Thursday, January 31, 2013

365 Comics...31: Higher Earth vol.1 tpb (2012)

This is unfortunately one of those books I came at too late, a book I should have loved and championed from the outset, only to discover it when it's already been cancelled.

Higher Earth is a grandiose science fiction epic, one that overreaches on occasion, sure. but any crazy sci-fi worth its salt should.  It start off small in scale but epic in scope on a planet of trash, an Earth with many moons in its sky from which garbage seems to perpetually fall.  A man one day falls from on of the moons, a most dangerous man named Rex, in search of a girl.  As we soon learn, the "moons" are not really moons, but dimensional portals, and this version of Earth is just one of many which serve the multi-dimensional Empire as landfill planets.   Other planets serve as population displacement projects, or as resource planets, or as elite territory, or as military and scientific centers.  The empire has conquered hundreds of dimensions and will continue to conquer hundreds more.  But Rex has the key, this girl from the trash planet, she can undo it all.  Theoretically speaking at lest.

Sam Humphries is still relatively young in his professional comics writing career -- having made his biggest splash with the futuristic sci-fi romance/bestiality one-shot Our Love Is Real -- so he's got no shortage of ideas.  Higher Earth, particularly, puts on display a dizzying array of SF concepts (my favourite are the utterly bizarre animal/cyborg exo-skeletons), rarely calling attention to them, just keeping them as part of the atmosphere.  His accomplices in this are penciler Francesco Biagini and  inker Manuel Bracchi, who quite ably bring all these concepts to the page.  Biagini and Bracchi work in a looser style than I prefer for my science fiction (I like tight pencils to show off the intricacies of the environments) so it took some acclimatizing on my part, but by the time Morning Glories' Joe Eisma adeptly fills in on the fifth chapter, I actually found I was missing Biagini's consistency on the characters.  This is a book populated with dozens of characters, but most are different iterations of the same two or three, so they need to be boldly designed so that they're readily identified as an analog, but also changed in design to distinguish each iteration.  Biagini and Bracchi resolve this exceptionally well.

 If there's a flaw with Higher Earth it's that it's a little to rapid paced for my liking.  I want to spend more time in each environment, and have a bit more insight into the effects of the Empire on its people in those environments (though, given the fact that the series was cancelled and he would have to compress his end game anyway, it's probably for the best it's this briskly handled).  At the same time, when things do slow down, particularly the fifth-chapter interlude detailing the creation of the Empire, it interferes quite a bit with the pacing.  Still, it's a testament to how rich and stimulating both the concept and execution of the concept are that I crave more. Maybe Humphries should continue it as a novel?

This trade paperback is exceptionally cinematic in its feel, and I think Higher Earth could be adapted into an exceptional A-list feature largely as-is (or a less impressive B-list movie with a smaller budget and few key set pieces).  I only mention it because any kind of mainstream exposure would probably allow Humphries and co to do more.

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