The premise of Jesse Lonergan’s Hedra is, in isolation, a straightforward one. After nuclear war devastates the Earth, one lone astronaut wins a lottery that will see them embark on a mission to the stars. Their explorations of the universe will bring them into contact with celestial entities and cosmic civilisations beyond all imagination. But will their discoveries bring any hope of redemption for the ruined planet they have left behind?
While Hedra works both as an escapist science fiction yarn and a cautionary moral tale, its greatest strength lies in in its delivery. We’re back to that old favourite Broken Frontier phrase “the language of comics” here once again because what Lonergan achieves in these pages is to craft a story that comics and comics alone could convey; to elicit an interaction between reader and medium that could only be achieved by the interactive tools of graphic narrative; and to fully embrace the boundless possibilities of the structure of the comic page to playfully manipulate our perceptions of place, time and movement. And all without a single word of dialogue or narration.
Tightly panelled pages can juxtapose different aspects of the narrative within the same structural framework, for example, memorably contrasting the stellar grandeur of the astronaut’s journey through space with the minutiae of gathering samples on a planet’s surface. Single images are broken up into individual panels, allowing the spaceship to move sequentially through the bounds of a single image of a planetary system with a meta flourish as it drops in and out of panels. And when the astronaut makes alien contact those exchanges use visual symbolism to depict their communications in a far more instinctual and no less expressive manner.
Hedra is not unhopeful in message but those narrative reveals are the readers to experience first.for themselves. In terms of composition and story construction, though, this is undoubtedly a comic for those Best One-Shot lists at the end of the year. Complete-in-one and an exquisite example of the unique storytelling properties of the form, Hedra is your must-buy genre comic of the summer.
Jesse Lonergan • Image Comics, $5.99
Review by Andy Oliver