Genesis is a mesmerising yet salutary offering, and represents an extraordinary collaboration between Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson.
It’s a deeply engrained facet of human nature: that desire, that urge, that need to leave our own indelible mark on the planet. A desperate yearning to ensure a recognisable, ineradicable part of ourselves is imprinted on reality for posterity. To know that history recorded that we mattered, it was all worthwhile, that our contribution will endure…
So imagine, if you will, that as a child you had always been told you were going to change the world but as the years went by and you reached unexceptional adulthood you had to come to terms with the stark realisation that your existence was going to end in as unremarkable a dead end as virtually all of your contemporaries. It’s a fate most of us will have to accept isn’t it? But what if something astonishing happened? Something that gave you the ability to shape all of time and space to your will at the merest whim? Something that put you at the very centre of the universe?
Would you bend reality… or would reality bend you?
Writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Alison Sampson’s Genesis is a contemporary parable replete with contrasts and dualities. At its heart, admittedly, lies a very simple idea – one that has hardly gone unexamined in genre fiction it’s true – but it’s how that core conceit is executed that makes Genesis so thought-provoking and, as the pre-publicity states, “trippy” in delivery.
The after effects of a failed suicide attempt give preacher Adam power beyond comprehension to manifest anything he desires into reality. So begins a journey of discovery as would-be saviour Adam sets about doing what any benevolent soul would do with such abilities – he tries to save the world from itself. But ultimate power has a subtly corrupting influence as Adam finds that even the most stray thought can become reality, and that omnipotence is a most terrifying tool indeed.
Genesis is, of course, a moral object lesson on the dangers of absolute control. However, it isn’t the usual sermon on being seduced by unconditional power. What we have here is also an examination of the nature of consciousness and the structure of the psyche, reflected in the gradual descent of Adam’s world as his dominance over his abilities is constantly undermined by his wandering subconscious; little things at first, like subliminally changing his wife’s hair colour for example, but becoming progressively more unmanageable as time goes on. It’s the burden of the creator underlined, perhaps, because imagination is uncontrollable. It’s boundless, illimitable and cannot be confined; it spills over, seeping out of Adam’s mind, and oozing into reality unbidden, pulling apart what he has constructed.
Edmondson’s script is a haunting account of the puppet master losing control of the strings; frightening and disturbing in equal measure. Edmondson is a known quantity, though, and for many the true narrative revelation here will be the work of Alison Sampson. As she mentions in the promotional material surrounding Genesis, Sampson’s first long-form comics work may have been a learning curve yet for the reader it’s a tour-de-force debut. There are hints of Arthur Ranson in the photorealism stakes but – as incompatible as it sounds when making a comparison to such a creator – it also has a hazy, dreamlike quality to it. Jason Wordie’s muted colouring accentuates that detached, otherworldly atmosphere that her visuals evoke. Beautifully hallucinogenic, Sampson’s art is a constant reminder that reality is melting away for Adam – the fragility of the subconscious dream state he has surrounded himself with just one step from crumbling away. Genesis really is one of those astonishing occasions where writer and artist strike up an almost symbiotic link in conveying authorial intent.
This is also an old school, complete-in-an-issue, one-shot of the type which we see so little of in these days where writing for the trade and an eye on an eventual collected edition has become far, far too prevalent. In that respect you are advised to reserve your copy of Genesis from your local comic shop to avoid disappointment. Adam’s story of gift-turned-ordeal – of being one step away from god but still essentially a child playing with building blocks – is a mesmerising yet salutary offering, representing an extraordinary collaboration between Edmondson and Sampson. Work that deserves promotion in a format that deserves your support.
Nathan Edmondson (W), Alison Sampson (A), Jason Wordie (C) • Image Comics, $6.99, 16 April 2014, FEB140504
Not really convinced here, Andy. Apart from the stunning art job, the story never grabbed me beyond the premise and did not rise to the level of the art. As yo said: ‘hardly gone unexamined in genre fiction’.