The future's so dark, I need to wear a headlamp...
Hexware #1 (w: Tim Seeley, a: Zulema Scotto Lavina)
Publisher: Image Comics
Tim Seeley does it again. He once again produces a comic that I fall in love with at the jump. Damn you, Seeley, you beautiful, beautiful mind.
Hexware is a Constantine story by way of Detroit: Become Human. We enter into a world in extreme class divide, with the rich and privileged, the aptly nicknamed "uppies," living in high rises above the city streets, and the less fortunate forced to endure a dank, dark world at street level. In the wake of a terrorist attack at a mall, a family suffers the loss of their teenage daughter Jesi. The family's android, who acts mainly as a maid and quality-of-life assistant, is forced to sit and watch as the family falls into their grief. Her programming compels her to constantly ask what she can do to help, eventually drawing the ire of the broken and mournful family. As a simple support unit, she is helpless. Until she suddenly springs into action and reads through the extensive collection of books the family has regarding paganism, mysticism and witchcraft. And here we find ourselves at the tagline for the book: "Why sell your soul when you can buy one...?"
Hexware is a beautiful mash-up of science and the supernatural. So often we see these two things crammed together in a way that results in one of them being more of a theme or set-piece than an actual setting. Whenever they are successfully blended, they result is some of the most unique examples of modern storytelling, and this book is definitely just that. Seeley quickly shows that he aims to truly examine how demons, souls, witchcraft, and other supernatural tidbits would interact in a world full of androids and advanced technologies. Moreover, it's that world itself that lends an exceptional quality to the story in that it's a world more advanced than that of the reader but not so advanced as to feel unreachable. Sure, we don't have in home androids, but we have AI slowly becoming more accessible, various companies working to bring robots to the masses, and entire generations brought up not knowing what it was like to not have interconnected supercomputers attached to our hips. This is a distant world, but it's not SO distant that it becomes hard to relate to, making the characters feel that much more real.
This book is a delight. I love it so very much.
All Against All #1 (w/a: Alex Paknadel & Caspar Wijngaard)
Publisher: Image Comics
All Against All is a fascinating story made even better by fascinating art. This book has a lot to offer and a lot to think on, from it's incredibly bleak outlook of the Earth's future to the existential nature of a race of aliens who inhabit the bodies of other creatures. The most interesting thing to me from the jump is that this is an alien invasion story told from the perspective of the invaders. Man-kind's position in the narrative seems to be that of an antagonist or even a monster. It's like someone threw an Uno-reverse card at a xenomorph.
We follow director B'tay, a highly decorated researcher for a race known as "the operators," as he examines the biomes of Earth, wherein his race is cultivating lifeforms that they apparently found in the Svalbard seed vault. The goal seems to be utilizing the animals of earth to build better bodies for their soldiers in order to end a war that we never see. However, B'tay has reservations for this goal and has restricted access to live specimens, making the station he operates one of pure observation. This lack of productivity has caught the eye of the military who have decided to step in and move things along.
All of the above takes place years after the book's opening scene, wherein Director B'tay comes face to face with a hostile human boy. By the end of the book, the boy has grown and is not too happy to see a new group of Operator scouts investigating his home.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot happening in this book. There's nepotism, a commentary on the military viewing people as tools, thoughts on conservation, reflections on loss, examples of panic attacks and anxiety disorders... It's a hefty think-piece wrapped in a beautiful, technicolor coat. It's absolutely stunning and a must read for sci-fi fans.
It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1 (w: Curt Pires, a: Jacoby Salcedo)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I feel like a lot of comics nowadays are focusing on what it was like to be a teenager before - with lots of stories set in the '90s and early '00s, giving authors the opportunity to show what their world was like when they were teens, and pull on their own experiences. What was nice about this book is that it's from the perspective of teens right now, but it actually feels realistic. The things they say, the things they do, the behaviors they express, all feel true to teens today (from my limited experience with current teens & the relationships I see in others, anyway).
For the bulk majority of this book, those behaviors and actions are what matter. We follow Javi, a sort-of-in-the-closet-but-not-really teen boy, as he hangs out with friends and narrates his planning and throwing of a party while his parents are out of town. When the party gets crashed by the racist, sexist, homophobic d-bags no one invited, a fight breaks out and ends with... a massive twist out of left field that is not even a little bit hinted to or explained in the first book. Trust me, you won't guess it. Don't even try.
If you've ever seen the movie +1, it feels kind of like that. You're drawn in through a traditional teen-based story of relationships and clique-drama, only to be whisked away into some weird, (potentially?) sci-fi vibes that you can't reconcile and aren't entirely sure how it happened. I really like the characters they've established, and I'm interested to see where the heck this is going. Talk about a cliffhanger.
Know Your Station #1 (w: Sarah Gailey, a/ca: Liana Kangas)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
The first few pages of this book made my skin crawl - in a good way. From the beginning, we're introduced to "The First Resort - A Hub for the Future," and all the many drafts of marketing gobble-di-gook they worked through to get to that tagline. Then we meet, one-by-one, the C-Suite, all of which have nefarious, pro-capitalistic, marginally offensive backstories that generally make you feel really icky. Oh, and all the jobs on this station pretty well suck, too. The future is bleak for the not-1%, my friends.
The real story focuses on Elise, a Security Liason for the station, and an investigation into a brutal murder that just took place. Clearly, nothing like this has ever happened before, so they call in reinforcements from ground-level to help break the case. Before she knows it, Elise is wrapped up in something much darker than she knows how to deal with, and may be more involved than she even knows.
What I like about this book is that they subtly-not-so-subtly double down on horrible things being absolutely normal. For instance, Elise wakes up with an awful hangover, proclaiming she's quitting her job, only to receive some sort of medication provided by the ship's all-knowing AI that serves as the strongest upper I've ever seen - completely reversing her instinct to leave and pepping her step for the day ahead. It feels futuristic and surreal, but also, not. So much of our current news cycle is getting weirder and weirder, more and more dystopian, that this almost feels... about right? Like, if the world's richest men did have a pow-wow and decided to build a space station that accommodates their needs, this is exactly what it would be like. And honestly, I can't tell if I really like that sort of truth-telling, or kind of hate it. Either way, it makes for a compelling read.
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