Review - 13th Artifact One-Shot (@TopCow)

"Is our mission a success?"

Breaking into comics is nothing if not impossible at times, which is why publishers such as Top Cow put together talent contests from time to time to make things a little easier. 13th Artifact One-Shot is the 2015 Top Cow Talent Hunt Winner and the one-shot is a solid science-fiction tale. The issue is written by Amit Chauhan, illustrated by Eli Powell, colored by Andrew Elder and lettered by Troy Peteri.

Stranded on a mysterious alien planet after her shuttle crashes, astronaut Valentina Kedr is desperate to find a way to survive. With her oxygen rapidly running out, she decides to explore her new surroundings. Upon discovering a civilization on the planet, will her curiosity lead to her downfall?

The core concept behind 13th Artifact One-Shot is one of an explorer in a strange land, but Cauhan infuses the issue with plenty of deeper subtexts. Those subtexts draw upon notions of human's greed, trust and myopia that turn the world into a shell of its former self. Cauhan doesn't really want to trick the reader per se with his approach that draws inspiration from Planet of the Apes, but he does spend some time building up a hellish landscape for a payoff at the end that's thought-provoking. The issue is paced in a way that crashes both Valentina and the reader through the new world she's exploring, yet despite the short length of the issue Cauhan still manages to make things feel tense. And while most of the issue features dialogue in the form of narrative boxes, there's still enough interaction among characters to give the book some sense of natural conversation.

The world that Valentina is exploring is nothing if not desolate and Powell captures that desolation well. Many of the characters are loosely defined against fairly vague and grimy backgrounds, underscoring the state of affairs in the world. It's made very apparent that this new world is polluted by a toxic atmosphere and inhabitants who are equally as poisonous in terms of living amongst one another. Panels change page to page in terms of some floating and some defined by empty or black gutters. Elder's colors are grim and dark, further accentuating the notion that the aliens aren't very nice.

13th Artifact One-Shot is a fantastic one-shot that hits all the right notes. It packs a solid story into a relatively short timeframe that brings with it a pretty emotional gut punch at the end. Chauhan could've easily made 13th Artifact One-Shot a series, but the one-shot aspect gives the story a great sense of opening and finality. Powell's illustrations add to the sense of a polluted atmosphere and provide nightmarish renderings of the aliens enslaving humanity. 13th Artifact One-Shot effectively sets a moody tone from the start and doesn't let up as it progresses.

13th Artifact One-Shot is in stores now.