Science fiction thrillers might be the most exciting genre in comic books. It allows the creators to do what films can’t as there’s no budget or fear of being shot down by some producer. They crop up all the time in movies–like the recent Coverfield film in space–but they can’t necessarily express the scope one can in the graphic novel format. This week Humanoids is releasing Exo, which aims to meld aliens, NASA, and the end of the world.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Near future. The NASA is confident it finally discovered an exoplanet likely to accommodate life. Located 4 light-years from earth, Darwin II creates a lot of questions and is scheduled for imminent exploration by a space probe. At the same very moment, an orbital space station is struck by a missile shot from the moon, killing several astronauts. Coincidence or conspiracy?
Why does this matter?
If you’re a fan of stories about creation and how we got here you’ll want to buckle up for this story. It also has wickedly detailed art that makes it the next best thing compared to a film.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I can’t imagine how long it took him to draw this page.
The pace and storytelling in this graphic novel immediately made me think of Independence Day. It’s not filled with crazy dog chase scenes or even a lot of shooting, but the way Jerry Frissen cuts between scenes and leaves you on the edge of your seat is as good as if not better than that film. You’ll never feel bored or sick of a scene because the story hops along at a good clip. The story is shared between Koenig, a NASA specialist who has found a planet that most likely has life on it, and a soldier named Alvaro who ends up piloting a mission to the moon. The story also cuts to a group of alien invaders who have taken the bodies of some random humans. Cutting between these three stories keeps the plot moving, giving the reader an inside track on what is going on while all the characters are piecing things together themselves.
The actual story is pretty damn cool too. I won’t get into much detail so as not to spoil the surprises, but there’s a story that spans millennia. Koenig already has a connection to the aliens via research and through his exploits in this story–getting kidnapped, being drugged–we gain the extra piece to make sense of it all. Alvaro meanwhile must go up against giant threats on the moon and through chance learn more about alien life as we know it. You get the sense he — as well as the reader — is seeing great wonders for the first time.
The art is a big reason why those wonders are so incredible. Philippe Scoffoni draws with a sense of detail that’s not customary in American comics. Layouts vary quite a bit, though they’re structured and don’t take huge chances. This is more of a storyboarding style which helps give the comic a movie-like feel. Technology and devices also have a futuristic look that is believable (it’s the near future after all) but still cool looking.
The lunar scenes are impressively done.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The only unfortunate element of this graphic novel is a twist that reverses the approach of the villains of the story. I’ll say no more since it’s a surprise late in the story, but it serves to completely change the villains in a way that’s convenient for the plot. I suppose it’s better than the humans killing all the aliens off with glee — a common thing seen in sci-fi thrillers — but it’s still an annoying wrinkle in the alien’s plan.
Is It Good?
An excellent science fiction thriller that’ll have you on the edge of your seat. Its detailed art makes this a cinematic delight you won’t want to put down.
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