Why not Join the Future for an intriguing look forward and backwards in genre time-space that might say something true about the here and now. #1 out in March.
If you like science fiction and also westerns you might like to think about how combining the tropes of these two genres is a little bit like some of the contradictions inherent in current American culture; technology will save us, nothing can save us, we have to save ourselves. Small town values and a longing for the good old days? Buy this. Progressive values and a longing for a shining liberal future? Buy this. Same company owns both thises by the way. Zack Kaplan is thinking about it. With three successful genre titles with Image Comics under his belt, this new series with Aftershock Comics paints a beautifully juxtaposed scenario combining the best of both forward-looking and backward looking worlds while really, of course, being all about looking around ourselves at what’s going on today. Probably. I mean, it’s got robots and wolves and evil corporations and Stetson hats. So, it should be good.
Elegant, spindly skyscrapers set the scene from the first page, as picture perfect diverse custodians of the future lay out an opulent advertisement for city life. It looks pretty darn good to be honest. Every sci-fi technology and social policy you can think of to spell a metropolitan utopia is here, so of course it’s all highly suspicious.
As can be seen here and in the preview on the Aftershock website, the art from Piotr Kowalski and Brad Simpson is pretty exquisite, more than living up to the concept, polished off with lettering from the excellent Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou of Strip Panel Naked fame. With beautifully balanced pages and cannily crafted colour schemes, the future is bright and also romantically rustic when the palette switches from gleaming glass to warm woodland. Outside of the future city exist rural communities, holding out against the lure of technology. The Mid-West countryside looks pretty lush. Definitely not a Matrix-style scorched landscape. But all is not ideal of course. Clementine, who we soon meet hunting with her family, is suffering some kind of climate-induced asthma, and also there’s giant killer wolves. So that’s fun. Clem’s dad is the mayor of a small town resisting the call to the city, and seems to take an anti-tech stance to the extreme. Her brother isn’t even allowed an iPod, or the readily available gadgets that would make it easier to shoot dinner.
Join the Future has everything you need for a joyful high-concept science fiction western epic. It’s too early of course, in the first issue, to know whether these ingredients will ultimately be handled in an interesting way. There’s certainly some thoughtful treatment of American cultural tropes, a protagonist with both grit and vulnerability, and more than enough implied intrigue to explore. I would read this comic for the visuals alone in all honesty, so I’m quite happy to ride along to see if the story will live up to its potential too.
Zack Kaplan (W), Piotr Kowalski (A), Brad Simpson (C), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (L) • Aftershock, $3.99
Advance review – arrives in stores March, 2020
Review by Jenny Robins