Each week at your local comic book store you can be almost certain of two things: DC will have at least one comic with Batman in it (Thank you DC) and Image will probably have a new number #1 comic out. I’m neither shocked nor disappointed by this though, because it means that originality can breed, never succumbing to publishing the same characters month in, month out (well with the exception of maybe The Walking Dead) and ideas getting stale. So Image, what have you got for me this week? A hard-ass guy with a giant muscle-bound robot in the background – oh ok, I’ll try it.
Don’t let the cover fool you – this might look like some kind of comic adaptation to Hugh Jackman’s recent Robo-fighting movie Real Steal, but inside this book is much less Hollywood, and much more indie. The book tells the tale of a soldier turned smuggler whose space shuttle crashes onto an unknown planetoid with a strange electromagnetic radiation emitting from it. With nothing but his emergency pack and Siri-like computer wristband called Ricter, he sets out his journey through the metallic wastelands to attempt to find something that will get him off the planet. Along the way though he has to battle against an atmosphere full of metallic dust, material chomping lizards and giant mechanical swamp monsters. Like I said, nothing like the Hugh Jackman movie.
That indie feel that the comic has might be to do with who created the book. There’s only one name listed in the credits, responsible for the story, art and lettering – Ken Garing, a relative newcomer to the world of comics at only 29 years old. On his blog he mentions how from the age of 14 he’s been attending conventions to have his portfolio reviewed by the likes of Brent Anderson and Image co-founder, Erik Larsen. It’s clearly paid off, not only creating an interesting story in Planetoid, but telling it beautifully through his art too. Due to the nature of the plot there’s not much in the way of characters, meaning less dialogue between them – but rather than be detrimental to the book, it actually works really well. The fact that Garing is taking care of both plot and art means that he’s got full control of telling the story when there’s no words to help it along. In fact, my favourite parts of this book are where there’s no talking at all – just Silas and the planetoid.
Of course by the end of this issue Silas learns that he’s not alone on the planet after all, meaning there’s likely to be much more interaction with other characters coming up in future issues, but I do hope that the book doesn’t lose that hopelessly alienated feeling that works so well in the first issue.
There’s clearly a lot of thought and effort that’s gone into the design of this book, from the characters to the expansive junkyard scenery, keeping a nice balance of originality and borrowing from all of the best sci-fi from the past 50 years. My only real criticism of the book is the odd Bill Gates likes silhouette used to represent his talking computer companion – it’s a clever nod if it is supposed to be the founder of Microsoft, but I did find it a little off putting having his featureless face floating next to all of his dialogue.
We’ve seen a recent trend amongst big name comic creators moving away from the likes of DC and Marvel to work with Image to produce something original and likely something they are more passionate about, but Planetoid is a great example of the publisher giving the limelight to someone totally new and unknown. It shows they definitely have quality at the forefront of their agenda, rather than how many spinoffs they can make money out of – long may it continue.
Craig – @hastiecraig
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