Exploring strange new worlds every Wednesday

Go from an orbiting space habitat to a world of demons and telepaths…

Over the past few years, Image as built a reputation as a publisher of solid science fiction and fantasy comics that aren’t part of a multi-media franchise. The most successful of these series is probably Saga, by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples, which won the Hugo award for best graphic story last year and is nominated for another one this year. But here are a couple of other titles you might want to check out:

midwaycity

The Fuse, by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood, is a clever melding of police procedural and space adventure. It’s set aboard Midway City, a gigantic space habitat (with a population of roughly 500,000) orbiting the Earth. Just as the election for mayor starts to heat up, the police discover that someone is killing homeless people. The case is assigned to veteran detective Klementina Rystovich and her new partner, Ralph Dietrich, a recent émigré from Earth.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Rystovich and Dietrich aren’t getting along very well, but they’re sparring is witty and allows for a gradual unveiling of their characters. Rystovich is portrayed as being thin and bone white, but we don’t know yet whether she’s a classic albino or whether there’s some other reason for her condition. Dietrich is declining to talk about why he left Earth, but it’s safe to assume that won’t last.

Johnston and Greenwood seem to have spent a lot of time developing Midway City, but they’re introducing concepts and terms slowly. The homeless are generally known as cablers, because they live inside the service tunnels and air ducts. The Fuse is the most dangerous neighborhood in the habitat. The weapon of choice is called a bouncer, which somehow circumvents the problems of having projectile weapons in a pressurized environment, but it’s not clear yet how that’s accomplished. I’d like to know more about who built Midway City and how it gained its independence, but it seems reasonable to assume that’s coming.

Johnston, the writer, and Greenwood previously worked together on another sf comic, Wasteland. Go here for a taste of what The Fuse looks like.

sovereignone 001

The world-building is also one of the main attractions to Sovereign, an ambitious high fantasy comic by Chris Roberson and Paul Maybury. This comic follows three seemingly unrelated groups in the kingdom of Khend, as they head towards whats bound to be an explosive intersection. One group consists of the three heirs to the Khendish throne. Another group is made up a scholar and telepath from a distant land. The third group—and my favorite—is part of a combination guild/ religious sect called the Luminari.

The Luminari are both morticians and demon fighters. They oversee burials to make sure that the recently departed are not taken over by an other-dimensional threat called the Unnamed. As you might imagine, all this requires a fair amount of exposition and Roberson has been providing both in the comic pages and in text back-up features.   This seems more logical when you know Roberson has a background in both writing prose fiction and comics. His novels include Paragaea and Further: Beyond the Threshold. His comic book credits include The Shadow, Doc Savage and I, Zombie.

A couple of observations about the art in both of these comics. Both Greenwood and Maybury’s art is looser and funkier than I expected. But the art works. Both artists can do wide-screen, establishing shots, when the story calls for it. In addition, both comics reflect the graphic style of another prominent Image creator, Jonathan Hickman. Some of the covers for The Fuse—like the one on the home page of this site—rely heavily on the logo, rather than illustrations. And Sovereign features full-page chapter breaks, with relevant quotes from the characters.

MEANWHILE: I’m pleased to report that Robotech/Voltron #3 is now at your Local Comics Shop. I’ll be scripting issues three, four and five of this five-issue limited series, working from a story by Tommy Yune. Elmer Damaso and the Digital Art Chefs team are providing the art. (I will be scripting issue four, BTW, even though my name wasn’t listed in the credits in Previews.) Naturally, we hope you picked up issues one and two but i think the story is still clear if you start with this issue.

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