Comics has an accessibility problem. After decades of existence some books can be really hard to ease into. That’s why the infamous “jumping on point” was created — single issues designed to garner new readers and lure back old fans. Each week brave surveyors Luke Miller and Jamil Scalese will venture into the comics abyss and let you, the consumer, know just which series are worth JUMPING ON, and which are better left to be revisited at a later date.
(Brandon Thomas; Juan Gedeon, Frank Martin)
Jamil: The only thing that matches the vastness of space is the possibility of fiction. For every star there is a story, and Horizon shines majestically.
Pithy, eh? This is just one of those comics. Horizon’s execution lies in its simplicity, its concise art, its concentration on setting and style. Last week we chatted about a new book that seemed to talk its way out of being good, and this one accentuates that flaw by being great.
The opener demonstrates how a writer can set up their artists for success. Juan Gedeon’s depicts the powerful entrance of the protagonist and her passive integration into Earth life, pulling us through “Planet Earth. The Near Future” like a runaway meteorite. Frank Martin, one of my favorite colorists working in the biz, casts a fantastic spell of blues, greens, pinks and reds over the pages and it immediately nails down a lively look for this story. I’ll give a shout out to the letters too; Rus Wooten’s choices are satisfactorily sublime. The garbled text scene worked extremely well.
Successful first issues are uncommon. The pacing of Horizon #1 is its boon and Brandon Thomas deserves credit for grappling with the beast of trying to launch a new series within twenty-something pages.
Luke: I agree with your assessment of, if not “greatness,” certainly “very, very goodness.” Horizon reminded me a bit of a Twilight Zone episode, except we knew the twist within the first couple of minutes. We have an imminent alien invasion and planetary conquest, except it’s the human race and Earth cast as invaders and conquerors. Our protagonist is the alien infiltrating Earth society, presumably in an attempt to stop this from happening.
There was very little dialogue in this issue, which makes perfect sense as the protagonist is alone in a hostile environment through most of the issue and has no reason to speak with anyone (especially with a malfunctioning translator.) It also keeps us in the dark as to what the aliens’ plans are regarding this infiltration and what exactly we’re in store for with this series going forward – an excellent move to maintain an air of mystery and keep the reader coming back for more.
I won’t touch on it much as Jamil already hit it hard, but as a consequence of very little dialogue, the book relies heavily on the art, which is executed superbly.
I feel like I may have read this premise of Earth as invaders in a science fiction novel or two, but I’ve never seen it play out in comic form before, and I doubt the twists are over already. I’m very intrigued to see where this story goes from here and what the creators have in store for us going forward. My question to you, Jamil, is have you read a comic book quite like this before?
Jamil: In an oddly personal way that’s an extremely interesting question.
No, I don’t think I have read anything like this…but it feels like we have though, right? It’s such a pure and fascinating reversal on one of sci-fi’s oldest tropes and you almost want to give it a “pssh, seen that”, until you realize you haven’t. OK, so movies like Planet 51 exist, and there are plenty of minor examples of “humans as alien invaders” in fiction but it’s kind of surprising we don’t have a prominent example to contrast this against.
What makes this a little personal is that I’ve always wanted to tell this story myself. Framing Earthlings as the visitors from above is something I’ve toyed with in the back of my mind for a long time but I could never put wheels on it aside from an unfinished short story featuring a hazy Colonialism metaphor. Thomas and Gedeon do it better than I ever could and update that idea with what looks to be a commentary on terrorism in the modern world. The rage of the main character, Commander Zhia, is palpable. It’s evident she’s obsessed with completing her mission, whatever that is, and it’s being done against the backdrop of the United States of America.
There’s work to be done. The deliberate introduction is nice and all but it also puts the plot on layaway. As you pointed to, the story possibilities are rife, and the issue starts to mine that in the final pages, but I think it needs to be precise in its execution. The revolutionary allusion is tricky, particularly because Thomas chooses to show us next to nothing in regard what the hell mankind has done to the Valian race. The human invasion is never seen (aside from the awesome Jason Howard cover), it’s implied through Zhia’s ferocity, and that’s a curious choice in itself.
I have questions, but they’re the good kind. A lot of intrigue is jammed into this new comic and I am looking to be there when it eventually blooms.
Luke: Speaking of questions I have about this book, I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent here. One of the big questions I had for this series was whether nations, in this universe, still exist. Whenever we see humans expanding beyond Earth, it’s always a given that Earth has unified itself in some fashion prior to that. No one is ever American, or Russian, or Chinese. They’re defining demonym is always “Earthling” or “human.” The distinctions in these stories are then based on species (human vs. Klingon) or by planet (Corellian vs. Alderaanian – and I know that’s not a war that actually ever happened in Star Wars, but just go with me on this.)
My biggest question about this book going forward is the political backdrop of Earth, and to a lesser extent, the Valians. Does America still exist? (I kind of got the sense that it does.) And if so, is America (or possibly a coalition of countries) responsible for the invasion of Valia while other countries are totally innocent? Could the Valians be planning to force Earth nations to go to war with each other? And if that’s in the cards, why not have the Valians be a fractured race as well. The Earth invasion was probably a unifying event for them, but those former divisions might not dissolve over night.
Granted, I could be spouting nonsense here and the book will have nothing to do with any of that, but I feel like that would push this title into truly unique territory. The role-reversal element is interesting, but the political aspect only be exploited to its fullest that way. It would be very hard to flip that – an Earthling infiltrating an invading, but still fractious Valia, wouldn’t work as well because the author would have to spend so much time explaining the nations, alliances, and current political state of the alien planet. By flipping it, you get the benefit of having a lot of that already built in for the ready.
I have other, plot- and character-related questions regarding the story, but they’re mostly of the “what happened?”, “who’s that?”, and “why?” variety. Basic things I’m positive will be explained later on. But the potential political/intergalactic espionage/subversion element is what has me really excited about this series so far.