Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Eric Scott Pfeiffer
Release Date: 6th May, 2015
Ah, dystopian sci-fi. It’s one of the more well-worn fictional themes, but one that never fails to pique my interest. Now is a good time to be a fan, too, with so many stellar titles competing for shelf space. The latest addition to this congested milieu comes from a brand new creative team of writer Alex Paknadel and artist Eric Scott Pfeiffer, whose debut series Arcadia attempts to retool clichéd genre conventions with a contemporary edge.
A catastrophic pandemic has swept the globe, leaving the human race facing extinction. A decision is taken by the leaders of the world to scan and model the brains of the dying before uploading the resulting data to immense server arrays running a vast simulation. That simulation is Arcadia, a digital replication of our world where seemingly anything is possible, where physical laws such as gravity can be manipulated, and where it’s impossible to become sick or die; or so it was thought.
It’s a very ambitious tale that Alex Paknadel is telling here, featuring some impressive, large scale world-building.
His narrative is laced with salient themes of the zeitgeist and features moments of almost casual surrealism, but it’s conveyed in such an assured and believable manner. Most importantly, it’s very character centric. Dialogue is expository without ever being overtly so, and themes are strong without being contrived or preachy. The ever-growing societal divide between the haves and have nots features prominently, for example, and Arcadia itself draws an obvious parallel with the increasing significance of our virtual selves, and the process of data mining and profiling relentlessly undertaken by large corporations.
Eric Scott Pfeiffer’s artwork and storytelling really helps seal the deal on the concept as a whole. We don’t see much of the ‘real’ world outside of the Alaskan server facility, but it feels grounded. By contrast, Arcadia is a heady mixture of the familiar and the fantastic, with its shimmering spheres, glistening roadways, impossible geometry, and weird creatures. Of particular note, is how he depicts the underclasses as nebulous humanoids, unable to afford the features and characteristics that would make their avatar appear more human, and underneath just a mesh of basic polygons.
As debuts go, its mightily impressive stuff, and the creative team deserve enormous credit for setting such a high bar on their freshman outing. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from these folks.
[Click to Enlarge]