Earth AM #1: Dystopian war and political intrigue from the up-and-comers at Hollow Harbor
I’m a sucker for tales of dystopian futures. I read and watch properties like Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner and others, not because I think they’re particularly well-made, but rather because there’s something in me that enjoys fictional speculation on the future of human society. So when up-and-coming publisher Hollow Harbor reached out to Comics Now with some review comics for our consideration, I was drawn to one book in particular. Earth AM is the story of a future Earth divided among four factions: the humans, the high-flying Skrytes, the Cyborgs, and the Underaneans. In an effort to stop the bloodshed and ensure the survival of his race, the commander of human forces seeks an alliance with the Skrytes, but their chancellor appears to have designs of his own.
I’m struck by how quickly I felt immersed in the world here. Artist Alan Gallo’s layouts aren’t dynamic, like a superhero book, but his perspectives and overall visual narrative are compelling enough. I also really like the scenario that writers Josh Barbeau and Sam Rayburn have cooked up. As far as I can tell, the four factions all come from the same source of humanity, and so for the human general, there’s a sense that to lose the war is to be left behind—that’s an interesting angle, and one that makes him pretty sympathetic.
The dialogue was surprisingly readable, too. I say “surprisingly,” because, of the many books I read each month, there aren’t many that reflect an understanding of how people actually talk to each other. But with just a few exceptions, Barbeau and Rayburn nail it.
If I have a complaint, it’s that there’s some visual dissonance between characters and scenery. There’s lots of good line detail on the general and other people, and it’s all fairly consistent panel-to-panel; but the backgrounds are pretty generic in most cases. I understand why that might be—it certainly takes lots of time to meticulously draw a floating city with rich detail. I think I would just like to see scenery that is equal to the story’s concept and its interesting characters, and I don’t think we’re getting it. That said, the backgrounds aren’t a substantial drag, and if I had to choose a portion of the book that would get the least attention,I would have chosen the same.
Perhaps the most delightful surprise in this book was seeing a familiar name next in the lettering credit. Having never heard of Hollow Harbor before, I didn’t know what to expect with the lettering, but I was happy to see they hired a professional. I’ve seen Ed Dukeshire’s work in books at BOOM!, and the quality of his stuff is a substantial boon to Earth AD. The dialogue and narration are excellent, and there are likewise high-quality SFX—ones that complement the color palettes of their pages, no less.
All in all, Earth AD #1 is a compelling start to this dystopian tale of war and the politics and survival instincts that fuel it. With quality writing, effective visual storytelling, and first-rate lettering, this book has enormous potential—and I’ll be paying attention.