In Review: Relay #2

Think comic books are for kids? Read this book and be awakened.

The cover: Jad holds his gun high. A normal move for an officer of the Relay, but Jad is doing something different. His face has popped open and within lies the face of Hank Donaldson, the man who created the Relay which forever changed life on Earth and beyond. This is a good symbolic cover by Andy Clarke with Dan Brown. The background is a light violet star field with a bright pulse on the left. Unfortunately, this is a drab background for the figure(s). Any other backdrop would have made this cover stand out more. This is, sadly, a forgettable frontpiece. Overall grade: C

The story: Conceived by Zac Thompson, Eric Bromberg, and Donny Cates, written by Thompson, this installment starts with the agents about to land on what Jad is calling Donaldson’s World. This is where he believes Hank Donaldson now lives. It’s practically a religious moment for the man whose entire life follows the principals set out by the Relay. His companions feel differently, with them following orders, but not keen on bowing down eternally before the Relay. The trio argues who should be the one to make “the offering” to the planet, to tell them they’re going to be forced to join the Relay. It’s decided that William and Victoria “calm the citizens and collect the necessary environmental and technological data” while Jad talks to Donaldson. Landing on the planet they are greeted by a man in a pickup truck who says, “The boss wants to talk to y’all.” They sit in the bed and drive through what appears to be middle America of the late 1950’s. Once at the large farmhouse Jad goes to talk with the boss and what follows comprises the meat of the book. He encounters someone he speaks to about the Relay and its benefits. This new character says that the Relay is not the way for humans to develop. Something surprising is revealed at the end of Page 17 and a character makes a life changing decision on the next page. The book ends with a shock, leaving the reader wondering what this changed individual will do next and where this series is going. The issue focuses primarily on whether it’s better for humanity to be guided by an overlord or progress by means of chaos. It’s an argument for which there is no answer, though the characters of this issue certainly have opinions. It’s a thought provoking read, with no physical action one associates with cliché comic books. This is a wonderful high level sci-fi read. Overall grade: A+

The art: Andy Clarke is a staggering artist. The details in this book are extraordinary. The first page has the threesome of leads standing before a massive screen on their ship that shows their descent to the planet. As Clarke pulls in closer to the characters the image before them changes, showing their progress in landing. The second page is a fantastic series of images that shows how their ship is being noticed by the world they have come to absorb. Look at the level of detail in the third page. It has the characters in their seats as they land in a shuttle, with the intricate details in everything is staggering. Pages 4 and 5 show the shuttle landed in a green field of rolling hills against a foreign display of mountains. Completing the odd scene is a pickup truck waiting for them. The passage of time on Page 6 is shown through the backgrounds: the position of the car they are in remains practically the same, while their surroundings change from a middle American town to a rural landscape complete with modern windmills to a more rustic environment that seems out of the West of the late 1800’s. The settings are sumptuous in this book, making the conversation between Jed and another absolutely real. The farm’s exterior is shown on 10 and it’s amazing. The characters are not to be forgotten however; look at the tight close-ups on 11 when the conversation gets pointed. Even gutters have disappeared between the panels to show how sharp this dialogue has become. The interiors of the farmhouse are fantastic. The first hard shock of the page is the final panel on 18. Making this even more surprising is the absence of emotion from the person who discovers it. The final page shows several characters reacting to an event and the three familiar faces show, without text, that there are going to be repercussions in their lives. Clarke is an epic storyteller even during dialogues. There aren’t enough pluses I can attach to his grade. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Completing the realistic visuals are the colors by José Villarrubia. The colors of the sky won me over to Villarrubia’s talents on the second page: notice how the blues begin at the top of the panel and then become a misty violet. Even around the suns there is a light violet haze, giving the locale a subtle alien feel. Light colors are also within the shuttle, which allows the characters to stand out in their black uniforms. The orange sky on Page 6 is beautiful and striking. The farmhouse is in the expected reds and whites, which only makes the structure more suspicious for a species that’s capable of interstellar flight. The browns and tans within this building add to the authenticity as a dwelling constructed by hand. The first big shock is telegraphed with color, a deep scarlet, on Page 17, with the final panel employing muted orange and brown to hammer the visual to the reader. The final page of the book uses colors to show a display before several characters and it looks great. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Charles Pritchett creates the text for this issue which includes dialogue, a broadcast, narration, and yells. The dialogue is easy to read, with italics used for a character’s narration. The yells are in a slightly thicker font than the dialogue and are also italicized. This works to communicate to the reader that this speech is stressed, but a larger or different font would have been visually better. The broadcast to the people of Donaldson’s World looks great; a large, thick font that looks as though it’s been processed through a machine, which is perfect for a planet-wide bombardment. Overall grade: B

The final line: Science fiction at it finest at humans struggle to decide the course of humanity. The story is smart, with big questions posed, and the visuals are stupendously detailed. Think comic books are for kids? Read this book and be awakened. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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