Image Comics | Top Cow Productions
(W) Zack Kaplan, (A) Andrea Mutti, (C) Vladimir Poplov
Though heavy-handed at times, Port of Earth is the most topical comic on stands today. To say that we live in an overly politicized world is an understatement. Whether you’re a liberal or conservative, chances are you are more acutely aware of government actions and policies than you were three years ago. But what makes Port of Earth stand apart from its entertainment contemporaries is that it does solely take cheap shots at the state of affairs today, but rather digs deeper to wallow in the problems that brought us to where we are today. The creative team accomplishes this all while still managing to produce an entertaining, futuristic sci-fi tale.
Writer Zack Kaplan’s script does not open with a big set piece, but rather a mundane cable news interview with a top government official. Kaplan recognizes that, in today’s world, mundane cable news interviews can be explosive. At the very least they can seem explosive, if news reports and headlines are to be trusted. For as much as this book has all the trappings of mainstream science fiction, most of this world reflects our own.
The risk of job loss due to automation and advancements in technology is a very real problem facing people all across the world. There is often talk of an “energy crisis” with debates on both sides on the merits of continued use of fossil fuels and sustainability of alternative source, such as wind or solar power. If that debate was settled instantly with the introduction of a new, cheap, renewable technology, what would the ramifications be? Kaplan tackles this question head-on, as he and Mutti depict the fallout of alien technology’s sweeping acceptance and implementation by the human race. Millions of people end up jobless. Family businesses are destroyed. Many are unable to afford the cost to adopt the new tech. Meanwhile, there are a few individuals who have earned untold wealth off of this new tech.
It is not difficult at all to draw parallels from the scenario described above to the problems facing our own world, one in which stock markets and corporate profits reach new highs on a frequent basis, yet wages remain stagnant and the masses are left behind. Despite the bluster and promises of populist politicians, and the spin by their PR spokesmen, the only people to benefit from these changes are those that are already well off. The more we learn about Kaplan and Mutti’s world, the more it reads like our own.
As engrossing as Port of Earth’s politics may be, it is the characters that continue to drive this story forward. Even though the two main protagonists, Agents Rice and McIntyre, represent the two ends of the political spectrum, Kaplan writes them in a manner that makes their positions sympathetic, or at the very least understandable, to the other side. McIntyre is a modern conservative – brash and opportunistic, consequences be damned. On the other hand is the left-leaning Rice, who’s adherence to the rules and unwillingness to rush to judgment leaves him open to questions of loyalty. Because they are partnered together, they must work together to survive. Throughout the issue, we see them express their opinions, but rather than tune each other out or scream about how the other side is wrong, they listen and find common ground. It’s a shame when, despite calls for a return to “normal order” in politics, the only place people can worth through the differing ideologies is a work of fiction.
With each new installment, Port of Earth becomes a more ambitious and impressive book. There aren’t too many sci-fi-polictical-action-thrillers out there (this might actually be the only thing that fits that description), and the creative team has done a marvelous job building a world that is as engrossing and depressing as our own. In the space of three issues, Port of Earth has transitioned from a title worth checking out to an absolute must read.