Gone are the days when comic books were associated with children & lighthearted entertainment, now they appeal to a larger audience, covering variety of genres like Mystery, Science Fiction Etc. It’s a booming business with 1 Billion $ sales last year in the US alone. So which is the most underrated graphic novel of 2015, let’s find out.
Garth Ennis is an irish born comic book writer known for his work on Preacher (DC Vertigo), Punisher (Marvel) and Hellblazer (DC Vertigo). Ennis’s work is full of brutal violence, he employs black humor and satire to perfection and he loves to showcase real world morality ~ Shades of grey. Oh! Did I mention his love for profanity. Simply put his stories employ a simple mantra – ‘No holds barred’. Ennis is an industry giant with many awards and accolades, he is respected by his peers and adored by his fans and when I heard Avatar press was releasing his latest work – I was all in.
Early in March 2015, Avatar press released ‘Caliban’ a trade paperback which collects the Caliban #1 – 7 comic book series. Ennis has always been inspired by mystery/suspense movies and ‘Alien’ is probably his favourite suspense/horror movies of all time. Understandably he was excited by ‘Prometheus’. (Prequel to ‘Alien’) and that set to be the inspiration behind ‘Caliban’.
What do you get when you add elements and the atmosphere from ‘Alien’ and combine it with the simple premise of ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’ – Well you get ‘Caliban’. The plot revolves around crew of the mining ship called ‘Caliban’. Things go very wrong when a routine mission turn into a fight for survival against an enemy the crew can’t even comprehend.
What really brings the story alive is the art, created masterfully by Facundo Percio. I’m a big fan of the argentine’s work. Perico is known for his work on ‘Anna Mercury’ & ‘Fashion Beast’. Perico’s art has some great style and panache and he is a master in drawing the female form – Come on – look at ‘Anna’. Perhaps that made him a perfect choice for ‘Caliban’ which stars two female protagonists, Nomi and San. Oh! Did I mention ‘Hot Protagonists’. Perico has captured the cold emptiness of space coupled with lonely icy steel corridors of Caliban to perfection.
I love mysteries. My favourite kind is with sci-fi elements and add a dash of fear and panic – I’m all in. These type of stories gets your heart pumping and you literally can’t let go of the book until you know what happens next and how does it all end. Ennis is master of hooking and baiting his readers. Premise is set up early using first person monologues of Nomi. Ennis uses this device to perfection to show an introvert, probably a naive protagonist. It shows how lonely space travel is and how it affects people. This line sums it all ‘That so they don’t spend so long gazing at infinity that they step outside to get a better look’. Nomi’s internal monologues also highlight that despite traveling far and wide no lifeform has ever been discovered. As the story moves along ‘Caliban’ collides – better word would be mashes up with an alien ship. presumably ‘Caliban’ uses wormhole technology for its warp drive. It’s hard to say where ‘Caliban’ begins and the alien ship ends. The phased ships and its crew now has to deal with something they are not ready or even thought was possible – ‘Alien life’ – What makes matters even more worse for our crew is that the alien ship is like a museum of different alien lifeforms.
Nomi may be an introvert and naive but San is the exact opposite of her. Tough, sarcastic and an opinionated extrovert. The chemistry between them is impeccable. Ennis is at his best while showcasing the banter between the two. It reveals a lot about the two and readers slowly form a fondness for both of them. A quick mention about Perico’s work on the phased or mashed up ships. It is truly amazing. There is definite thought process and the iconic scene of miners infused with alien ship’s hull just sets up the horror.
Dealing with a ship full of exotic aliens wasn’t bad enough. Ennis introduces a genuine threat at this point – Now something is stocking and eliminating the crew of ‘Caliban’. Without revealing too much what I really loved about this story was a sense of poetic justice of how the hunter becomes the hunted. (At various levels)
In the end ‘Caliban’ is like an old wine in a new bottle but older the wine the better is the taste. ‘Caliban’ is a must read for all sci-fi and horror fans alike.