I have been planning on writing this article for over a month because I really loved this comic, but I am terrible and didn’t have a chance to sit down and give this review proper attention. I must warn you that this is pretty much a walk-through of the first issue, so please don’t get mad if you want to read it and I spoiled it for you! Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Up the River #1 is an engrossing comic written by Travis McIntire, drawn by Stephen Sharar, colored by Sean Seal, and lettered and edited by Joshua Werner. It was released by Source Point Press, a company that has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the indie comic scene. The book follows brothers Syl and Arnie as they venture up a blood red river to get some answers in regards to the state of things. Why is the water red? Why does it change people? Did I mention that the red water can either give you powers like a god or turn you into a mindless creature that eats human flesh? The brothers, along with Polly and the boat crew, are heading somewhere to figure out just what the hell is going on.
Syl has a dark past. He witnessed his superhero father being murdered as a young boy and it is clear that this is something that sticks with him to this day. He carries around his father’s broken goggles, either as a reminder or a memento. Maybe both.
The comic starts with this sad story and brings us to present day, where the guys are heading up the river, along with Oku’Be’Dajo, who Polly calls Kenya. The two of them are bantering back and forth when a huge tree barrels towards them in the water. After a struggle, Oku is pushed into the water. He reemerges as what the guys call a Lurcher, a mindless hungry thing. They continue on, but the loss of Oku is great due to his high intelligence. They were hoping that Oku could help them figure things out when they get to their destination.
The boat captain takes them to a shaman who he has worked with before to find lodging for the night. The shaman turns out to be a Changer, which is someone who gains powers from the water as opposed to the terrible end Oku met. He says that he is a piece of god and clearly has an ego issue. He allows the men to stay the night, and they end up witnessing some of the powers of the shaman as he executes a man he claims was stealing from him. While it is clear that it upsets the men, they take the safe haven for the evening. This is the end to issue 1.
I left out some details because I really encourage you to go out and buy this comic. It has everything that I look for in a comic: great writing, and beautiful art. The characters are interesting and the first issue left me with a lot of questions about their lives. The issue left me with a LOT of questions actually, but that is another thing that makes comics like this so great. Travis has done a fantastic job of baiting the hook by giving the reader just enough information to make them beg for more. If you are looking for a great read, some interesting characters, and some pretty impressive gore, you need to get this comic!
I also have to give mad props to Stephen Sharar for the amazing job he did with inking and pencils. The art style fits perfectly with the story, and Stephen has a knack for conveying emotions. And creepy, gory things. Sean did a great job with the colors, giving this book a very gritty feel. The only time bright color is used in the scenery is the red river. The muted color in the background gives the reader a sense that the only thing that matters in this world is the river, and what it does to people. That being said, bright colors are also used when they show the shaman and Oku as a Lurcher, which fits with that idea perfectly. There is a lot of red, but it is used very seamlessly to further the story and the place of the characters in it.
As soon as #2 comes out, I will hopefully have some of the answers I’m looking for. Maybe Syl and the guys will too. Until then, don’t miss out on the interesting and horrifying world that is Up the River.