Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: David Rubin
Release Date: 15th February, 2017
This penultimate issue takes a bit of a step away from the main story and examines why Hazel is so afraid of the Ether. While the first parts have been a little bit more ‘barmy’, showcasing this estranged marriage of magic and science, part four is more personal. The Ether has seemed like such a wondrous place, we didn’t know it could hold danger too… until now.
Hazel recounts, as a child, making her way to Ether when summering with her Grandmother. While she sleeps, Hazel eschews warnings to stay out of locked rooms. Finding a room full of what looks like trophies from Ether, she discovers a key. The key opens the basement and enters there, explores, and finds herself at the crossroads. Glum welcomes her, but recognising she doesn’t belong warns her not to go exploring. He leaves her at the Gates of Agartha for the Quarantine team – then led by Lord Ubel – to pick her up. Ignoring her second direction that day Hazel goes exploring, and things do not go well for her…
By using the flashback to Hazel’s time in The Ether it reminds us who the antagonist of the story is – Lord Ubel. It also lets us see The Ether through the eyes of a different visitor. Where Boone sees wonder and mysteries to solve, Hazel only knows pain and loss from her time there. It also confirms that The Ether is real and not (as some of us may have thought) a figment of Boones’ imagination.
It’s a pleasing segue Matt Kindt has taken by recounting Hazel’s experience in this place. Not only does it flesh out the story, it begins to bring all the elements together leading into the final issue. I already have a hypothesis (that I will not share) on a part of the outcome, as I’m sure you as a reader will do too. The run of Ether so far has been a joy to read, but this issue adds some gravitas to the narrative. It gets a bit sinister, and then you remember, Boone is trying to solve a murder. Something that has got a little lost in all the hijinks of issues two and three.
The art continues to excel here. I love the marriage of David’s style to this incredible world of Matt’s creation. The vibrant caricature style of the art is emotive. There are some simple tricks used to suggest concept. All Lord Ubel’s speech is white text on black background and he’s always drawn in shadow. It’s a bit of a giveaway. Yet the magic of David’s work so often revolves around characters eyes. Lord Ubel’s black pupils, Hazel crying as the Quarantine team test her. The coup-de-grâce for me is Hazel looking through the ring of the key to the door that will take her to Ether. David has distorted her face, a symbolism for the function of the key – it takes you to another place. A place unlike where she’s from – and it will change her. It’s a tiny nuance in the art and I loved it.
Issue four of Ether continues to impress. As a story it’s such a joy to read, almost fairytale-like. The marriage of an almost childlike take on magic, coupled with a detective story is a wondrous deconstruction of ideas. It’s something that you wouldn’t believe could work. Yet work it does through the creators writing and art with a heathy dose of feelings and innocence – an innocence that may be in danger as the final events unfold. As a departure, Ether is a wonderful read and I’m genuine when I say I wish it was ongoing, not concluding with part five. So sit down and just have fun reading it. How often does that happen?
[Click to Enlarge]
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.