Writer/letterer: Toben Racicot Artist: Matteo Leoni Colorist: Martina Bonanni Publisher: Self (Kickstarter)
WHAT IS IT?
An ex-soldier turned scrapper tries to earn enough credits to get home to his family and gets in over his head on a post-apocalyptic planet Earth turned ice cube.
Think Star Wars: The Force Awakens starting on Hoth crossed with elements of The Walking Dead, only furry.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Orin Daniels is a soldier with C.O.R.E. (Celestial Orbit Reparation Effort), a military group returned to a frozen, post-apocalyptic Earth and tasked with eradicating a yeti-like alien species in the hopes of returning order and civilization to the planet. Now a deserter, he tries to eke out an existence harvesting scrap to earn enough credits to return home off-world to his family.
While trying to evade the authorities, he is forced to join forces with another alien race in a larger plot to save the galaxy from a mysterious threat. Will he get caught or figure out his role in the evolving galactic conflict in time?
Racicot wastes no time launching Orin, the main character, into physical conflict with the Exsord, a yeti-like aggressive alien race that has taken over the now frozen Earth, setting the tone for a flurry of narrative punches that quickly outlines a complex galactic plot peppered with a multitude of alien species. This admirably creates an environment similar to Star Wars in which a diversity of lifeforms is not only acceptable but commonplace and provides fertile ground for an expansive and complex story design that includes both magical and technological elements.
Leoni's pen is heavy and has a strong geometric, graphic quality to it with lots of angular shaping of background elements similar, in ways, to Frank Miller only without the robust musculature. Character linework is more reserved, reminiscent of contemporary Tonci Zonjic (Skulldigger and Skelton Boy) and the dimensionality of panel perspective is tight and constrained, putting the readers right into the action, which creates a nice sense of visual tension throughout. There are lots of linear blurs that define movement creating a fun visible dynamism.
Bonanni's color selections are reserved but illustrate the topography of a planet gone cold. There is a tungsten overlay on outside scenes that coats everything in a soft blue, and indoor sequences feel that much more cozy and warm. Greens and yellows are almost entirely absent, further emphasizing a planet in decline and without growth.
Orin's internal monologue covers a substantial portion of the dialogue bubbles and is accented with a nice rouge color to help it stand out over the traditional white. Having such a clearly delineated internal thought orbit adds to the feeling of isolation and stress that manifests not only on a physical but on a mental level as well. The Exsord language appears glyphlike, implying intelligence, but Orin cannot understand it and, upon meeting a member of the Gaijha race, the bubbles are still spherical but squiggly, so there's lots of visual interest coming from the collective lettering of the alien races.
There's an absorbing dynamic established with the cross-pollination of magic and technology. Is it taboo? It's a bit unclear yet, but it is hinted at enough to be a wonderful teaser for how the story is revealed in future issues: "... a source of their magic tomes that contain the lessons that grant them magic powers. We want to adapt it into code to power a new line of mech suits."
That sounds like a really fun concept for a comic storyline alone, without everything
else, so Racicot has created something with a lot of range here to explore what could
well branch beyond the initial five-issue concept.
The technological elements are beautifully crafted creating a memorable physical culture which is a hallmark of any great sci-fi project. Think of the importance of the lightsabers in Star Wars or The Fifth Element and the elemental stones.
As of the writing of this review, the project is already fully funded. With issue #1 ready to go and an ambitious plan to get issue #2 released later in 2021, you won't have to wait long and can back the project with confidence.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
The sheer number of plot elements piled into this first issue is a touch overwhelming. Engaging the reader is essential to hook you into the story, but slowing the narrative down would allow for greater visual development of the transformed earthen topography and help to fill in Orin's backstory.
The contrast of the visuals could be stronger. Characters tend to blend into their surroundings which grounds them into space well but doesn't help to convey the movement of scenes in a more dynamic way.
There is an undeniable association here with dystopian-style video games risking a pathway toward endless action over fully fleshed storytelling. On the positive side, it has "Netflix adaptation" written all over it.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Gritty, aggressive, and immersive, Pilgrim's Dirge is a fast-paced dystopian sci-fi space drama revealed at breakneck speed. With a large diversity of alien races and a complex material culture that combines magic and technology, all the elements are present for an underground smash Kickstarter hit.
The plot elements feel vaguely familiar but are presented in a unique way, the environments are lushly textured, and the visuals have a broad base of appeal. Pilgrim's Dirge will excite both fans of traditional comic or manga-style storytelling. Go back it, it's gonna be a fun ride.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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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 Pilgrim's Dirge characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Toben Racicot and Matteo Leoni or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED