Arks #1, Reviewed. It's terrifying in scope and delivery.
How about a hardcore deep dive, heavy science-driven sci-fi deep space, directed panspermia story of human survival and colonization experimentation? Well nothing else in comics delivers it like this, it’s Arks by R.J.Collins and it’s terrifying in scope and delivery.
Originality is a difficult benchmark to aim for, particularly in comics, even more so in science fiction. Arks achieves this in a story with meticulously pondered and formulated ideas that are based on deep-rooted scientific understandings with cutting edge ideas, in a visually arresting digital art style. There's no wonder that as issue twos Kickstarter enters its final phase they’ve already hit their target as this opener reshapes the rules of deep level, fully resonating, captivating entertainment. There's a level of scientific inclusion that I believe to be unrivalled in its unwavering definitions of the universe Arks embodies. It feels like the cleverest thought experiment extrapolated into a story that fires on all neurons with its inception that can be defined as overwhelming in the beauty of substance.
So, let’s start with the art. The art of Arks is compiled by R.J.Collins who is ably assisted by Andrew Morris, James Daly and Neil Copland. This team delivers digital art polished to the Nth degree, that is pouring with life. The religious story opening is enhanced with art that creates an idealistic representation of the drama and deep-seated life itself. These opening pages really are wondrous in the portrayal of a new world creation and evolution. We are observing a planet's transformation in a format so arrestingly beautiful it’s almost overwhelming. The colours here pop in such a striking manner that adds an experience teeming with emotion. The violence, drama and viscosity is incredible. I mean, I didn’t believe glistening mucus could be, well so beautiful. That's a sentence I’m still getting my head around, but it's true.
Science in its early history, and in general in fact, has always been inherently magical and it’s this quality that R.J. Collins fully brings to life in every detail. There's nothing gratuitous or overplayed in the nudity and violence on display throughout, it just exists as it is in nature. In places, although certainly aimed at adults, this art is like observing the world through a child's eyes - everything is wondrous. This art's complexity makes it worth the study and instantly re-readable. The story's pace at times, particularly towards the end, I read with the fever of Lilith's excitement, causing me to return to the art and in its second read, it was hard to not get lost in each panel. I was exploring the details constantly and always finding new elements of magic. I think I spent too much time drooling over the insane landscape conceptualised that it then had me returning to other panels looking for details. As a testament to the art and story, I obsessed over if there could be hidden clues especially in the writing displayed in the cave and adorning the character of Joe's body. Other than what I assumed was a backers tribute I didn’t find much but it was worth it all the same. Rory, Andrew, James and Neil deliver life, death and creation in a digital haven of assaulting beauty.
With that arresting art it’s obvious, in detail alone, that R.J. Collins has a deep, commanding behemoth of a story to inform such compelling imagery. Rory presents a deeply entertaining story of Joseph and Lilith, two interstellar travellers with humanity's colonization resting on their shoulders as they perform a deep space experiment in viability. Joseph and Lilith are Arks, engineers born of bacteria with the uploaded consciousness of great minds, onto a planet whose climate and ecology have been deliberately modified by varying types of the same bacteria. Big idea stuff doesn’t even begin to cover it. Rory's meticulous detail is unapologetic in its delivery of scientific language. We are observing two scientific engineers whose capabilities are that of individuals with the knowledge and fortitude to terraform distant planets. These two characters clearly are heavily involved with every facet of this experiment and are, or at least should be, fully adept at realizing their goal.
Plot-wise we are first introduced to Joseph who has been inhabiting this new planet long enough to establish basic survival needs. As we witness his routine it is interspersed with imagery of the process which has shaped this new world. From the details it seems that this is Joseph and Liliths assigned project, their name is on the ship that delivered the bacteria responsible after all. There is a delay however in Liliths "arrival" and it’s Lilith that really sparks the beginning of this story. Through her "arrival" and the first interactions between the two characters, Rory's story fully fleshes out the details of the ride we have joined. The language at times can feel heavy-handed in scientific jargon which I worry may make parts of this comic less accessible, but if like me you love intense detail and a deep dive of new knowledge then there are many rewards to be had. The science in this science fiction is ridiculously realised. This is made more evident in the final pages of issue one where Rory presents concept art that adds further context and understanding to the tools behind this story's fundamental technologies. I really love these details and this story as a whole for the sheer enormity of ideas.
Back to the plot then and it seems Joseph has also been documenting the aspects of this new frontier in a questionable manner, furthermore he may not be as fully adept mentally as they’d hoped. Even worse, an injury sustained may well have removed vital information of the viability of this new environment, let alone the threat it presents to his life. Lilith joins Joseph in a turbulent introduction but when the dust settles it's clear the only option is to brave the environment to further the mission. What has Joseph observed then before Lilith's arrival? Could he have discovered a terrible truth? What is causing the abnormalities in flora and fauna? What the hell awaits them outside the cave? Are they trying to terraform a planet that doesn’t want them there in the first place? These are just some of the questions raised and hopefully, all these and more will be answered in what could and should be a groundbreaking new sci-fi epic series.
For fans of strong science-driven sci-fi, beautiful digital art, interstellar travel, terraforming, Carl Sagen and glistening mucus get yourself to the issue two Kickstarter while there's still time to secure your copies of this story's beginnings.