Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Stephen Graham Jones
Artist: Davide Gianfelice
Colorist: Joana Lafuente
Release Date: 5th October 2022
The world is all but doomed. Catastrophic floods and droughts have prompted the more affluent portions of society to flee to the stars in hope of survival, leaving the rest of humanity – including our four indigenous protagonists – to try and figure out a way to stay alive.
As it turns out, our quartet have come up with a fairly bold plan to do just that, bolstered by a mysterious cave which can transport people through time. The plan itself is fairly simple: travel back through the years and prevent America from ever happening by killing Christopher Columbus. “The only way for the world to live is if America dies, right?”
As central premises go, this is certainly an intriguing one, and I personally love the way series writer (and NY Times bestselling author) Stephen Graham Jones doesn’t bog things down too much with the mechanics and science behind the time travelling cave, instead establishing his premise up front before rapidly moving on to the real meat of the story.
Unfortunately, this approach also comes with its fair share of questions, such as how, if the world’s condition is apparently so bad that people are literally fleeing it by spaceship for their own safety, there’s still somehow WiFi. It’s never really made clear just how bad things actually are, which feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, a removes a lot of the urgency from the time-travelling assassination attempt.
Another aspect of the story that really didn’t land for me is the actual reason behind the plan. Sure, having to “undo” America to save the world is a nice, headline-grabbing elevator pitch, but we don’t actually find out why this is supposed to make a difference. Like, what part did America play in the world’s impending demise? Is it an allusion to climate change? To the historically poor treatment of the indigenous populations that somehow plays into the downfall of the planet? Sadly, we don’t know. At least not yet, anyway.
Thankfully, the sections of the book set back in 1492 are pure gold, with out time-travelling “hero” Tad being forced to make some fairly questionable moral choices in order to survive the brutalities of 15th century Spain and get closer to his quarry. It’s here when the book really shines, and his tense exploits posing as a crewmember on one of Columbus’ three ships makes for a tense, gripping read.
On the visual side of things, Davide Gianfelice does a fantastic job of bringing the story to life, particularly the aforementioned sequences in 15th century Spain. The design elements are both immaculate and authentic, and the measured linework and expressive characters really helps to give the story a real sense of energy, despite its lack of traditional quote-unquote “action.” Gianfelice’s work is enhanced beautifully by the colours of Joana Lafuente, a personal favourite of mine, and while everything is kept fairly muted for the most part, certain sections – such as Tad’s explanation of the phrase “Earthdivers” – are really bolstered by Lafuente’s colour choices.
While there’s undoubtedly a lot to like here, and a lot of potentially great storytelling to come, the niggling gaps in the exposition and an overall lack of urgency slightly derailed my enjoyment of the first issue. That said, I’m still planning on sticking with this series as it unfolds, if only to see whether my many, many questions are going to be answered. Worth a look, but don’t expect a lot of information or context right away.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]