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Sloane Leong breaks down the motifs and emotions in 'Prism Stalker: Weeping Star'

Comic Books

Sloane Leong breaks down the motifs and emotions in ‘Prism Stalker: Weeping Star’

The brand-new graphic novel continues Vep’s otherworldly adventures.

With 2018’s Prism Stalker, writer-artist Sloane Leong presented something truly compelling in the grand canon of adventurous sci-fi. Referencing and remixing everything from bio-punk to Octavia Butler stories, the book follows the indentured servant Vep, a young refugee lives everyday under the crushing influence of her “insectoid hosts” — until one day a great change presents itself. It was a story as much about deeply personal ideas of home and belonging as well as robust political commentary (and some delightfully weird aliens to boot).

The story of Vep and this vivid, psychedelic universe continues with Prism Stalker: The Weeping Star. Here, Vep’s planet grows “[further] inhospitable as it’s colonization at the hand of the Chorus continues.” As her squad of students wraps up training in the “pneumatic arts,” they’re brought closer into the work of the Chorus, raising questions about “what exactly are they subjugating? And what will the cost of conquering be?” If you enjoyed the first Prism Stalker, this continuation proves doubly vibrant and engaging.

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Prism Stalker: The Weeping Star is out this week (August 2) from Dark Horse Comics. A few weeks back, we caught up with Leong to talk about the project, including the move from Image Comics to Dark Horse; Vep’s character development; how this story stands on its own; and even subsequent sequels, among other topics and tidbits.

Prism Stalker

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Prism Stalker: Weeping Star? Can people come in fresh with this second volume?

Sloane Leong: In Prism Stalker: Weeping Star, we see the planet Eriatarka growing more inhospitable as its colonization at the hand of the Chorus continues. Vep and her fellow students are reaching the end of their basic combat training in the pneumatic arts and begin to exercise their abilities outside the colony-city of Elefstris. Their objective: subdue the unruly planet bent on scouring the Chorus’ presence from its surface. But what exactly are they subjugating? And what will the cost of conquering be?

Prism Stalker is [continuous], so the volumes are not standalone. This volume picks up right where the first one ended.

AIPT: How has your relationship with the first volume changed or evolved since its release?

SL: Not much! I’m still proud of it and it’s serving the purpose of the larger narrative across this trilogy. It was fun reading back through the volume 1 outline and seeing smaller details that changed and helped me reassess the direction to push this second volume. I feel like I’m much less cynical now than I was when I was younger so that’s shifted the story for me a little.

AIPT: Vep is such a strong and dynamic character. How has she developed (or will develop) between these volumes?

SL: I’m so glad you think so! In this upcoming volume I feel we get a more granular look at what Vep is grappling with internally and also gives her more quiet moments with her fellow students like Tura and Sabrian, who both have their own personal struggles they’re dealing with. Allowing time for those connections outside the greater plot really let me dig into the nuances of her personality and her perspective on the external pressures she’s under.

AIPT: Do you have a favorite moment or page-panel (be they spoiler-y or not) that speaks to the heart or core of this new volume?

SL: I attached a page — I think it speaks for itself:

Prism Stalker

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

AIPT: The first volume dropped via Image, and this one is out from Dark Horse. Does that change reflect or affect the book somehow? Is it satisfying to be part of the DH “roster?” Was the creative or development process between the two volumes different? Is it easier to start a story or to have to continue it?

SL: When Image dropped it back in 2018 (there weren’t enough preorders to continue it and was canceled before it ever got to market), I didn’t think I’d be able to continue the story unless I crowdfunded it myself which, at the time, was daunting. In hindsight, while I was bummed at the time, I appreciate that I had space to really mull over the larger story before approaching it again in 2020. It’s been great at Dark Horse so far, it’s the first time an editor at any publisher I’ve worked with—shoutout to Brett Israel!—has given me in depth developmental notes which was thrilling! Other than that part, the process for me is the same: outline, pencils, inks, colors and then passing it over to my wonderful letterer Lucas Gattoni!

I definitely think it’s easier to start a new story as you don’t have to adhere to any canon or rules you’ve set up before. You have much more freedom. But the limitations of working within an establish world are rewarding too!

AIPT: Volume two feels a little more visually aggressive or intense than volume one. Is that reflective of the story itself, or maybe where you’ve been in the last few years personally?

SL: I think both! The shifts in style in this second volume reflect the actual world the characters inhabit; it breaks down the barriers between minds. So because each character has a different perception of the world, it stood to reason I should reflect this in the styles I drew their perspective in. I always intended for Prism Stalker to be visually experimental so both the narrative and my aesthetic goals were intertwined from the outset.

AIPT: Do you have specific influences for this book? Were they different from those of volume one? Do you consider at all how you blend or balance these references?

SL: Some touchstones for me are Philippe Druillet, Yu Itō, Yukito Kishiro and Tsutomu Nihei. I don’t really worry about balancing them because I feel like my own visual predilections and habits sort of masticate anything too specific that I try to emulate anyway.

Sloane Leong breaks down the motifs and emotions in 'Prism Stalker: Weeping Star'

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Sloane Leong breaks down the motifs and emotions in 'Prism Stalker: Weeping Star'

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

AIPT: This series, and this second volume especially, seems to tackle the idea of colonization. What do you think you’re trying to explore specifically through this story? And does it feel especially relevant these days?

SL: My ancestry is indigenous on both my parents’ side — Hawaiian, Choctaw, and Cherokee — so colonization and its effects are a kind of painful inheritance. It’s also an ongoing issue today both on a cultural level and an environmental level. Where is nature, the very literal bedrock of our future, in all of our sci-fi imaginings? In our global culture of capitalism and consumerism, nature has been reduced to a commodity and the futures explored by our most revered storytellers maintain this status quo of leaving the land out of the future. How can we disentangle capitalism, nature, and our narcissistic vision of the future? And what does a future look like where humans and nature are truly unified?

Prism Stalker is my response to these many questions, a story that aims to refactor the popular imagined futures that have calcified in our canon. In this story, the world is built on the premise that personhood has been granted to almost every being and planet in the galaxy. One of the core beliefs of the Chorus is to honor nature as one honors the self, despite species and supposed intelligence. For the spiritual it is animism, for the scientistic, it is hylozoism. The story excavates a world where “nature, in all its life forms, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles” and how greed and power are still find their ways into our hearts.

AIPT: Was there a feeling that you had to “exceed” volume one somehow? I’m thinking especially in regards to some of the sheer visual majesty and weirdness here (like those translucent slime suit things)?

SL: Thank you for the compliment! I’m glad you enjoyed (?) the slime suits. I knew I would exceed past my previous skills because it’s my main joy and focus in life to become a better storyteller and visual artist. Things I couldn’t do in volume one, I could do in vol two. I expect the same to be true of the final volume as well!

AIPT: Can we expect a third volume? Is there more story to tell?

SL: Yes! There’s one more volume and I imagine it will be oversized. I always intended this story to be a trilogy and I hope it gets enough support that I can complete it!

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