Perfect 10 is a series of essential recommendations that fully encapsulate a comic character – 10 desert island picks of runs, single issues, arcs, etc – curated by Comfort Food Comics.
Well…………that’s what it usually is, but this week it’s something different. Image Comic’s First Knife, formerly titled Protector, releases in trade paperback format on October 7, 2020 and I am going to give you 10 reasons that you just gotsta buy it.
I’ve covered this series pretty exhaustively on CFC and can say with only a few months left in the year that it was my favorite comic of 2020. I highlighted the first issue here, the last issue here, and talked EXTENSIVELY about the entire thing with Dan on the Podcast here.
- The Exclusive TPB Extras: Each issue of Protector had some brilliant text back material that worked in tandem with the actual sequential art stories to make this comic something special. This new collected edition of the material does more of the same. I was lucky enough to already to get this collection and the extras included in the backmatter are must see’s. You get an entire proposal that Simon Roy wrote and drew up for basically a first draft of what First Knife would eventually become. Anyone who has seen Roy’s amazing work before knows how detailed and creative even his rough ideas are and it’s no different here. It is a wonderful peek behind the curtain into how creators build and evolve the ideas they work into a released final product.
2. The Name Change: Protector was originally released as a five issue series entitled Protector, but for various reasons was abruptly changed to First Knife in late August. Personally, I find the name to be much cooler as it also perfectly sums up this first outing into this new universe. You don’t want to be some chump who isn’t on the ground floor of the new rebranding, do you?!! Who wants to be a caveman banging rocks together in the stone age with an old, nonexistent comic title?!? Nobody wants that grim fate, and that’s why you need to scoop up this collected edition and start supporting the new and improved First Knife.
3. Artyom Trakhanov’s Art: The very best comic artists are the ones who when you even slightly glance over their work you can instantly tell it’s theirs. Artists like Art Adams, Katsuya Terada, Moebius, James Stokoe, Chris Bachalo and many more. Trakhanov is one of those rare artists. His work cant be contained in any influence or style box. It just bursts back out with an ever changing, ever amazing line work that dazzles the eye and innovates on each page. You get over 100 pages of this industry breaking evolution of art.
4. Steal Of A Price: 130+ pages of awe inspiring creativity for less than twenty bucks. This is legit one of the best bargains I’ve ever seen. It’s less than each single issue combined. They should charge way more for this. You could go to Burger King and spend more on a drive through lunch than you would for this book. The subpar Whopper will stay in your gut for awhile but the impact of this work will stay longer in your brain. Trust me, the book will be way more satisfying.
5. Sequel Chances: Obviously, continuing First Knife rests on how successful the initial series and this tpb’s sales are. I will personally hunt all of you down if sales don’t justify more stories in this world. All right, maybe I’m being a little dramatic but we NEED more. So many tribes and concepts are hinted at in the extra material that expands the world of this comic, but we don’t even check in on that stuff here. It’s part of what makes this comic so special. The team put so much work in creating something new out of the void and it’s all there to use but they key in on just one little part of it and tell us THAT story. If you’ve read the book already, you know there is so much more to explore. Buying this book will hopefully cement the desire for more and let the creative team deliver on that sometime soon like they have hinted at.
6. Creative Super Group Team Symbiosis: First Knife is one of the few comics where every single creator – (A DREAM TEAM OF SIMON ROY, DANIEL M. BENSEN, ARTYOM TRAKHANOV, JASON WORDIE, and HASSAN OTSMANE-ELHAOU) – gets to leave their distinctive mark and help contribute to telling a story. Roy and Bensen team as writers to shape and develop this S-Tier sci-fi world and fill it with compelling characters and entertaining dialogue. Trakhanov, as I mentioned, slaps artistic gold on the page. Colorist Wordie, then shines and enhances that gold with an evocative palette that always serves the mood of the scene and helps distinguish Trakhanov’s abstract style into something the brain can instantly decipher. Letterer Otsmane-Elhaou then gives literal voice to the characters with unique typesets and vastly different word balloons and font sizes so you never have to imagine the cadence in your head. It’s a revelation to see this perfectly assembled team just JAM! If you want to read something so rare as that, get this book!
7. Anatomical Cross Sections: I’m sure all of you reading this have at some point or time seen an anatomical cross section diagram. Pioneered by Japanese artist Shoji Ohtomo in his 1966 book Kaiju Zukan, the cut in half, detailed organ display has become a popular pop culture art topic. In this TPB you get an exclusive cross section piece of the NATO Cyborg character from First Knife. That alone is worth the price of the book.
8. Religious Epiphanies: There’s so much in First Knife about religion. Each tribe and character is confronted with the very beings and concepts they choose to worship and so much detail is given out about HOW each person’s station in life is built around these things. In essence, First Knife is about the process of working through your own faith. With religion, in real life and this comic, people are raised in one religion, live and experience another, and in the end must choose their own way of life. I love that this book is all about seeing through the copious amount of bullshit and false idols and making religion work for you, instead of it ruling over your own life. This comic does that in a rather, violent, blatant way that really feels great. Kill your Gods, live life on your terms.
9. MAPS! MAPS! MAPS! MAPS!: First Knife is set in a post apocalyptic, climate ravaged future of North America. Earth has changed drastically and we obviously all need new maps to make sense of what this new world looks like. Were introduced to familiar places with new names like Shikka-Go, formerly Chicago and the whole book is enhanced throughout with clever new names like that. When the first issue dropped, they included a map in the backmatter and I ended up pulling up a detailed map of the Great Lakes Region where most of these tribes live. Being able to compare our current landmarks to the ones established in this comic really helped develop a special, personal connection to the work and made me see just how smart and detailed the creators made this world. Few comics have ever made me put on my cartography hat and do some homework but this one had me doing that gleefully. I fully recommend buying this collection and pulling out a map of your own to dive in and enjoy. I think it is vital to getting the most out of the book.
10. Catharsis: Writer Daniel Bensen said this in a great interview:
Like the rest of us, First Knife and Mari are just people trying to make the best of a chaotic situation. Once the pain is over, we might end up in a better place than we were before.
This whole book is like having a lifetime’s worth of therapy in Dragon Ball’s Hyperbolic Time Chamber in the hour’s time it would take you to read it. First Knife and Mari have to put their faith in the things that are in charge, like the NATO Cyborg or the Godlike Devas, and hope they won’t fuck everything up. As an American right now in 2020, I feel like that is how everyone is feeling. Horrible creatures with no hearts are running things and actively made this shitty world we now live in, and we have to just ride along hoping for our chance to better things along the way in spite of them. That is the exact journey Mari and First Knife take in this story. They actually get to maim and dismember the regressive, harmful asshole that gets “elected” though and in this political climate, boy does that feel extremely good to read. Then they actually get to directly commune with and somewhat become one of the beings in charge and make a decision to hopefully effect positive change. It is a wonderful escape from our reality that lets you experience exactly what most of us wish we could do on a daily basis. I will always be thankful and appreciative I had this comic to live through in this Hellish year of 2020 with it’s Covid Pandemic and ineffectual, compassionless leaders of my country.