Comic Book Review: She: At The Tower Of All That Is Known
'She' isn't perfect, but by the gods it's great to see thoughtful Sci-Fi with lofty ambitions in the latest ComixTribe offering from Ryan K Lindsay and Chris Panda.
Upon opening up the splendidly bound, pleasingly physical hardcover of 'She: At The Tower Of All That Is Known', you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at the latest installment of a long running series.
We're dropped into the beginning of a conversation between characters who clearly know each other well, and have done for some time. We find them smack dab in the middle of a Black Hole Party; a satellite on the outer edge of a collapsing star where creatures from across the cosmos (sharp eyed readers will recognise some of them from the vast Sci-Fi diaspora) have gathered to experience the celestial wonder and imbibe their poison of choice.
It's to writer Ryan K Lindsay's credit that this is how he opens this brand new story, introduces these brand new characters and opens the door to this brand new world. It's a more sophisticated and confident step than many more straightforward stories elect and this sophistry and swagger can be noted throughout a book which feels like a conscious effort by the creative team to push themselves harder and raise their game higher.
Indeed, the first four pages see 'She' and her friend Murdock discuss the nature of truth, the degree to which it is open to interpretation and how it compares to belief. Ruminations on themes like the tangibility of truth (or lack thereof), the malleable nature of memory, the extent to which ones past dictates ones future and the degree to which we are free to choose to leave the past behind, run through the comic. It's what helps define this book as another entry in the hallowed halls of what I sniffily, self-importantly describe as 'Proper Science Fiction'.
Sure, there's beautifully executed action scenes with all the expected trappings, a healthy serving of the crash, bang and wallop you'll be accustomed to, but what elevates this into the realm of the 'Proper' is the philosophical, thematic and intellectual meat underneath all that spectacularly rendered gravy.
And boy is that gravy good eatin'.
Chris Panda presents one of the best looking books on the market, the interior art more than deserving of the excellent covering. His action scenes flow, his character design sparks and his space visuals astound. The character work, from body language to facial expressions, feel lived in and believable, and there's an internal logic to the mechanics of every aspect of the technological designs.
The visual markers denoting flashback memories are clear and distinct, executing with panache his writer's desire to implement a non-linear narrative structure without running the risk of confusing their reader. Lindsay wisely gives his collaborator room manoeuvre, allowing the art to breathe, carry much of the heavy lifting in the more bombastic scenes, avoiding the over-writing that can so often blight a book.
That being said, even at 44 pages of story, She does at times feel like it could have used more space. Sure, okay, find we a fiction writer who doesn't think they could have done with another ten or so pages and I'll show you a bare faced liar, but even so, this volume of She could have been doing with time to draw out some of the moments, to linger a bit longer in some of the scenes and explore some of the ideas with a touch more finesse. They make a good fist of being economical with their page count and there certainly isn't an ounce of fat on the narrative, but this reader can't help but feel there's some slightly longer lived versions of some scenes edited out somewhere along the line.
More often than not their narrative workarounds do the job of getting by that, but it does at times lead to a few on the nose bits of dialogue, moments where tell stepped in for show purely for reasons of economy.
The good news, then, is that 'At The Tower' is listed as Volume 1 of the adventures of the mysterious, eponymous She, so we might well get some of that time back in future instalments. Lindsay and Panda definitely deserve it, so Idle Hands will wait with crossed fingers for Volume 2 to hit Kickstarter in the not too distant future.
We got the Hardcover of She: At The Tower Of All That Is Known' through the Kickstarter campaign.