Collecting issues 1-6, World Reader Volume 1 takes on some of the bigger questions we face as living beings in a 60’s style supernatural science fiction tale. One of the best things about this series is the way that it draws awareness to how stories start with learning that we are not the only life in the universe and then flips that on its head by asking what it means if we are. If you are looking for a comic that is both artistically psychedelic and not afraid to explore controversial and sometimes theological themes, this is the perfect choice for you.
The story is wide in scope and one of the deeper ones I have come across in a while. One of the things that creator and writer Jeff Loveness does best in these issues is the pacing. Each big reveal provides a natural extension of the themes in the current issue and provides a direction for the next one. We also see a natural coming into power for our main character Sarah as she interrogates how we are supposed to use the gifts we are given. This is not the only major theme. Others include the search for meaning in our lives, the understanding of what could be considered justifiable murder, and what one might do to save their people from extinction. The inclusion of the Tower of Babel is an early flag that the Christian religion is another main exploration point. There are even some interesting allusions to the Faded Man being a Lucifer-like figure trying to reach for the light and falling; expectedly, echoes of Paradise Lost are everywhere. While all these themes make reading this more than worthwhile, the characters themselves are the main weak point. The love interest Harri’s “space is very far” comments are cute at first, but loose their charm fast. Every girl has had that guy who tries to make a relationship happen by mentioning that one thing he did for her over and over again. This does not make him a likable character. Although, Sarah isn’t exactly likable either sometimes such as when she accuses Harri of being a sexist when he offers to land the ship even though she previously admits she can’t fly and even crashed the last one! The characters are not necessarily the most important part of the series, but it would be nice to want them to succeed for more individual reasons along with the larger scoped ones.
The artist Juan Doe does an amazing job of making the backgrounds sing. The perspectives and angles often keep the main focus off of the characters and more on what is going on around them perfectly supporting the more theme based storyline as opposed to the typical character-driven ones. The book is filled with vibrant colors that change dramatically depending on what is going on. Many of the pages are vibrant mixes of one or two colors creating what is almost like a visual soundtrack. This not only makes the book very psychedelic in nature, it also ensures a sense of the alien; these are not things that we have the ability to see for ourselves. I am not normally a fan of clearly computer generated art, but it works here as it has a retro/futuristic feel. This is also a book where lighting and shading are crucial to the story that is being told.
The extras are the standard fare for the series, but it is nice they included them nevertheless. I do really like the introduction as it is an inspiring little blurb where Jeff Loveness encourages his readers to find their own stories just as he did. There are also variant cover pages and creator bios. The best extra by far is the behind the scenes section that shows how the process of making comics works. An example of this is providing the script for a two-page splash page followed by the penciled layout and then the adding of the layers of inks, colors, and letters.
As strange as it sounds, this story about a woman talking to space ghosts and a planetary serial killer is really a story about looking for deeper truths. It tells us that we are both alone and never alone. It tells us that every ending is a beginning. It is the kind of stuff that everybody should take the time to consider and this book may prompt you to make a journey of your own.
(W) Jeff Loveness (A/CA) Juan Doe