It’s fitting Humanoids’ latest release comes out near Valentine’s Day as there are varying levels of romance and love in this sci-fi epic. Set on a remote planet that has been rarely explored, the story involves past loves, new loves, and lost loves. It’s also beautifully drawn and one of Humanoids’ prettiest books to date.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Ex-lieutenant Eddie Gundersen returns to Belzagor, where he had left behind his youthful illusions, the love of his life and his shameful past as a colonizer. He finds the planet returned to its two intelligent species: the Nildoror and the Sulidoror. Taking the lead on a scientific expedition to the borders of the indigenous lands, Gundersen must face his own demons and settle the score with a planet which still has hidden secrets.
Why does this matter?
Science fiction fans need to see Laura Zuccheri’s beautiful alien environments and creatures. There’s nothing quite like it, although if I was to compare it to anything I’ve seen before, my mind goes to Avatar. This is a planet with flora that is variable and giant. The fauna is equally dazzling and harbors a secret of rebirth that drives the story forward all the way to the end.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
These two will have a lot of good reasons to hate each other.
Opening in a flashback, readers are shown a world that is unexplored but harbors strange secrets. One such secret involves the venom of a giant snake that may or may not have biological changing powers. As the story progresses we cut back to these flashbacks, most of which involve protagonist Eddie Gundersen and villain Commander Kurtz, which helps maintain your interest in their ongoing conflict. Thirault draws readers in well (based on Robert Silverberg’s book) as we learn what it was like for humans to basically act as invaders on the innocent creatures of the planet and how they’ve created a peaceful relationship with humans eight years later. Eight years later Eddie is back with two married scientists who want to understand the creatures better and their mysterious ceremony of rebirth. Through Eddie’s assumptions of the alien life and their culture, Thirault tells an interesting tale of humanity’s proclivity to abuse and use natives.
As the story progresses and more of the alien culture is revealed it’s through the human relationships that the drama really ramps up. Or is it melodrama? Eddie is a real dog, sleeping with the scientist right under her husband’s nose. At the same time, Kurtz’ wife pines for Eddie and joins their expedition. Things get complicated fast, jealousy flares up, and Eddie seemingly shrugs it all off. Thirault plays around with these emotions and various dynamic changes as the story pushes forward, which allows the flora of the world to serve as a beautiful background juxtaposed to all the drama and fighting.
Speaking of the environments, Zuccheri’s art is excellent. There are so many types of plants and environments for them to populate. Even when the characters are squabbling you can’t help but be in awe of some of these locations with myst filled sandy mountainsides to bog-like pools. There aren’t a ton of creatures in this book, but the ones that do show up are varied and interesting. A vine creature is a highlight for instance, and the main alien creatures who host their rebirth ceremony are quite cool looking. By the end of the book, we get answers to what the ceremony is all about and Zuccheri draws some incredible temples to help articulate the ancient practices.
A beautiful world.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The melodrama can be a bit much at times, especially when characters have every right to be mad but are made to feel like they are out of line. It’s particularly strange how Eddie seems to be totally cool with sleeping with one of the scientists–both of which employ him–and he never seems to care about what he’s doing. Seeing as he’s the main protagonist this makes his moral value incredibly low. There’s a flashback that further makes him a villain, but he’s redeemed in this regard while his cheating is supposed to be accepted. More than once I thought about how if the creators stripped the book of all the sex and sleeping around you’d probably have half a book. Then again, you’d have half as many great backgrounds of alien environments and flora.
Is It Good?
Downward to the Earth is an excellent science fiction graphic novel for those who love seeing vivid worlds and creatures. The story is intriguing as it tackles the complexity of respecting creatures, cultures, and your fellow man while being wrapped up in a beautiful package.
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