Dark Horse Comics
(W) G Willow Wilson (A) Christian Ward (L) Sal Cipriano
A delay notification of super-delivery service is crashed through by a rag-tag delivery crew while on another planet a prospective “None” is walking through a built-up city reciting how “the world is a veil.” These are the beginnings to the two parallel stories that lead into the same mystery in Invisible Kingdom #1 that G Willow Wilson, Christian Ward, and Sal Cipriano are bringing to Karen Berger’s Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse. This book marks Wilson’s return to creator-owned comics for the first time since Air with Black Bolt and ODY-C artist, Christian Ward. Those names set a high expectation for this first issue, but as a first issue, the book does just enough to set itself apart from the standard sci-fi comic.
Christian Ward brings his standard vibrant colors and excellent design choices to the book, and the book is at its best when he has room on the page. Ward lays out some beautifully realized cosmic full-page illustrations that remind the reader of what he does best. Ward also lays out a number of very thoughtful page layouts that play with the diegetic layout of the buildings in the world which feels incredibly fresh and remain very clear to make out on the page. Ward’s work does struggle to maintain that quality in interior scenes where panels seem somewhat unfinished which can be a jarring contrast to the excellently rendered scenes pages before or after.
Wilson’s work in crafting the two parallel stories that introduce the world and the mystery does good work in setting up the story that will follow over the course of the series. Wilson tries to overcome the common problem in first issues of just being the full version of the solicit text by setting up themes of truth and materialism that would seem to be critical to the story that follows. Much of the prose from “The Book of Renunciation” provides excellent prose that frames Ward’s art and elevates the themes about to truth and following paths to a powerful combination of words and images.
The characters of the book did add a great deal to pushing the book past being a recap of its solicit text. Grix’s crew is maybe a mixed bag, with standouts being Xether, worrying flight engineer and Rath, a literal child on the ship. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew members struggle to make strong impressions. Grix and Vess as the series leads come from two different worlds and are on different paths and their motivations keep readers interested in how they both will come to deal with the revelations they find.
The major element that separates the book from the rest is Willow’s use of the real world growth of e-commerce and tying it to materialism versus truth and what happens when the line between religion and greed gets removed and when an organization instilled in truth is a part of a grand lie. All of those elements feel incredibly salient to the current world we live in and the series stands out based on the anticipation of seeing how these themes will be explored in future installments.