‘Port of Earth: Volume 1’ - Trade Paperback Review

Welcome to Earth.

So many "Are we alone?" stories involve massive fear or joy: Roughly half of the stories have the aliens invading with intent to wipe out humanity, and the other half show the beings from beyond as generous benefactors, though sometimes their "help" isn't what it seems to be.  In that tiny space between these extremes sits the view I find most entertaining: We just ain't all that important.  Port of Earth rolls with a bit of that vibe, though the consequences for humanity seem to be bigger than anyone realizes yet.  With subtle mystery and a lot of open-ended questions, this first arc shows promise for a series that still hits some tropey pitfalls.

The action of the story takes place in two parts: a media interview with one of the signer's of the treaty with the consortium that has established the port on the planet, and over the shoulder of two Earth Security Agents dealing with a breach (an alien species leaving the port itself and interacting with humans).  I enjoy the dual perspective, as it means that the interview portion feels good with all of the exposition, and it leaves the ESA guys with only their plot to handle.  Though it's nice to not have to hear two grunts philosophizing about galactic politics while handling a routine call, it requires that they become a touch more than stereotypes to be engaging to the reader.  George Rice has this sort of engagement; his reactions seem nuanced and motivated by something the reader can't quite identify yet, but reeks of honor and being a "stand-up guy."   His partner, McIntyre, however, seems to be not much more than an action-first foil to him, and it drags the relationship down for me, as it feels like the only purpose for his diving into stupidity is to reiterate the goodness of Rice.  It's a bit of a hot-head trope that I really hope is a cover for a chance to open the character up a bit in further arcs, but right now it seems he's headed out in a body bag or firing quite quickly and for me it can't happen too soon.  The story is too interesting and the underlying world-building too intricate and deep for it to be bogged down with this one out-of-tune element.

The artwork is a little impressionistic, with unfinished lines and color washes blurring the reality, keeping things almost out of focus.  It adds to the sense of the mystery to the work, though I find the character designs a bit generic.  The action still reads well, and I dig the color of the palette shifting every few panels.  When this modality shifts, it's to highlight a piece of alien tech, which retains its coloring regardless of what's going on around it to really make its "otherness" easy to pick out.  My favorite part of the work is actually in the bonus content in the back of the trade, with designs and intel on a range of alien species and their tech.  It's not only clearer, but the care with which it is rendered is really fun to take in.

There are a lot of today's issues reflected in the work, and they're exaggerated by the influence of the alien race to be sure, but this story is the best kind of sci-fi: that which reminds us of how human a story can be.  The story is tightly woven and engaging, and the dual nature of its storytelling keeps the pages fresh and interesting.  Sci-fi fans will dig this, and X-Filers will especially enjoy, I think.

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Creative Team:  Zack Kaplan (Writer), Andrea Mutti (Artist), Vladimir Popov (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer), Elena Salcedo (Editor)
Publisher: Top Cow Productions, Inc.
Click here to purchase.

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