Critically acclaimed comic book writer Jason Aaron takes on his newest creator-owned comic series with Once Upon a Time at the End of the World, and the post-apocalyptic epic starts with a bang as readers are thrust into the deranged and wonderfully whimsical world of main characters Maceo and Mezzy. Aaron is known for his Eisner-award winning creator-owned series Southern Bastards as well as his incredible work on Thor: God of Thunder (2012), Wolverine: Weapon X (2009), and his ongoing Avengers epic. While some might find Once Upon a Time at the End of the World #1 to be a bit of a slow start, the epic trilogy’s first issue successfully establishes its two main characters, the dire circumstances of their dying world, and the brutal adventures they will be forced to take on over the next 14 issues, in a story imbued with Aaron’s sharp wit, impressive internal minds of characters, and fascinating world-specific terminology.
Once Upon a Time at the End of the World, published by BOOM!, will be a “three book, 15-issue” post-apocalyptic epic spanning the entire lifetime of its two main characters, with each of the three books illustrated by completely different creative teams. Book One of the series, “Love In The Wasteland,” will introduce readers to the burgeoning romance and partnership of the gruff, tenacious Mezzy and the hyperactive, inexperienced Maceo as the unlikely duo traverse the destroyed landscape of Earth.
Book One’s creative team consists of artist Alexandre Tefenkgi (The Good Asian), colorist Lee Loughridge (Stumptown), and lettering studio AndWorld Design (Wynd) who truly knock issue #1’s illustration out of the park – plus, the issue’s final two pages are illustrated by the talented Nick Dragotta and Rico Renzi. Once Upon a Time at the End of the World #1 has incredibly dynamic action-oriented art, a stunning pastel-filled world of color, and pitch-perfect lettering that all work together to create a beautiful and disturbing vision of an Earth in the final years of mankind.
Once Upon a Time at the End of the World #1 debuts a world of mystery, nostalgia, and brutality that explores the philosophical conditioning of “the last dredges of humanity” (as described by Aaron himself in AIPT’s recent interview with the writer), through the eyes of two very different survivors. Mezzy is an incredibly tough, experienced, and battle-ready traveler who is seemingly being hunted by another faction of survivors, and the mystery of Ezmerelda’s past is one of the most exciting things to come from issue #1, a story that will surely unfold in later issues and continue to draw the reader back for more. Conversely, Maceo is a sheltered (literally) young man who has stayed in The Tower, a functional but in-ruins building from pre-apocalypse, since the tragic death of his parents, and who uses post-apocalyptical specific terminology like “acid swamper,” “street meat,” and “boom” to introduce reader’s to the changed society of Earth after its fall.
After saving Mezzy from “street meat” in Once Upon a Time at the End of the World #1, Maceo becomes greatly inspired by the brazen warrior, and after realizing that he is lonelier than he imagined decides to follow after her into the swampy, environmentally-destroyed land they live in. While their burgeoning partnership is tenuous at best, a violent and shocking final two pages – illustrated by an entirely different creative team – provides readers with a brutal flash forward to the last days of Maceo’s, and perhaps Earth’s, existence, a cliffhanger that works particularly well because the reader already knows that an investment in issue #1 will eventually get them an epic 3-book trilogy from writer Jason Aaron.
As a standalone first issue, Once Upon a Time at the End of the World #1 may feel like a slow start for some readers, with a lot of necessary character development and world-building but less action than might be expected. It’s clear Jason Aaron is asking his readers to trust in the story he is carefully building. The flash forward at the end is the perfect conclusion to give readers that oomph they need to pick up the next issue, and it is clear that the slower development of Maceo and Mezzy’s relationship will lead to impactful moments of emotion, reflection, and growth for two characters that will immediately resonate with readers.
Once Upon a Time at the End of the World #1 is 100% worth picking up, and sticking with, as Jason Aaron and his shifting creative teams dive deeper and deeper into the unrelenting yet grounded world he has created.
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