By Vernon Miles
Nathan Bright isn't a weatherman in the traditional sense.
He may be a meteorologist delivering the latest updates to humanity’s population on Mars in the year 2770, and he also shows up on time (more or less) to broadcast one of the most popular shows across the colony of Redd Bay. But it’s not the forecasts his viewership tunes in for: it’s the disarming entertainment. Nathan’s wildly energetic, funny, exciting, and more than slightly crass, mixing in impromptu singalongs of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” into his delivery. And love him or hate him, his programming distracts humanity from a horrible attack that wiped out Earth years ago.
But the Nathan on screen is a drastically different person from the one behind closed doors. Like his fellow interplanetary immigrants, he mourns the loss of Earth, feels desperately alone, and worst of all, may or may not be hiding a horrible secret that positions him as the pariah behind his former planet’s demise. This conflict sets him against a galaxy of bounty hunters, space cowboys, and post-human assassins. And in their new series The Weatherman, writer Jody LeHeup (Shirtless Bear-Fighter!) and artist Nathan Fox (Haunt) will ask the pivotal question, who is Nathan Bright?, while exploring deeper topics about guilt and responsibility.
“Even though Nathan’s just a normal guy and is completely ill-equipped to be the most wanted man in the galaxy, he’s forced to go on the run—on a journey to discover the truth and ultimately the key to stopping a second attack,” Fox says. “But there’s so, so, so much more to the story than that. Why can’t he remember and what really happened… those questions are just the starting point. When we start getting the answers is when things really take off and heat up.”
LeHeup is no stranger to mixing the left-hook absurd with the surprisingly emotional. His Image debut with co-writer Sebastian Girner and artist Nil Vendrell, Shirtless Bear-fighter!, injects substantial moments of gravity into a story about a man punching bears, a balancing act The Weatherman also straddles. When Nathan accidentally broaches the topic of “what happened” to his home planet on a date with a woman named Amanda, the conversation veers into a bittersweet tone. The reader glimpses another side of the character that’s representative of the world at large as he shields his grief with jokes.
Like Nathan, Amanda is a character designed to defy expectations. As the story evolves, she assumes a central role in the book and provides a stark contrast to Nathan’s lackadaisical demeanor.
“We’ll learn by the end of issue one that [Amanda] Cross is much more than Nathan’s would-be girlfriend,” LeHeup says. “There’s a larger tapestry at work, and Nathan is just the tip of the iceberg. I can say, though, that Cross is a major, major character in this story. In many ways, The Weatherman is more about her than it is about Nathan, which will start to become clear over the first few issues.”
“What makes Cross a great character is the way in which she’s everything Nathan’s not,” Fox continues. “She’s passionate, driven, takes things too seriously, and will absolutely outwork anybody. Cross and Nathan are like oil and water, and watching the two navigate their situation together is part of the fun. It’s a dynamic that’s going to matter a great deal throughout their adventure.”
Conflicted identities abound throughout the book, serving as one of the title’s central themes. “Our title character Nathan Bright becomes the solar system’s most wanted man in issue one,” Fox says. “And precisely because he’s a local TV celebrity, he’s completely unprepared for that kind of life. Everyone in the galaxy wants him dead, and he’s never even seen a gun in real life before. So the fish-out-of-water aspect of a weatherman at the center of this manhunt really appeals to us as well. We have a lot of fun with Nathan trying to orient himself to his new reality.”
“We love the idea of people coming to this book thinking that it’s going to be a mundane slice-of-life story and then reading the first issue and being like, ‘Woah, holy shit! This isn’t about the weather at all!’” LeHeup explains. “Part of the fun of a title/character like this is playing with expectations. It’s interesting because The Weatherman is sort of a mix of tones; it’s this widescreen, fast-paced, science fiction adventure full of colorful characters and heartfelt humor set in a rich world full of super slick future aesthetics. But at its core, The Weatherman is the story of a man accused of a horrendous crime that’s mind boggling in scale. A crime he doesn’t remember committing. And given that fact—if he did do it—can he still be held responsible? This is a story about how we as people deal with trauma, guilt, and the damage we do in the name of balancing the scales of justice.”
Fast paced and slick are almost understatements in the case of The Weatherman. Fox’s artwork is powerfully dynamic. Whether thrusting bounty hunters through walls or laying down a hail of gunfire—or portraying an everyman and his dog speeding along a freeway—every visual aspect in the comic is in a constant state of motion. Panels cut from one scene into the next, intercut and spliced together in ways that are intuitive to follow but require a second look to fully absorb all of Fox’s minute detail. The freeway panel alone, for instance, features at least three separate layers of transit weaving through a dense metropolis, all zooming through less than half of a page.
But the macro scale of the art loses none of its stylized verve in its intimate character portrayals. Even outside of the energetic and slightly neurotic Nathan Bright, characters are frequently shouting or sighing with heightened expression.
“It really is an incredibly special book,” LeHeup says. “Easily one of the most beautifully illustrated comics you’ve ever seen and guaranteed to be one of the most talked about comics on the stands the day it hits.”
The Weatherman #1 by Jody LeHeup, Nathan Fox, and Dave Stewart is out now.