Dark Horse | Berger Books
(w) Ann Nocenti (a) David Aja
Since the announcement of the Berger Books imprint from Dark Horse, one book has had readers waiting anxiously for its release: The Seeds. A collaboration between writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja, The Seeds’ solicitation promised a story that spoke to the world we currently live in and a mystery involving bees. Truth be told, there’s a lot to unpack in this issue which makes use of every bit of page space available.
The world of The Seeds is gloomy hellscape on a doomed planet where seemingly everyone is obsessed with their electronics. In truth, it seems an awful lot like the world we currently inhabit. The only difference it seems is that Donald Trump managed to get his border wall built in The Seeds, and though it’s not to keep out Mexicans, its construction was for discriminatory purposes. Now, the purpose is to separate those that want to continue to embrace technology and those that are trying to leave it behind.
Nocenti’s chops as journalist are on full display here. While her time writing for DC during the “New 52” period may have tarnished her reputation in the eyes of some comic fans, her ability to pluck elements from the real world and infuse them into The Seeds’ script is undeniable. Because of the time it takes for a comic to go from conception to print, some of the ideas Nocenti brings to the table are almost prophetic, such as society rallying against technology.
Objectively speaking, the idea of a future society rejecting technology is hardly new. In Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s acclaimed webcomic, The Private Eye, the digital cloud has burst, revealing everyone’s secrets and making privacy a luxury. But in the wake of cyberattacks against democratic elections across the globe, misinformation campaigns, and Facebook frequently having to answer questions regarding their use of customer data, the timing of Nocenti’s script feels prophetic. For readers, it is very easy to draw a line from where we stand as a society today and end up in the world of The Seeds.
The story also hits on other pressing matters of today. As mentioned before, there a border wall with armed guards, but it’s unfinished. The mention of this appears to be an attack on governments being unable to follow-through on their promises. Throughout the issue, characters lament that the wall is in its current state and ask rhetorically why it hasn’t been finished. While the inclusion of the wall is a surprisingly fun, world-building element, the real meat of this story is the nature of modern journalism.
“Fake News” might be the most frustrating term to make its way into modern jargon, as it’s used to discredit news stories that don’t fit one’s preferred narrative. Just because something bad has happened doesn’t mean it’s fake. Meanwhile, flashy click-bait headlines that spread misinformation are treated as gospel. Just take a moment to look at the stuff being posted by your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever social network you choose. Chances are, you’re going to see a lot cats, “listicles” and alarmist headlines instead of a 1,500 word piece from The New Yorker.
This is the challenge that the series’ protagonist, Astra, must deal with. As an investigative journalist, she wants to do hard-hitting stories with real substance. Unfortunately, those types of stories don’t sell according to her editor, and she’s forced to do puff pieces on the latest fad that younger people are obsessed with. As frustrated as she may be, she understands that that is the nature of the world she inhabits.
Speaking of the world, it is brought to life wonderfully by the talents of artist David Aja. Running the full gamut of art duties, Aja uses a limited color palette to give The Seeds a bleak look. This is a world that no one should want to inhabit, thanks to Aja’s heavy use of shadows and thick linework. Not only that, but he also uses inks to give this issue a grainy, lived-in texture, while the prominent use of a pale green accent adds to the overall uneasiness.
Nine-panel grid layouts have come back into vogue in recent years, and Aja uses the format to not only sufficiently pace the narrative, but also play visual tricks on the reader. What looks like one thing is really something else, which in turn can transition the book from one setting to another. In a book that covers a lot of heavy material, this adds a welcome amount of fun to the reading experience.
The Seeds #1 exceeds expectations. It presents a challenge to the reader, forcing them to revisit the story over and over again because of its densely packed narrative. Meanwhile, the art itself is immaculate. If the remaining three issues are as good as this first chapter, there’s a good chance Eisners will be in the futures of Nocenti and Aja.