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Lawful #1 – Obey or Pay

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Cover by Qistina Khalidah (Boom Studios)

Writer: Greg Pak

Artist: Diego Galindo

Colorist: Irma Kniivila

Letterer: Simon Bowland

Be cool and follow the rules. As a kid, I remember countless PSAs that said something regarding the importance of following the rules…whatever those rules may be on a given day. Certainly, it is important to follow rules but that rhyme needs a bit more context because it should heavily depend upon what the rule is and its purpose. Blindly following the rules is a quick way for freedoms to dissipate into nothingness. However, differentiating between what is just and what is unjust can take a lifetime to learn

That concept is being explored in Greg Pak and Diego Galindo’s new comic Lawful #1. The story takes place in a fantasy world where violating rules can have lasting and public consequences. Commit an infraction and your body literally changes. Sometimes it is a mark while others can lead you to grow a tail, or some horns, or maybe your hand becomes a crab’s claw. Break the rules too often and all of your humanity will be lost. 

Sung knows this all too well as his boldness as a child nearly led to his death. That day left a mark on him that remains and is a big reason why he refuses to go against even the most inconsequential rules. Even if that means refusing to jaywalk on an empty street to help a friend with some heavy boxes. By all accounts, Sung is the ideal citizen and due to this is set to be a new member of The Office of the Champion, but that role brings with it a responsibility that can lead him down a path he has avoided for the last thirteen years. 

It does not take long to see the point this is trying to make. That moral quandary between doing what is right and doing what is allowed. How fear of consequences can lead individuals to comply, and how those consequences are used as validation of their existence. In this world, a person has horns because they fail to comply and those horns are proof that the rules are working. It is the type of mindset that allows governmental regimes to slowly remove basic freedoms. 

This world is a meshing of fantasy and present day. The buildings are akin to what you would see in any normal city but the difference is people are walking around with animal parts. Although depending on what convention is in town it may not be all the different. Diego Galindo strengths as an artist come from the way he depicts human emotion. Early on in the issue, Sung’s father gives him a look that has the power to scare generations. You can understand how based on that gesture Sung would fall in line so quickly. Later on, when speaking with his mother about his upcoming exam she has so much fear in her eyes that you know something is wrong. Rather enjoyed how that look was put into context later in the story to help show how corrupt this society has become. 

When it came to the fantasy elements the art was not nearly as strong. For example, we get this monster that is supposed to represent the horrors of what someone will evolve into and the design left a lot to be desired. Similar to the marking on Sung’s chest that is left there after he breaks the rules as a child. It is supposed to be this constant reminder of the possible fate waiting for him if he fails but there is nothing about it that is all that striking. It looks like he got a tattoo of some random rocks, which is an odd choice for sure but not one that elicits a great deal of fear. 

At first, I also had some issues with the coloring of Irma Kniivila, because the world is rather drab with a plethora of greys and browns. However, it became apparent that was a purposeful choice as those who rebelled against the societal norms were partnered with much more bright and cheerful colors. A clear way to show how Sung sees the world in a much more black-and-white way compared to those who are not as pure. 

Cover by Miguel Mercado (Boom! Studios)

Ultimately this became an issue I struggled with. I find the thematic exploration intriguing with a lot of promise, but it also focused on the same point over and over. We know breaking the rules causes you to change physically. What was a bit strange was that some did not seem to mind the change. Even calling out Sung for his lack of transformation. But that also makes those changes less impactful because if they are not that worried about it why should I be as the reader? You get the sense there is more that has yet to be explored, which is why I am conflicted with its execution. 

When it comes to a first issue the number one thing I look for is if it created intrigue, and as mentioned with the way this explores morality that was accomplished. The second part is if it has something that provokes a great deal of excitement and makes you want to read the second issue as quickly as possible. I cannot say this had that impact on me. Part of that may be by design as this is not trying to force in those big moments but rather be driven by character first. I could see that however when those big moments did happen I was left overwhelmed. There’s still enough here to bring me back for issue two as I hope the strengths are built upon as the narrative continues.  

Overall: 6 out of 10

comicconcierge
comicconcierge
A fan of all things comics and believer in, "Comic are for Everyone, the Key is Finding the Right One". I hope to help in that search which is why I dawned the moniker Comic Concierge. Find most of my stuff on TikTok.

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