World Reader #1 is a beautiful new sci-fi book from Jeff Loveness and Juan Doe. This is a sparse first entry, but the minimalistic approach creates a fitting, intriguing atmosphere for what’s to come.
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Artist: Juan Doe
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
The book focuses on Sarah, a member of a crew of astronauts surveying dead worlds. That is, dead to everyone who doesn’t have Sarah’s mysterious psychic powers. Somehow she can tap into the spiritual residue on these long-dead worlds to see what became of the civilization that lived there. We get our first glimpse of a bigger plot towards the end, once Sarah connects to the dead world and witnesses its undoing through the eyes of a child. Sarah’s sympathy for the young girl, and the end of the sequence, provides enough momentum to carry the intrigue into the next issue.
Loveness is clearly playing his cards pretty close to his vest with this first issue, revealing almost nothing about the astronauts, their mission, or Sarah’s powers. Even Sarah’s ample interior monologue, as she ruminates on the state of the galaxy, her powers, and the civilizations she plans to connect with, almost reveals more about the world Loveness is creating rather than the character. Of the two other crew members we meet, only one has much to say, waxing philosophical and stalling for time so Sarah can try to use her powers. Clearly all the astronauts feel a sense of galactic loneliness, but maybe this relationship will play a bigger role down the line. By revealing so little about the story and characters, Loveness makes the book a bit tough to latch on to, but the sense of detached loneliness seems to fit.
This book is worth reading for Juan Doe’s art alone. He renders the desolate planet with an otherworldly eeriness. When Sarah sees the civilization’s ruins for the first time–Doe’s first splash panel–it is a barren, foggy scene. The relatively realistic art style then shifts when Sarah uses her power. The colors become bolder and take on an almost negative-like quality; a pretty large departure. It really is kind of trippy, and reminds me of some of Frazer Irving’s work. The cliffhanger at the end, too, ramps up the creep factor with the mix of colors and flowing line work that is very foreboding.
With a distant-feeling plot and characters, I’m not quite satisfied with the first issue. Luckily, the atmosphere that Loveness and Doe create, the promising cliffhanger ending, and Doe’s excellent artwork help elevate the book. Based on this premiere, World Reader could end up being a legitimately spooky sci-fi horror story.
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