Damon Clark sets a solid foundation as young Christian Reynolds and his supportive father head to Shell Bay to start a new life after his mom passes away. It's told lovingly in concise, caption-less, panels through Alyzia Zherno's wonderfully thin penciling, Tim Burton-esque character designs, and a warm children's book veneer. Christian's dad works tirelessly to cheer him up, help him feel normal after such a tragic loss. Clark excels in drawing emotions from the father-son dynamic that it makes up for some of more cliched aspects of the story.
Christian, predictably, doesn't fit in right away at his new high school. He's quickly bullied and beat up by some typical jerky jocks. It's not going well for Christian. He finds some respite and joy in making the basketball team. However, that joy is short-lived until a group of kids befriend him and take him to their hidden hangout. The dialogue feels natural and realistic, including the occasional curse word sounds appropriate. This is a familiar arc for a fish-out-of-water story but it's also clearly a set-up for what's to come. Clark chooses character development and world building over spectacle and forced theatrics. 'The Circle' is a low-key start but promises not to remain so.
Zherno is a unique talent. The layouts are clean and dynamic enough to give this grounded story some energy and dimension. My only critique is characters have similar facial features that doesn't differentiate them enough. I didn't know Christian was a boy until a third into the story. His features appeared feminine and while that was a bit distracting, once I found Zherno's groove it didn't matter.'The Circle' doesn't look like anything else in comic shops and that's a good thing.
'The Circle' shows a lot of promise. Clark invests a lot of time in presenting his characters with the care and respect they deserve. Zherno displays a quirky art style that fits the story well. It's an easy new title to get lost into and appreciate. The best part? The darker elements of the story are right around the corner. Now would be a great time to get on board with 'The Circle.'