The first issue of Dark Horse’s new sci-fi saga Invisible Kingdom brings us into the separate but interlinked worlds of two very different women; existences set to converge into one storyline as the series progresses. Hailing from planets with polarised environments, the book’s dual leads Grix and Vess have also taken distinct vocational paths. Grix is a space pilot whose grand ambitions for exploration have faded and who has found herself in a more pedestrian role delivering packages between planets. Vess has adopted a more religious lifestyle and pledged herself to a spiritual life as part of an order of Nones (the play on words reflective of their beliefs). Both women, though, are about to stumble upon a frightening revelation – their star system’s most prominent religion the Renuciation and its most influential corporation Lux are working together as part of a major conspiracy…
Written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Christian Ward, with lettering by Sal Cipriano, Invisible Kingdom is the latest entry in Dark Horse’s acclaimed Berger Books imprint. Given its epic feel there’s a lot to set up in this opening chapter but Wilson carefully structures this first instalment as an issue of parallels. She juxtaposes the experiences of the two protagonists – one on a space run and the other being initiated into her new monastic life – but also links them thematically through the existential motifs that connect both lives as the story builds up to the pivotal events that will unite them. It’s Wilson’s contrast of these very human, very individual stories against the backdrop of her grand, majestic world-building that really impresses in narrative terms.
Christian Ward’s profile has continued to move ever onwards and upwards over the last few years with the much-in-demand artist’s signature style gracing the pages of a number of the big US publishers in that time. Here his hypnotic sense of colour creates worlds at once both familiar and yet eerily and entrancingly alien in presentation. Indeed, one of the great successes of Invisible Kingdom is that it gives us a universe that is full of recognisable elements and yet retains its otherness throughout. His constant changes in perspective and panel arrangement also adding a vital sense of movement and space in a first issue that, by necessity, is heavy on expository dialogue and conversational set pieces.
Visually mesmerising and ambitious in scale, Invisible Kingdom #1 is a promising debut indeed from a line of books that has been consistently strong since its inception.
G. Willow Wilson (W), Christian Ward (A), Sal Cipriano (L), Richard Bruning (D) • Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver