Review time! with <i>Horizon</i> #1 and 2

There's a new comic coming out tomorrow, so why don't I let you know if it's something you might like to read? We all dig that, right?

Horizon by Brandon Thomas (writer), Juan Gedeon (artist), Frank Martin (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer), Arielle Basich (assistant editor), and Sean Mackiewicz (editor). $2.99, FC, Image/Skybound.

The Editorial Director at Skybound sent me .pdfs of the first two issues of Horizon, Brandon Thomas's and Juan Gedeon's new comic, which was awfully nice of her. I have no idea how I got on a list, but what the heck, right? Horizon #1 is in stores tomorrow, so I read the two issues and have some thoughts about them!

The premise of Horizon is pretty keen, actually, and it hasn't been done to death, so it feels fresh.

In the near future, Earth is crappier than it is now, and certain humans are planning an invasion of another planet to get its resources. The people of Valius (the planet Earth plans to invade) decide to send a strike team to Earth to stop the invasion before it begins - a pre-emptive strike, if you will (and even if you won't). And that's the basic premise of the book. Our star is Zhia Malen, one of the Valians, who leads the team and with whom we spend the most time, but it appears Thomas is going to give us several characters of the team, and probably Earthlings, too - the book has to have villains, after all, and the one we do meet is a bit stereotypically "villainous" - she has captured one of Zhia's team and plans to use him, it seems, to lure the others into an ambush. Just like a villain, amirite? So we have the basic set-up. It's a pretty good one - it allows Thomas to examine several interesting ideas about imperialism and colonialism, about guerrilla warfare and pre-emption, about what people will do to survive. Yes, humans made their bed on Earth, but species try to survive above all else, and so we can sympathize with the humans (we're all humans, after all, and presumably we would like to survive) even as we recognize that their plan to invade another planet would have to involve genocide or, at the very least, enslavement. Zhia and her team are the heroes, but Thomas is even clever about that - we're conditioned by decades of science fiction to regard "aliens" with at least a bit of suspicion (even if Thomas's casting of humans as villains is common), so even as we realize that Zhia and the Valians are fighting for their own survival and are in many ways more noble than the humans, Thomas doesn't give us any real reason to trust them.

Most of the backstory about the book so far comes from descriptions and from Thomas's brief essay at the back of issue #1 - in the text of the comic itself, there's only a little that indicates that the Valians are so much "better" than the humans. Zhia makes a sacrifice to lead the team, but her sacrifice is something humans do all the time. Davix is accosted by some Earth punks, but punks are punks presumably everywhere in the galaxy, and Zhia meets a seemingly decent dude in issue #1. The villain at the end is obviously bad and knows why the Valians are here, but again, one could make the argument that the Valians are invading Earth and the villain is simply defending the planet (it's not a good argument, as she's pretty obviously evil, but one could make it!). We have no idea what Valius is like - it could be a horrible place for all we know - and that's partly why the first two issues are so interesting. Thomas is setting up the book so that we sympathize with the "rebels," because everyone sympathizes with rebels. But he's keeping his options open with regard to the Valians, as we really know nothing about them. Thomas, it seems, knows a bit about the history of colonialism and oppression, and that should be interesting to see play out. The only false note he plays in these first two issues is the villain at the end of issue #2. She's so over-the-top that it's almost comical, and while it's sadly true that many imperialists were (and are) this "evil" (for lack of a better word), it's also true that many of them were not. Thomas is too clever a writer to make all the Valians noble (or ... valiant?) and all the humans despicable. At least I hope he is!

Thomas structures the book pretty well, too. He begins with the Earthfall of a spaceship that contains Zhia, whose landing is less than optimal. This allows Thomas to show her wiliness as she tries to get her translator to work (the "unintelligible" English she hears while the television is on is nicely done) and to contact another member of her team. It also allows him to show some of the new technology of this "near-future" Earth, which sets it just apart enough from our time so that we can believe we'd have the capability to invade another planet.

When he introduces Davix, he shows us some of the ways Earth has degenerated, and for much of the second issue, we get to see how skilled the Valians are and what kind of technology they possess. Thomas is taking his time to get everything going, but that doesn't mean nothing happens in the issues, it's just that he uses the issues to show us what's going on rather than telling us. That sounds like a good maxim to follow - writing teachers should incorporate it into their syllabi!

I'm not sure if I've seen Gedeon's art before, but it reminds me a bit of Vince Giarrano's (I don't know how familiar Giarrano is to most people, but that's the way it is!). He uses hard, angular lines and is often just a bit abstract, using very few lines on faces, for instance. His figure work is a bit stiff, but when it comes to the fight scene in issue #2, he blocks it very well and uses thicker, fuzzier lines to imply movement, which mitigates the slight stiffness of the figures. It's a clever trick. He does a nice job hinting at how awful the world has become without making it too obvious - the first scene is really nice, as Gedeon and Martin imply more than show all the space junk Zhia's ship has to navigate to make it to Earth, and when we see a full-page splash of Chicago, there are a few buildings that look wrecked but not too badly. The world is limping along, but it's not quite dead yet. In issue #2, Gedeon gives us some nice layouts, as when Zhia and her team take out some soldiers in an attempt to rescue the captured member of their group, and the final scene leads up to a horrific last page, as the villainous human decides to do some torturing.

Martin can be a good colorist, and he works well with Gedeon here, possibly because of Gedeon's strong lines. Martin's shading works with the hard lines of Gedeon's art rather than overwhelming them (which it can do, unfortunately), and making the Valians blue in their "actual" state (they can imitate humans) is a good choice, as it highlights their "alien-ness" and also provides a good bit of contrast to Martin's earth tones, which he uses quite a lot (the book is not dull by any means, but there are a lot of browns and burnt umbers and maroons). Martin uses glowing "special effects" well, too, as it lends some sci-fi crackle to the Valians and, again, helps highlight their alien nature. The book looks pretty cool, which is always helpful when you're trying to do a comic with something on its mind.

I assume Horizon is ongoing - Thomas obviously has a sprawling story to tell, and I imagine the only thing that will stop him are poor sales - and the first two issues are a good start. Thomas knows how to do science fiction - he wrote The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, which is a tremendous comic - and he knows that sci-fi can be a vehicle to write about social issues, and it's obvious he's going for that here. He sets up a fascinating story in these first two issues, and I'm keen to see where he goes with it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

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