Updated: Jan 26
Writer: Zack Kaplan
Illustrator: Piotr Kowalski
WHAT IS IT?
Join the Future is a dystopian look at a future where technically advanced, ever-expanding “megacities” struggle for dominance, even as some smaller communities and families try to remain apart from the comforts – and the control – of these metropolises.
Join the Future is a mix of Rucka and Lark’s Lazarus and Peter Jackson’s Mortal Engines, with a bit of spaghetti western added in for flavor.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Clem and Owen are siblings growing up in the shadow of a megacity. Their father is the mayor of their small rural town called Franklin, and he is determined to avoid the “inviting and addictive” material benefits of the city.
Unfortunately, while the megacities promise a life of ease and plenty, life outside the city is increasingly difficult. Food is getting scarce, supplies are difficult to acquire, and surrounding communities are giving up and moving to the city en masse.
Join the Future is about the choices that people make to stay free, what we are willing to give up for security and convenience, and how the decisions we make have lasting consequences for ourselves and our families. There’s a lot to unpack here.
The Mayor. As a character, he is someone I immediately like and respect. He has “a code” in the same way that 1940s private eyes do, and he is determined to stand his ground. Even so, he knows that his first duty is to his family and his community, and even he compromises when the situation is dire enough.
Clem and Owen. Kaplan does a really nice job of building the relationship between the Mayor’s children, older sister Clementine and younger brother Owen. They squabble, and they disagree, but they also obviously care for each other and are very close. That is a lot of character building to do in just a few pages, but the art and dialogue for the two of them is beautiful and effective.
The premise. I like the idea of megacities and low-tech frontier towns pitted against one another. Kaplan has already turned in several excellent science fiction series, and I am interested to see the story he is building here.
The writing. This book just seems so authentic. The dialogue, the characters, all of it is extremely well crafted. I also like that while we are seeing this world through the eyes of Clem and her family, we are not forced to look at their world through rose-colored glasses. The difficulties and dangers inherent in a low-tech rural society are revealed regularly. Clem has asthma, and the lack of modern medicine is potentially deadly for her. Plus, after she has an attack while out hunting a boy comes up to Clem and says “Don’t worry yer pretty head if you can’t hunt none. We’ll shoot for ya, and you just cook it.” Every society has its expectations and costs, and we can see that for Clem living in her small town may be as much of a trap as joining the city.
The art by Piotr Kowalski is excellent and fits the story perfectly. The art has a lot of fine detail, especially in the forest scenes, and there is an almost pastoral stillness to it on most pages. When there is action, Kowalski does a great job with that as well, but I think my favorite pages were those at the festival. You can almost hear live music being played, and people talking. The scene is alive and vibrant, yet is drawn with an economy of lines. This is the first book by Kowalski I have read, but I am definitely going to search out more of his work. His style is realistic, dynamic and spectacular!
Colorist Brad Simpson lights this book perfectly. His colors have an “artificial” light feel in the megacity scenes, but a far more subdued and natural feel in the forest and town. A big part of the book’s ability to feel like an old-time western comes from his smart color choices and the atmosphere he is able to evoke.
The lettering, by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, is thoughtful and effective. There are some pages with significant amounts of dialogue, and yet nothing looks cluttered or confused. Otsmane-Elhaou is someone who always sweats the details, and you can be sure that he has thought about exactly where each balloon belongs, and how each sound effect should look and move.
I love the setup of this world, and how the first issue sets up the story.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
We get to see the amenities of the megacity that is courting Clementine and her community, but we don’t really get any idea why a huge city would be concerned with incorporating a tiny town. What is the benefit for them? We hear they want the population growth. But why?
Similarly, it would be nice to get a better idea why the Mayor and the other adults in the town are willing to continue holding out. Is there resistance truly just a desire to live free from the entrapping conveniences and controls of modern life? Or do these folks know something more?
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Join the Future #1 is smart, action-packed science fiction with a dystopian worldview and Old West flavor. If you are a fan of Orwellian nightmares, Old West/Shiny Future mashups, or if you just like extremely well-made comics, this is one you should be reading!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Port of Earth, Vol. 1 by Zack Kaplan & Andrea Mutti
Eclipse, Vol 1 by Zack Kaplan & Giovanni Timpano
Lazarus, Vol 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
If you like the art:
Badlands Vol 1 by Eric Corbeyran and Piotr Kowalski (only in German on Comixology…but even if you can’t read it, the art looks gorgeous!)
Sex, Vol. 1 by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski
Jonah Hex: No Way Back by Gray/Palmiotti and Tony DeZuniga
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Zack Kaplan – Writer
Is a veteran of numerous other science fiction comic series, including Eclipse and Port of Earth for Top Cow, and Lost City Explorers for Aftershock.
Multitalented: Taught screenwriting at the International Academy of Film and TV, located in the Philippines
Has numerous projects that are currently being developed for television
Piotr Kowalski – Illustrator
Outlander: Piotr is from Poland, and now lives in Belgium
Prolific: Has been an artist for numerous publishers in the U.S. and Europe, including Marvel, Dark Horse, Boom Studios, Dynamite, Image, American Gothic Press, Le Soleil, Le Loombard and Casterman
Brad Simpson – Colorist
Dream Team: Also provided colors for Kowalski’s work on Sex
Has a BFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design
Enjoys painting, and is influenced by 19th-century landscape painters Thomas Moran and J.M.W. Turner
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – Letterer
May be the smartest person working in comics today. If you aren’t following him and his work, you should be!
Hass’s YouTube series Strip Panel Naked is a great way to learn more about how comics are created, and why creators make the choices they do.
Award-Winner: Also edits the Eisner-winning PanelXPanel, a digital magazine the takes you on a deep dive into comics criticism and history every month.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 releases March 4th. Click one of these to find it:
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