Review: HIGH LEVEL #4
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Story: Rob Sheridan
Line Art: Barnaby Bagenda and Amancay Nahuelpan
Color Art: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Reviewed By: Ari Bard
Thirteen is separated from Minnow and wakes up lost and alone in the Sunken Lands. Her search for the Black Helix to try and get Minnow back take her to Pleasure Island, a location that may not exactly live up to its name.
“I’m failing. I fucking hate failing.”
The unknown can be difficult. Thirteen has known her small world her entire life, and now she’s thrust into new locations with new people and new conflicts. Now add a the responsibility of keeping a young girls safe, and all of the sudden, Thirteen has her hands full. Nonetheless in High Level #4, with a lot of money on the line and some guilt over losing Minnow, Thirteen must journey further into the unknown.
In each issue, Rob Sheridan, Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Nate Piekos follow Thirteen as she traverses strange lands on a mission while managing her own internal struggles between faith and practicality. Its only fitting that the issue begins in the Sunken Lands, a place many fear and no one trust because of their strange customs and rumored hostility, and ends on Pleasure Island, a place reminiscent of the island of misfit toys. Both are tests of strength, trust, and faith that Thirteen must navigate. Luckily, Thirteen is able to stay true to herself and debunk a lot of rumors on her quest to save Minnow.
Pleasure Island is particularly interesting because High Level #4 uses what is essentially a location obsessed with sin to reveal numerous virtues. It sympathizes with the idea of free expression, no matter how abhorrent the voice or disgusting the opinion. It’s also very anti-kink shaming and supports whatever people may be into sexually. This book is very much about the idea of being comfortable with who you are and with those around you. The creative team’s incredible world building has introduced us to a plethora of different types of people with different agendas. The world of High Level, in many ways, is much like our own but set at a time where everyone has to fight to survive. People have retreated to their core values and beliefs, no matter how dark they may be.
Nate Piekos’s style of gibberish/unintelligible language is the exact same in High Level as it is in Middlewest which can take the subset of readers that read both out of the story.
High Level is a look about how various types of people would adapt to an apocalypse-style future in ways that are humanizing even in the face of the grotesque.