise but on the other you want her to make better choices because she’s not helping herself. That’s the kind of protagonist I really like. There’s flaws but those flaws are understandable and you want her to do better because you care. You get quickly invested in her story and feelings.
With that grounding we finally get to the point where she is introduced to the possibilities of parallel universes, and we understand why she’s gotten to that point. After-all not everyone gets led on the path she ends up on. Here’ the thing we’re not told in the summary: once you start on the path you can’t go home. If she goes universe hopping she’ll never get back to her own universe.
I like the subtle differences we see that tell us this first universe is not our own. A drive through with a poster for a different cast of La La Land being the most obvious. You can’t help but wonder if Devyn will end up in our own universe. Before then however it seems like there’s going to be some very odd weird trippy moments where her relationships and identity might not be what she thinks. Going through the doors unlocked by the mother-key looks like it will provide lots of different ways for the story to go.
The art certainly helps with that. Firstly there is quite a lot nudity. There are naked people having sex and not just the once. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see it being treated as natural, at times almost casual. In the case of Devyn it’s also important. Devyn is covered in tattoos and art. She’s very distinctive and they feel like an integral and important part of her. What also seems important is that in nearly all the flashbacks she doesn’t seem to have them but in the present she does. Clearly there’s a chunk of time still missing.
Speaking of those flashbacks, the art sells the romantic feel to them. It’s a soft yet fresh feeling. The way the faces of Devyn and Nat are drawn early in their relationship captures that early romantic feeling. The way they are framed, the way their hair is drawn even. There are some really nice panels of fingers together, hand interlacing. Those feel as intimate as the actual sex scenes which are well done and again seem very natural.
There’s a really nice use of colour too. There’s pinks, purple, red and blues. The colours seem to work with the emotional beats of each panel. They help tell the story. It’s not a huge colour palette but it’s deployed extremely well. It certainly helps with the emotional beats and visual part of the emotional journey. It’s a pretty book with nice colour work, which compliments the really nice character design and moments.
The lettering is interesting to me. The speech bubbles are larger than the text. It almost leaves space for more, as if there are things unsaid. I don’t know if that was intentional or not but I appreciated it. The narration by Devyn fits her character and the lettering helps reflect that.
Bolero #1 is a really strong character driven tale about the choices we make and the people we are. It’s got interesting setup, a protagonist who draws you in and at the end of the day a story about love, loss and potential. Overall a very good, solid first issue that ends on something of a shocker in a way. I look forward to seeing what door opens for Devyn next.