A pretentious title, perhaps, but one that seems appropriate, for reasons that will become apparent in a minute…
Arcadia 1, by Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer
I’m not often surprised by new comics anymore. I know what I like, and– No, scratch that. I know what I DON’T like, and I can usually spot it with a considered flip-through in the shop. Arcadia slipped past me, though. I mean, I gave it a look. The cover caught my eye, and I liked the interior art as well. But something about it made me dismiss it as “okay but not great.” Just another one of countless average to mediocre comics I don’t have time or money for. But something about the book stuck with me, so when I saw a piece about it on-line, I checked it out. Read some preview pages. And decided that I’d made a bad call.
So thank goodness for surprises. Because I liked this book quite a bit. It’s not a perfect comic, by any stretch. But it’s an enjoyable one, a cool science fiction concept approached from an interesting angle. The premise: humanity is being wiped out by a devastating virus, so people’s minds are being preserved in a virtual world before they die. The story is about life in both the virtual and the real world, and the tensions between the two.
It’s that tension that really makes the book for me. The characters aren’t terribly original, and we’ve all seen the “humanity in a can” idea before. But I like the way they’re exploring it. The mainframe everyone’s stored on is expensive to keep running, and the disease-ravaged real world isn’t terribly long on resources. Of course, the simulation is offering the living one very valuable service: they’ve got the greatest medical minds that could be saved working on a cure. Progress, unfortunately, hasn’t been great. But there’s promise. Oh, so much promise…
There’s also a rather interesting economy inside the simulation. Visual details like maintaining your living appearance or even, you know, having skin, take up processing power, and thus cost money. And if you can’t afford to pay up…
…it gets a little weird.
There are other wrinkles to the book, but I should probably leave those to be discovered by anyone who’s interested in reading it. I will say a few more words on the artwork, though. Eric Pfeiffer still has room to grow, but I like what he’s already doing quite a bit. It reminds me of early Becky Cloonan and Emma Rios, fine artists to have as influences, I think. I dig his page layouts, too:
So! That’s Arcadia! Surprisingly good new funnybooks that I wanted to discuss because I was afraid it might fly under too many people’s radar. It’s not life-changing funnybooks, but it’s definitely worth a look.
The Wicked + The Divine 10, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
I sometimes think writer Kieron Gillen is being too loose with his storytelling in WicDiv, letting events happen without giving them the proper narrative weight. The revelation in this issue of who tried to kill Lucifer, for instance, just doesn’t play right somehow. It seems almost off-hand, an “oh yeah by the way” sort of delivery that belies its importance to earlier issues. Granted, I think that’s supposed to be the point: lead character Laura’s been so wrapped up in her own angst and romantic entanglements that she’s lost track of the narrative. But it still doesn’t play quite right. Something doesn’t connect the way it should, and that bugs me.
But the book also delivers on moments of formal brilliance so stunning that I don’t really care.
It’s not style over substance. It’s style AS substance. And how can I not love a book that gives me that?