“Ei8ht” #3 explains the Meld on the opening page, offering samples of the worlds that scripter Mike Johnson and creator Rafael Albuquerque have crafted in this series. The Meld is the center of the book and the hub from which the spokes thrust out, as Albuquerque and Johnson present a story where the past is green, the present is purple and the future is blue. As the inside cover reminds readers, “The Meld is something else entirely,” which is hammered home in this issue. Set against an orange background, the Meld is populated by sharply rendered black-and-white characters with various shades of turquoise to give them dimension.
The previous issue introduced Doctor Hamm and Collins, who are revealed in “Ei8ht” #3 to be the sole survivors of a crashed ship. Brilliant green shades their journey and gives readers the visual cue that Hamm and Collins are in the past, as though the attacking smilodon was not clue enough. The characters and their settings are light on color, presented in duotones, giving Albuquerque’s color assignments that much more room to play visual cues for the readers. Unfortunately for the characters, however, they don’t have the perspective that readers are afforded, as Albuquerque keeps the timelines distinct through color.
In the Meld, Nila, Joshua and Hari attempt to stop the Spear from advancing on the Resistance camp, which leads to an unexpectedly early conflict in the series. Johnson and Albuquerque fill each character with passion and anxiety, evident in the dialogue and amplified by the body language and expressions Albuquerque carves into each panel.
Swirling around the mark on Joshua’s right forearm — an eight, or an infinity symbol, perspective depending and definition still forthcoming — the story begins to lock into place around the colorful settings of the various eras. Of course, it helps that Joshua’s memories are returning but, for the reader, everything is new construction, given fresh facades by Albuquerque’s art.
As time is fluid in this series, changing multiple times throughout the journey from front to back cover, Albuquerque has free reign to draw some amazing things: spaceships and astronaut monkeys, dinosaurs and artillery and even an attacking smilodon. If readers study Albuquerque’s art, some other clues become clear as well. It’s not telegraphed and certainly nothing has been predictable in “Ei8ht” to this point but, with this issue, Johnson and Albuquerque begin paying out the investment they’ve made in the story and continue to set up further developments. With Johnson adding a sharp coat of polish to the story and crafting the dialogue, “Ei8ht” #3 is a sharp looking book that proves Albuquerque is as reliable a storyteller as he is an artist.