Review - Ei8ht #1

"The past is green. The present is purple. The future is blue. The Meld is something else entirely."

Science fiction is a very uneven genre at times, with some lamenting a loss of its halcyon days. That's not to say that all science fiction now is bad; rather, some of it is much better than others. A work that definitely stands above many other works is Ei8ht #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Mike Johnson, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque and lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot!.

Welcome to the Meld, an inhospitable dimension in time where Joshua, a chrononaut, finds himself trapped. With no memory or feedback from the team of scientists that sent him, he can’t count on anything but his heart and a stranger’s voice to guide him to his destiny. The Meld doesn't take too kindly to strangers, thrusting Joshua in the midst of a bunch of angry locals and an even angrier dictator seeking to learn more about him.

From the opening page of Ei8ht #1, it's clear that creators Johnson and Albuquerque are onto something. They introduce only two of the time settings in the first issue, but those two are extremely integral to understanding the entirety of the world they're creating. Like Joshua, the reader is thrown right into the fray with little knowledge of what's going on, save for the fact that "eight" is the frequency for communicating with the future. There's just enough presented about the Meld for the reader to have a pretty solid grasp of what's going on--even if Joshua still doesn't have a complete picture--thanks to stellar contextual clues dropped by Johnson. By the end of the issue the stakes are clearly laid out for both Joshua and the reader, with Joshua seemingly poised to be an unlikely hero to the people of the Meld.

There's a lot of beauty in Albuquerque's pencils, presenting gorgeously rendered characters whose emotion oozes off the page. The transition from excitement to terror on the part of Joshua is powerful, giving the reader a sense of the magnitude of the journey he's about to embark on. The panels transition seamlessly across the page, lending to a smooth, continuous flow of action that moves the reader along at a frenetic clip. For instance, there's a couple pages in a tent where Albuquerque relies on multiple insets and callouts to accent the scene, with all of them stitching together in a way that feels complete. And Albuquerque's use of colors is absurdly simple yet elaborate, pointedly helping the reader keep up with the different time settings while at the same time emphasizing details of the specific settings.

Ei8ht #1 boasts an alarmingly simple premise that's masked by an almost staggering level of complexity, courtesy of the time traveling component. The first issue shows tons of promise and fires on all cylinders, giving readers everything they could possibly want in a first issue. Johnson's script is snappy and avoids fluff, instead focusing specifically on the trials of Joshua as he travels through time. Joshua has a certain Heathrow Huston from Fear Agent sensibility to him in appearance and demeanor, as Albuquerque imbues with dashing characteristics that make him believable as a main character. Ei8ht #1 is a brilliant first issue that uses colors in a rather clever plot device, pitting a unknowing hero in a situation where he has to survive.

Ei8ht #1 is in stores now with interiors below.