First issues are a really challenging thing. When you’ve read as many numbers ones as I have, especially from indie publishers, you’re bound to notice that most first issues often have the same couple of beats over and over again: a huge backstory drop of history for the main character, the briefest of glimpses of the villain, a handful of implied relationships hinted at with side characters that may or may not matter, an even briefer implication of romantic tension with another character, a single action set piece, and a very, very cliffhangery ending.
And I get it. The first issue of any series, especially one about a new character that no one has written about before, has to do a lot of heavy lifting to do. It has to be interesting enough to draw you in, and compelling enough make you want to keep reading. You can’t reveal too much or the reader will not have any interest in coming back for a second issue, and you also can’t have much of a conclusion because why bother after issue 1 if the story is all wrapped up? Even when they are double, or in some cases triple, sized, there just isn’t usually a lot of story in an issue 1, especially when it’s the first of 12 or more.
So what this all means is that for the most part, first issues can often be very unfulfilling narratively, and I have pretty much resigned myself to that reality. That doesn’t mean that first issues are bad, or that they can’t suck you in and get you engaged, but it also means you’re only ever getting a taste of a full story, and will have to come back for the rest later, which means you have to do the financial math and think about is it really worth it. This is why I am so picky when it comes to comics to review, and do my very best to not waste you time or money, dear readers, with first issues that I can already tell are going nowhere, or don’t immediately grab my heart.
I know that’s a lot to ask. Leaving you wanting more is a fine line to walk, with too many first issues either not giving you enough to care about, or giving you more than you actually are interested in. The first issue of Deep Cuts, however, is one of the rare ones that not only manages to walk that fine line, it owns it. I feel very comfortable saying that this is one of the best first issues of any indie comic I have read in a very, very long time, and even more comfortable saying that it’s definitely worth your money.
What makes it such a perfect first issue? Well let’s dive in together and find out!
Here’s the blurb: MINISERIES PREMIERE New Orleans, 1917. In the city’s bustling red-light district, a young clarinet player lands a job with his hero—but he’ll soon discover there’s more to the music business than playing the right notes.Join writers KYLE HIGGINS & JOE CLARK (RADIANT BLACK) and an ALL-STAR CAST OF ARTISTS for SIX DOUBLE-LENGTH ISSUES that weave stories of struggle, joy, and hope through the history of jazz!
Let’s be very clear up top: this is a complete story in a single, albeit double-sized, first issue. As I said, this is a very rare occurrence in comics nowadays, and a pretty bold gamble on behalf of the creative team. First issues are usually meant to give you just a taste, and hopefully entice you to come back for a second helping. Any kind of resolution is incredibly rare, and slightly dangerous, because if you feel satisfied after one issue, what’s to compel you to go back for more?
The answer, in the case of Deep Cuts #1, is that the very premise of this anthology series itself is compelling and interesting enough to make me want more, and if the rest of the stories in Deep Cuts are going to be half as satisfactory as this one, we are in for a real treat. We don’t get many anthology series anymore for this very reason, and books like Deep Cuts makes a compelling case for bringing them back.
Alright, enough praise, let’s get down to brass tacks. The story of our first issue deals with the character of Charles Stewart. He’s a hungry young clarinet player with a musical family history and something to prove.
As the story opens, Charles is attempting to find a particular jazz band, fronted by Jack Cartier, a brilliant player, but one whose reach seems to repeatedly be more than he can fully grasp.
Charles manages to catch his attention by playing through an open window during one of Jack’s sets, and before he knows it, Jack is offering Charles his first ever gig.
Charles thinks he’s finally gotten his big break, but he quickly learns that Jack Cartier is only looking out for himself, and the more he get’s intertwined with the man’s ambition, the more likely Charles is to lose everything he has worked for.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but this first, double-sized issue, gives us more compelling characters and more complete world building that some series do in their entire runs.
And most importantly of all, this single issue story does what so many other first issues seem to struggle to accomplish: it makes me want to go back and read more! I’m intrigued by this theme and this world. I want to know more about the history of jazz and I want to see and read the stories set here. This is a love letter to a genre that doesn’t shy away from showing the truth of the people involved in it, and I am fully onboard for this ride.
It’s really is no surprise how well written this issue is, considering it’s helmed by Joe Clark and Kyle Higgins. Their work on Radiant Black is probably one of the best superhero runs in recent years, and one of the few indie comic superhero books that has actually managed to thrive and compete with the big two. If you like the story telling of Radiant Black, you’re already halfway to being in love with this book like I am right now.
And, of course, I would be remiss to not mention the brilliant art of Danilo Beyruth, whom some of my readers might recognize from his Marvel work, including Deadpool, Doctor Strange, and Gwenpool. He has a lively and frenetic style that perfectly captures the movement and emotion and rhythm a book like this demands. Each issue has a different artist showcasing their talent, and if the rest bring the same level of quality to the book as Beyruth does, this series is going to be a real treat for the eyes.
Deep Cuts #1 drops this week. Call your LCS and ask them to pull you a copy, and see if, like me, this perfect first issue makes you excited to come back for more.
Until next time, stay safe.