Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Michael Walsh
Lettering: Michael Walsh
Cover: Michael Walsh
Publisher: Image Comics
I really wanted to like this; I am both a devout metalhead and a fan of these creators. However, nothing really seems to make this story special. The story is interesting enough to warrant reading another issue or two to where this angle leads, but now that I’ve read the first issue, my expectations for this series are considerably lower. I am glad to have read it, though, and I will give the series another shot. Even though this initial issue was underwhelming, it was not damning, not with the variety of stories and the talent that this series promises.
It’s 1978, and disco sucks—at least, it sucks for up-and-coming rock-n-rollers Running Red. They’re being stifled by boogie fever, pushed out of a rock venue that wants to capitalize on the new disco craze. Frontman Ryan knows he is destined for greatness and refuses to yield to disco. At band practice, in need of a pick, Ryan resorts to using a silver coin found in the garage, and something in the ether shifts. His playing is not changed in any tangible way, but it is inexplicably tastier. The same songs feel more inspired, tighter, better… But everything comes at a cost, and this invaluable silver coin will take its toll.
The Silver Coin is a new version of the classic “I sold my soul for rock and roll” fable, but it doesn’t seem to add much value to the trope. The writing was a bit stale, since the characters weren’t terribly compelling and their dialogue wasn’t all that interesting. The art could be somewhat bland at times, but it did have its moments to shine, and the various palettes used to communicate drastically different atmospheres and venues added some spice to the pages. The story is simply average, which is a disappointment coming from such big names, but both the writing and art were certainly passable. Also, a concern specific to this issue is that a written and drawn (i.e., silent) comic book is a challenging medium to tell a story about music, but I still appreciate the attempt to fold some rock and metal into the mainstream media.
It should have been clearer from the start that The Silver Coin is more of an episodic journey. The coin angle should have been pushed more obviously at the outset to warn unsuspecting readers not to get too invested in the human characters or the exposition for this specific tale. It seems like the series will revolve around the coin itself rather than the human characters (similar to the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings). Of course, this conceit, with an inanimate object acting as the unifying “character,” does make it somewhat difficult to relate to or sympathize with the story, especially due to the episodic style of the series. A revolving cast of characters leaves little space to bond with the new faces in every issue before moving on to other protagonists.
The book was a worthwhile read since I’m into anything related to metal and live music—and I’m sure many other people are also looking to scratch that concert itch. The art started strong, and while it lapsed into blandness at some points, the quality was revived for the climax of the story, which boasts uniquely distorted art; Walsh truly enhanced the storytelling through his warped illustrations and expressive lettering.
It seems like the five collaborators of this series (Michael Walsh, Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, and Jeff Lemire) will be producing different issues, with the creators alternating to tell distinct tales in separate issues. The next book promises to be just as stock/campy as this one, unabashedly playing into horror tropes, and now that I know the deal for this series, I’m cautiously hopeful that Walsh and Thompson will deliver the thrills in issue 2.
If you’re into the rock/metal scene or if you enjoy some horror, then The Silver Coin is for you. Since this story seems to be about the artifact, it might be best to avoid getting too invested in the characters; also, expect and embrace the clichés. But if you want to see some disturbing depictions of an egotistical rock star doing what egotistical rock stars do best, with heavy undertones of a malicious curse and promises of more bloody consequences in future issues, then give The Silver Coin a read (and let us know what you thought)!