Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Doug Braithwaite with David Lapham
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: Bad Idea
One thing that has emerged in the long long long pandemic-extended run-up to new publisher Bad Idea’s first comic launch, is that comics folk bristle at deliberate scarcity, regardless of the reasons for it. Comics is and long has been inextricably tangled with commerce, and we have all largely accepted that — but we want that commerce to feel as egalitarian as possible. Bad Idea’s business model all but guarantees a degree of unavailability.
The publisher is distributing its own comics, doing so only to shops it has vetted as Bad Idea destinations, and — in the name of cost-saving — it is also foregoing digital releases and collected trades (for now, anyway…I doubt this extends in perpetuity). By the time Bad Idea’s first comic, ENIAC #1, hit this week, the comment I’d heard most about it online was, “Nobody will be able to read that book.” Or some variation. This notion that a comic might be hard to find due to intentional business decisions? Well, it got a reaction on Twitter, that’s for sure.
So, that’s where Bad Idea is coming from with its first release, this week’s ENIAC #1. But you know what? Once I got ENIAC #1 in my hands (I was able to pre-order it at my local comic shop, Big Planet Comics, easy), I quickly forgot the distribution questions, the marketing criticisms, and all the harsh Twitter dunks.
The reason? ENIAC #1 is a good read. ENIAC #1, in fact, is a rich and immersive read, one that combines a smart sci-fi concept with flourishes of classic genre pulp and clear graphic sequential storytelling of the highest level, carried out by writer Matt Kindt, artist Doug Braithwaite, colorist Diego Rodriguez, and letterer Dave Sharpe. The premise of this book is that the American military created a super computer during WWII to predict enemy bombing routes. The American military (as is its tendency) next got carried away with said computer’s power, and it fed that computer every piece of knowledge known to man (what could go wrong with that?). The computer then gained sentience and went rouge, subsequently orchestrating some of the biggest events in modern human history (which I won’t reveal here because there’s a fun montage that does so in the actual comic).
The other relevant background about Bad Idea as a publisher (which gets overshadowed by the grumbling around distribution) is that the publisher’s leadership is the same group who ran Valiant Comics until corporate maneuvering pushed them out a couple years back. They’ve brought in many of the same creators from their time there, and — if ENIAC is any indication — they’re now making comics that play to the same strengths as their old storytelling interests. Now, however, they are creatively free of whatever shackles came with corporate ownership and using someone else’s original IP.
ENIAC #1 has complex geo-political framing ambitions, similar to Kindt’s work on Divinity, one of the best comics of the revived Valiant era. ENIAC also has some truly excellent comics being comics moments, replete with lines like “Area 51 got all the press by design, but it was really Area 23 everyone should have been worried about.” Or, “They were codenamed The Cutthroats and they’d killed more Nazis than the entire 82nd Airborne.” Or, “You have three days left to find out what it’s doing, kill it, and save humanity.” Or…look, it just goes on from there.
So yes, whatever you’ve heard about Bad Idea, put that aside — ENIAC #1 is good, very good, and it’s a story that plays to the strengths of comics as a medium, dependent on big ideas best told in prose snippets paired with sweeping imagery. There are not enough linear scenes to make it feel like a veiled film pitch, and there’s not enough character moments (yet) to make it possible as a novel. ENIAC #1 had to be a comic, and I’m very glad it exists.
The last bit that needs mentioning with this book is that for the cover price of $3.99, it contains a backup story written by Kindt and illustrated by David Lapham. Lapham is a master, and both creators seem to understand the bonkers fun to be had running backups through several issues, as I think this one is slated to do. This first snippet is a little bewildering, but that feels very much by design, presaging madcap antics to come that might involve a take on superheroes that falls somewhere between wacky and tasteful grittiness.
Publisher by Bad Idea, the first issue of ENIAC is available now exclusively at Bad Idea destination stores.