INTERVIEW: Thomas' "Horizon" Expands Comics' Sci-Fi Landscape at Skybound

What happens when the people running the world have screwed it up so much that it's barely worth living on? The powers that be start looking for a new place to live. That's one of the chief ideas behind "Horizon," the new series by writer Brandon Thomas and artist Juan Gedeon.

The Skybound/Image Comics title debuts this week and focuses on an alien named Zhia Malen with a very specific mission: stop Earth from invading her home planet Valius by any means necessary. CBR News spoke with with Thomas about Zhia's mission, the modern issues at play in this near future world and the early days of "Horizon."

CBR News: What are the origins of "Horizon" as a concept and how did you and Juan Gideon connect to bring the project to Skybound?

Brandon Thomas: I brought it to them after being invited to pitch things directly to Sean Mackiewicz, Skybound Editorial Director, who remembered loving my "Miranda Mercury" book. The kernel of the project, "Earth invades an alien planet," has been in my head for years and years, but after the exhaustive development process, that initial idea is a hollow shell of what we're working with now.

Juan joined up after a similarly exhaustive process of Sean and I tossing names back and forth for several weeks. When Juan's came up we both got that feeling, because he was obliterating all comers with his powerfully kinetic work on "Ghost Racers," which was the best "Secret Wars" series Marvel put out.

His style, his designs and his storytelling instincts, especially when it came to action, were the things needed to make this book visually stand apart, and once the very first design of Zhia came in, it was clear he was perfect. So much great imagery coming your way, and even though "Horizon" dives into some relatively heavy themes, it's an exciting book with some otherworldly action sequences.

What can you tell us about Zhia's mission to Earth and how she plans on accomplishing it?

"Tearing down the structures and technology that will enable Earth to invade her planet" is the mission. Why she's choosing to do this with her bare hands is something soon to be revealed. What won't be a secret for long is how much Earth and Valius have in common, which is the main reason Earth imagines it as a perfect "second chance." Both societies share similar strengths and weaknesses, which gives Malen's crew some critical advantages in their offensive.

As the ultimate stranger in a strange land, how does Zhia go about her mission? Is it a frontal assault or something sneakier?

Initially, her mission is almost exclusively covert. Some of that is because while she does know some very important things about Earth and its people, she doesn't know everything. She thinks she knows everything, and that's an important distinction going forward.

So there is an evolving component of their team living amongst us, learning firsthand the ways in which our society and our institutions are weak and broken, then exploiting those cracks. The interesting/fun part is that by coming into contact with human beings they are ultimately changed, just like we are changed once they start tearing down the planet all around us. Both sides of this conflict want the same thing, and playing with that dynamic -- and the larger questions of how far is too far or even how far is not far enough -- powers the series into some dark corners.

This kind of mission must come with a large number of sacrifices for Zhia. Aside from a desire to protect her planet, what drives her to fully commit?

This is a great question and one I'll dance around a bit, because it leads to some major reveals in the next few issues. I will say that it would be unwise to assume that Zhia Malen hasn't faced similar situations in the past. Valians live a lot longer than we do and this is a woman that has stared down every threat imaginable and lived. Unfortunately, history always seems to repeat.

How does your version of Earth differ than the one we're living on now?

Imagine the worst qualities engulfing the state of humanity right now -- ignorance, selfishness, a lack of empathy, etc. -- and then imagine if these traits were almost weaponized. That's the version of Earth we'll see in "Horizon." A planet that was more careless with their environment, a lot more intolerant as the complexion of the world changed, and one that was often so paralyzed by abject panic that they didn't even realize they were being led off a cliff by the people that were supposed to protect them.

There was a time when this book was set in a more distant future, but while developing it we decided this should all be happening in the near future, just one where our stupidity has accelerated us more quickly to this extinction level event. Even worse than that is most of the world believes the worst is already over, so while parts of the world look and feel very similar to our own, there's something entirely rotten at the core. This is a big element, and a central theme in "Horizon" is very clearly, "Don't believe everything you see and hear."

Science fiction allows creatives to dig into various issues. What are some of the real-life issues or themes you'll be exploring with "Horizon"?

Colonization. Assimilation. Gentrification. Prejudice. So many things, and mind you, I'm finishing these questions up on the morning after a second unarmed black man -- in as many days -- has been killed by police. One central theme for us is the disposability of certain human beings, and given that this book is about "escaping" from humanity's past transgressions, think about the decision-making process that probably goes into the problem of "Who gets to go with?" Don't automatically assume that the answer to that question is "Everyone," because it is not. This is one of those rotten core things I mentioned before where there has been a plan to abandon Earth for a long, long time, but some people are intentionally denied access to that knowledge, as the next obvious question would be, "So, when do we all leave?"

Not everyone gets to be saved, and doing so was never even a minor consideration. So the world is a powder keg waiting to explode all on its own, and then here comes these four alien beings that come here and say, "No. Fuck you. You made this bed. Now you lie in it."

That's a sentiment that I'm sometimes overcome by personally, and unfortunately, writing this book hasn't been very emotionally difficult at all, and I can only imagine how we'd appear to a culture that hasn't been forever immersed in our particular dysfunctions. Would you want us coming anywhere near your planet? That's what "Horizon" is about, and the messy, violent, complicated resolution of that dilemma.

We start answering the question on July 13, and have so much greatness in store.

To witness that greatness in person, check out "Horizon" #1 from Brandon Thomas, Juan Gedeon, on sale now from Skybound.

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