The highest praise I can give “Geiger” #1 (2021–) by writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank is that the post-nuclear tale they weave gives the end of days as much personality as 2015’s hit film, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Though instead of high-octane supercars and endless waves of goons, the world of Geiger is a deadly, desolate wasteland that’s rendered beautifully by Frank’s hyperexpressive art and the colors by Brad Anderson. The coloring of the book is of particular note, seeing as Anderson, Frank and Johns’ previous collaboration, “Doomsday Clock” (2017–) for DC Comics, was a traditional superhero book while “Geiger” feels considerably less so. The wasteland of “Geiger” sees humans wearing hazmat suits — astronauts on their own planet who search for thin resources in a world 20 years after the bombs fell.
The protagonist is a legendary figure in the wasteland known by many names, such as “Joe Glow,” “The Meltdown Man” or “Tariq.” Though the first issue doesn’t explicitly explain Tariq’s transformation, the clues are enough to believe that the transformation was brought about by a nearby nuclear detonation, which left him with the ability to explode into a living, radioactive skeleton. The design for “Meltdown Man” gives Tariq a haunting look in his tattered cape and hood that evokes a radioactive grim reaper stalking the wasteland. Apart from that, Tariq is superhumanly strong and fast and able to leap over a steep barrier of junk in a single bound. But one thing is clear: The radiation that killed the world helped Tariq change form. Tariq guards the opening to the fallout shelter that he sealed 20 years earlier and is accompanied by only a two-headed mutant dog and the creeping madness of his isolation. Though unknown as of yet, Tariq has the potential to be a great hero, seeing as his first appearance is so promising.
The design for the presumed villains of the book, a group of knights of the wasteland clad in radiation suits (knowing Johns’ affinity for comic history, this may be a reference to DC Comics’ Atomic Knight character), adds a fascinating element of fantasy to the post-apocalyptic fun, a genre that typically errs more on the side of science fiction. While the tone of the book feels solidly established, the genre feels more fluid, allowing for Johns’ words to mix his various inspirations and create a hodgepodge of language that feels wholly unique as the various groups and sects of the wastelands each speak distinctly. This, coupled with the lack of immediate explanation, makes for a great sense of intrigue rather than potential confusion. Plus, it’s capped off by a last-page teaser that offers a great mix of clues and questions and left this reader begging for a second issue. That said, several lines on the opening pages seemed clunky and could have stood another round of edits.
Otherwise, the pacing is masterful, with the main story not overstaying its welcome even for a moment. It’s clear that the members of this creative team are totally in sync with one another and the issue makes a tremendous first impression with haunting visuals, such as Tariq’s wall of tally marks to count his days since the bombs fell.
“Geiger #1” feels like the beginning of something huge, a cutting-edge blend of superhero comics, science fiction, fantasy and post-nuclear fiction that manages to excite, depress, thrill and intrigue. Plus, it’s stitched together by some of the biggest and best names in comics. The book also cements Image Comics as the premier destination for creator-owned books and larger-than-life ideas.
“Geiger #1” is a great start to what I believe could be a brand new comic universe, and what more can you ask for in a first issue than masterfully communicated potential?