Writer: Callum Fraser
Art and Colors: Emiliano Correa
WHAT IS IT?
A cyberpunk sci-fi series that has a splash of horror and is set in a bleak, futuristic Earth ca. 3000.
With wholly immersive and transportive virtual reality technology playing a central role, it is reminiscent of The Matrix, Blade Runner and eXistenZ. The tone is hopeful, suggesting that these will be the outcast, underdog heroes to bring justice to the world.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In a techno-dystopian future run by corporations, three sewer-dwelling rebels discover a VR addict who, with a nest of braid-like chords still attached to her scalp, has been drained of credits and left for dead. Instead of reviving her, though, they hook her up to an outdated, off-network device through which she somehow manages to bring online. This reveals their location, and they are forced to flee into dangers they’d been avoiding.
This all begins underground in what appears to be an extensive catacomb-like sewer system, where the trio of rebels have presumably been eking out an existence. For them, though, such a life below is preferable to one above, where the world is controlled by draconian corporations who revel in excess and exploit the poor.
Although wildly different from our present-day world, this vision of the future isn’t too hard to imagine and offers a commentary on the current state of corporations and the need for regulation. For instance, VR technology could easily evolve into a neuro-orgasmic experience that hooks users like heroin, if we aren’t careful. While most obviously a cautionary possible future, it also paints a picture of humanity’s resilience.
Although the VR addict they recovered appears to be the trio’s golden ticket to bringing about the changes they’re chasing, she may yet prove to be their undoing -- that is, if they aren’t captured or killed first.
Correa has created some truly stunning artwork that could stand on its own as prints
Correa’s covers are also excellent with their stark white backgrounds and jarring yet tasteful portraits both inviting the potential reader to pick them up and warning them that all is not well the pages within
Dark but still with striking colors, Correa sets a visual tone that is at once ominous and paranoid as well as warm and hopeful – much like the characters
The horror elements really pop against the sci-fi backdrop
Palette shifts, though rare, effectively convey switching between reality, virtual reality, and memories in a way that drives home their differences
The paneling is responsive, maintaining standard rectangles for the most part but switching to other styles at times to complement what’s happening within; For instance, as a character’s virtual reality begins to crumble, the panels are obscured by digital distortion, and when a character is thrown to the ground, the paneling switches from crisp to loud, jagged, unbalanced lines that help you feel the action
A bloated capitalist society – apparently unopposed by or identical with the government – is the primary adversary (so far), which helps unite the characters against a common cause while affording them unique back stories and creating a simple framework for social commentary
Fraser’s story throws you directly into the action, keeping the reader’s attention and immediately stoking their curiosity
The worldbuilding will keep you hooked as you try to figure out what’s going on
The techno-dystopian future feels fresh even though it’s been done many times before
Little details (like rings of binary encircling a character’s irises) reward attentive reading and re-reading
Strong and unique character attributes, like the VR dealers callousness or the VR addict’s braid-wires, populate the world with people whose stories you want to learn
Jones uses angular speech balloons that are colored in for a cute digital panda, underscoring its otherworldliness
Jones uses similarly, though less dramatically, angular balloons to indicate the otherness of another digital creature
In a scene where one character is fused to a robot, Jones prints a few blocks of un-ballooned binary script, which subtly tells the reader that the two have become one
Appropriate for teens and adults
Though not explicitly mentioned, the main characters appear to be from minority groups
This story has two more issues to go, which is great, since it left me wanting to know more about the world and getting a sense of closure
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
A lot of what doesn’t work depends on what comes after these two issues
The characters develop slowly
Almost nothing is reveled about the characters in issue one; issue two gives brief backstories for the primary trio. If this becomes a sweeping epic, it won’t matter, but if it doesn’t, the characters will feel underdeveloped and difficult to care about
Readers could be frustrated by the lack of context for what’s happening
Being tossed into the middle of a story in a strange world is disorientating, and no contextualizing narrative provided. If more of the world isn’t fleshed out in later issues, it may be too foreign to feel immersive
Some of the invented tech-talk feels forced, perhaps because very little of the tech in this world has been firmly established by the narrative
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Come for the art, stay for the worldbuilding, and don’t leave before you know what’s happening. Plus, you’ll get to see how a nightmare would render a firewall. You might not think you care about that right now, but trust me, you do.
This is a tense and disorienting exploration of a worst-case future that makes demands of the reader and isn’t for those who like their stories spoon fed to them.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Arcadia by Alex Paknadel & Eric Scott Pfeiffer
Lazarus by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark
East of West by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, & Frank Martin Jr.
If you like the art:
Murder by Matthew Loisel & Emiliano Correa
Black Science by Matteo Scalera & Dean White
Copperhead by Jay Faerber & Scott Godlewski
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Callum Fraser – Writer
Outlander: Lives in the U.K.
New Face: This is the first comic he has ever written
Outlander: Hails from New Zealand
Rob Jones – Letter
Outlander: Lives in the U.K.
Multitalented: Also writes comics as well as letters them
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Callum Fraser’s characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Callum Fraser or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED