Guerra and Dias kick things off with the titular story, "Earth Dream." Based on the traditions and stories of the tribes of the Southwest and what is now Mexico, a young man standing on the brink tries to reconnect to the Earth and her spirits to renew the world that has been lost to humans through their own actions. The tone of the piece is set off by the beautiful native color palette in the dream world, giving the otherworldly netherspace a depth that is really engaging.
Ireneusz Mazurek and Marek Rudowksi take us to the West of the future, a man seeking life after the collapse of the world we now know. A singular, lonely existence where ruminations of the past are the ghosts that continue to echo into the future. The artwork calls out several famous images from the art of the world, and the Guernica panel may be the most heart wrenching and apropos moment on the page. If you don't know the story of the town or of Picasso's mural, it's worth checking out. It will not only connect you to the piece but the history of ourselves, as well.
Jerome Walford spins a silent tale for us next. Showing how our choices and inattention to the world at large can narrow our focus so far as to hide the waterfall from our horizon, dooming us. With the feel of The Butterfly Effect, it's a haunting tale of life, death, and rebirth.
A.M. Frasier channels Kipling in "Endangered," where man has ceded his dominion of the Earth and lies now in ash, having been consumed from within and without, leaving many questions in their disappearance.
Rey Mono Grafico gives us a story reminiscent of The Giver with "Click," but placing the weight of the entire world upon the shoulders of one child. Examining the crux of the issue surrounding our technological advances, Grafico boils the debate into two simple choices, each with staggering consequences. Much like the beloved children's book, the ending leaves us at the point where we don't know which way it will turn, but allows us to see that the option of waiting has larger consequences of its own.
"Whale" is a beautiful dream inspired by Moby Dick. Silent, yet compelling, we are struck by what is laid before us: where each piece removed from the world lessens all of the same type of pieces throughout the world. It's a haunting and moving addition to the collection.
"Shangri-la" is a really beautiful piece of work that can engage and horrify all at once. The story is of a man committing terrible acts to free himself of the shackles of society, not knowing that it was what he was seeking all along. Kelvin Lim literally paints us a wonderful and surreal landscape to marry with Johny Tay's story of destruction and glory.
Anibal Arroyo puts humanity into the hands of the gods in "The Nature of Time." We watch two deities discuss our species as a whole, as one of a thousand experiments who've all gone before us, and none to a happy resolution. The question asked is that if we see our future so clearly, why can we not turn away if disaster looms?
The last piece in the first volume is my favorite of the collection. Recondita Rick's "The Guardians" is the kind of high fantasy that has always been near and dear to me, weaving the contemporary world with that of dragons and magic. This feels like jumping back into the fantasy epics of my youth in the worlds of Krynn and Middle Earth. It's also the artwork that is the most stunning to me. I would happily put any page on my wall; every image enforces the ethereal quality that quickens my heart and makes me yearn for another world.
And, now for Volume 2 . . .
Guerra and Dias bring us a story that pulls from The Matrix and the Allegory of the Cave that it's based on. Ever since Plato put reality into contrast as shadows on the wall, the question of whether we're tapped into the "real" or whether the world is hiding itself from us, or more concerning, that we've hidden it from ourselves. Dias brings a story of spiritual rebirth to life wound around Guerra's script that feels every bit as nuanced and interesting as Ultron's. (Regardless of your feelings for the film as a whole, I thought that the Spader's "awakening" was superb and sent chills down my spine.)
Next up, Jacques Nyemb and Leigh Walls provide a silent short that has the courage to stand upon a simple, honest truth and allow us to connect in our own way. It's telling and perfect that the title fits precisely what's being described.
Rey Mono Grafico lays out the tale of "Vikings" for us, rich in the lore of the Norse folk and with a cyclical twist that will stay with you long after you finish.
I really had fun with Jerome Walford's return in "The Scientist." It has the major feelings of an epic, high fantasy piece that grows in scope with each moment, markedly different from the previous year's offering. You'll definitely be pulled along by the intrigue of the character, and it's the kind of work that pulled me in with the art first, which makes it a very interesting read.
"Altar'd Mecha" might be my favorite tale in this year's compilation. A.M. Frasier tackles a very tight and efficient storytelling style to comment on our idea of progress. It's very economical; there's nothing extraneous in the six pages that we're given, and it highlights the question that is central to the piece: When is enough? I'm always impressed by the courage it takes to pare down a story to its core and let it stand on its own, and Frasier has it in spades.
"Old Dogs" rounds out the collection, and Elaine Haygood weaves another Matrix-like tale, though this one dices deeper into the process of elimination rather than the rebirth from it. It's a wondrous, high sci-fi romp with beautifully placed TNG moments (as well as other delicate Easter Eggs, some of which enhance the story beautifully). The
callouts make the piece sing, but the story alone is worth diving into fully.
Good for anyone who enjoys the reminder of where we've come from and where we think we're going, this anthology series is a good place to not only check out some indie talent but also allow these stories to provoke and engage us. Each story holds a message, and Guerra and Dias do a great job of bringing the right mix together for us. Check it out if you want to think, and feel free to let a discussion develop. I know I'd love to chat about it.
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