Lula Nomi is a Wiper--a private detective who guarantees complete discretion. A memory wipe after every job sees to that. When she is hired by enigmatic robot Klute she thinks the case is the answer to all her problems. But there's something oddly familiar about Klute--and the more she investigates the disappearance of journalist Orson Glark, the more she suspects that he's somehow connected to her own past . . .
Lula must face her greatest fears to learn what happened to Glark . . . and the truth about herself.
I bang on this drum constantly. The best sci-fi stories use their futuristic settings to dissect very relatable human themes in scenarios outside of our current reality. In this Wiper succeeds admirably. John Harris Dunning takes us on a journey of self-discovery with his central character Lula Nomi. Nomi comes to us as a tabula rasa a blank slate having recently signed up to become a Wiper: A detective with no memory, uninhibited or weighed down by a past having subjected herself to memory cauterization. A new case (Nomi’s first) send her on a journey to find a missing journalist/writer but in doing so Nomi will learn that what she is really on is a journey to find herslf. Dunning’s world building is impressive and the future he has created (with the help of marvelous art from Ricardo Cabral and colorist Brad Simpson)is a cyberpunk blade runneresque dystopian place where the center of civilization sits in Africa and specifically in South Africa after a nuclear war wipes out America and Europe. While up in space is a colossal space station called The Hive which is a central part of the storyline. I enjoy that Dunning establishes a history of the now early on but doesn’t dwell on the past. Instead, he writes it like its just a basic fact and moves forward giving you a robust architecture for this future but focusing very much on his main character and her journey. He lets the art team build the world around his central characters while keeping the forward momentum for the whole story at all times.
There are many themes examined throughout the story. Dunning explores his central character’s relationship with her sense of self throughout the entire story. Nomi’s own self-doubt at having given up her past, the Deja Vu she feels when meeting her first “client”, the way she doesn’t really feel part of the Wiper fraternity (and there’s a good reason for that) all the way to the incredible discoveries she makes about herself in the free zone of Tentacle Town in her quest to find the mysterious missing Orson Glark when she leaves Earth for The Hive. This book is very much about a person discovering who she is as she seeks someone else and the irony when she discovers the truth. Into this journey, Dunning adds several more general themes. While throwing some side eye at sensationalist journalism Wiper also incorporates the idea of alien xenophobia, corporate greed, classism, and privilege into the storyline with Nomi finding herself between those worlds as she follows the clues that ultimately lead to her taking a stand against a ruthless corporate entity as she discovers the lesson that who you were is not as important as who you are. Dunning’s writing makes every character feel integral, even if their part isn’t, throughout the book. There are clues to the truth about Nomi through clever hints and beautiful sequences by the art team. Even though Wiper is a stand-alone graphic novel, the world the creative team create feels like it has many many stories to tell still and I hope that happens. Wiper is solid triple-A-grade sci-fi goodness that doesn’t give easy answers to any of the questions it poses but rather leaves those questions for you to ponder after it’s taken you on the journey.
The strength of a comic always hinges on how strong the script is, how strong the art is and how that works together to tell the story. Wiper is very well written but it is the art from Ricardo Cabral and colorist Brad Simpson that for me elevates this story into something truly excellent. I grew up reading 2000 A.D which had some of the greatest sci-fi illustrators bringing fantastic futures to life all the time. Cabral and Simpson’s work has that feel. It gloriously brings Dunning’s script to life.
Cabral’s line art is blackline heavy and just a touch rough around the edges adding a marvelous grit to this futuristic world. Simpson then brings that to life with a wide colorful palate. Spectacular-looking aliens, cyborgs. people and locations come to life through the art team that builds a believable dystopian future that sells the story page after page. Cabral manages to capture the cluttered feel of a future where there are too many people and aliens all on top of each other and the tension that comes with that. Jim Campbell rounds out a way above-average outing art-wise with rock solid lettering.
Wiper is an excellent sci-fi thriller that takes several familiar feeling ideas and brings them together for an intriguing journey of self-discovery in a futuristic setting. The story is elevated by art that does an incredible that creates the gritty, chaotic noir yet colorful cyberpunkesque world that our characters move through. Lovers of good sci-fi should have this on their shelves
WIPER (OGN): Finding Orson Glark
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 9.5/109.5/10
- Color - 9.5/109.5/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10