Comics, Reviews

Beyond Real #1 Review: A Blend of Art and Science

Experience a comic like no other with Zack Kaplan’s Beyond Real, the latest mind-bending title from Vault Comics.

Beyond Real 1 Review Cover
Image: Vault Comics
By: Javier ReyesFeb 23, 2024, 2:25 AM

Beyond Real #1

Review
Rating
9
Good
Beyond Real 1 Full Cover

Writer: Zack Kaplan

Artist: Fabiana Mascolo, Toni Fejzula

Publisher: Vault Comics

Release Date: December 12, 2023

Page Count: 32

Format: Single-issue

Beyond Real comes out swinging to deliver a beautifully mind-bending debut issue that kicks off what is going to be one of the most ambitious comic book projects ever made.

The beautiful thing about comics is that there is no singular, cookie-cutter formula to how they should look and tell stories. Even if you boil things down as simply as a comic book being sequential art and dialogue boxed within panels on a page, the shapes and sizes of those “boxes” can be manipulated in every way imaginable by the creators. Beyond Real is a comic that does just that as it goes beyond conventional boundaries to tell the story of an artist’s exploration through love, grief, and the Simulation Theory. To make such a bold story possible, writer Zack Kaplan has brought together a team of eight phenomenal artists to create a mind-bending adventure through different layers of reality. Does that sound crazy enough for you? Let’s get to my review of the first issue!

Beyond Real 1 - chatting in the car

Overview

Eli and June are two lovers who spend the night looking at the stars and contemplating their existence in the universe. Is anything real or is life all but an illusion? On their drive home, however,  the two get caught in a nasty car accident. While June walks away with only a concussion, Eli is left in a coma. 

As she deals with both the grief and physical trauma from the accident, June begins experiencing something strange within her body. Her vision seemingly gets unlocked to see the world for what it actually is: a computer simulation. From there, she sets out on a reality-defying adventure to track down the world’s creator and find the key to saving Eli’s life. 

Review

If there’s one word that best describes this comic, it’s “ambitious.” Not only is the Simulation Theory such a complex subject to explore, but to do so in such an artistic fashion is a sight to behold. While I don’t personally subscribe to the notion that our whole universe is happening within some sort of computer program, I was blown away by how this comic took that far-out concept and injected it with bold artistic flair. The comic feels like exploring the concepts and ideas raised by The Matrix, but instead of the story taking place in a dark and grimy robotic hellscape, Beyond Real presents a vibrant and imaginative world that blends elements of science-fiction and fantasy. With June being an artist herself, it’s as if you get to see the world through her whimsical eyes as the walls of reality start tumbling down. Artist Fabiana Mascolo takes the lead for most of this issue, and it’s just a visual feast to enjoy from cover to cover.

Beyond Real 1 - memories

In case you’re curious about what I mean by Mascolo “taking the lead,” I’m referring to the fascinating concept that’s the backbone of this comic. Writer Zack Kaplan has assembled an incredible team of artists, including Fabiana Mascolo, Toni Fejzula, Dennis Menheere, Liana Kangas, Vincenzo Riccardi, and Jorge Corona, to help tell this fantastic story alongside him. But unlike an anthology series that strictly features just one artist per issue, Beyond Real seamlessly blends the work of the artists as part of its breathtaking visual storytelling. It’s an impressive feat and an idea I’ve hardly seen explored in other books. This issue’s ending gives a taste of what’s to come as the door to new realities gets blown wide open, and we see how they all mesh together.

As incredible as it is to see the work of different illustrators and pencilers blend from scene to scene, colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou deserve special mention for how they tie this beautiful journey together. It’s just as impressive to see them fluidly work with the artists and give a distinct look and feel to the different realities June finds herself in. As I’ve said earlier, this comic is a visual feast, and Bellaire and Otsmane-Elhaou bring so many exciting flavors to enjoy.

Beyond Real 1 - woman sitting and sleeping

Final Thoughts

To be completely honest, Beyond Real was not on my radar until very recently. I knew nothing about its creative concept and the complex story it’s trying to explore. But I only needed to read its first few pages to be completely hooked. Beyond Real is beautiful, complex, and everything that I love about independent comics. It’s incredible seeing creators explore bold and ambitious ideas that stretch the boundaries of the stories told within the pages of a comic book. Knowing this is also just the first step in June’s journey leaves me excited to see how far they can push the fascinating and artistic concept as we get deeper into the series. 

Why You Should Read Beyond Real

  • The shifting art style throughout the comic is beautifully done and works seamlessly within the story being told.
  • It exemplifies the creative exploration that can be done using comics. 
  • It boldly explores a topic as far out as the Simulation Theory but expresses it in artistic ways.
TAGGED: Vault Comics
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