Review - Invisible Kingdom #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"For the path is not straight: it turns and fades..."

The life of a criminal is one fraught with danger and intrigue; the same can be said for the life of a religious apostle. In Invisible Kingdom #1 from Dark Horse Comics, the life of both a criminal and an apostle will be intertwined in ways previously unexpected. The issue is written by G.Willow Wilson and illustrated by Christian Ward.

Set in a far-flung star system, this new epic sci-fi monthly saga tells the tale of two women--a young religious acolyte and a hard-bitten freighter pilot--who separately uncover a vast conspiracy between the leader of the system's dominant religion and the mega-corporation that controls society. On the run from reprisals on both sides, this unlikely pair of rebels risk plunging the world into anarchy if they reveal the truth. But when your beliefs betray you, what choice is there left?

Wilson has a very firm grasp on the character development in the issue, beautifully setting up both Grix and Vess to be guided by similar moral compasses even though their chosen paths are polar opposites. Still, Wilson looks to use that dichotomy to bolster the larger storyline focused on unraveling a massive conspiracy from both sides of the equation. The issue boasts a lot of back and forth as a result of funneling the narrative through these two character, but Wilson handles it very deftly so that the two stories dovetail nicely with one another. There's also a good bit of science-fiction throughout the issue as well, but Wilson doesn't lean on that to carry the story; rather, it's indicative of a well-thought out universe. And the way Wilson works towards the reveal at the end feels organic and earned, providing plenty of intrigue for revisiting the series in the second issue.

Ward uses an artistic approach that's similar to that of watercolors in that each character is filled with large swaths of singular colors that contrast well with one another. The characters aren't defined by black lines that cut against the backgrounds as in most other comics, but Ward still manages to make each character unique enough in their own right. All the characters somewhat resemble humans which grounds the issue somewhat, although there are other defining characteristics that remind the reader this is a book set in a galaxy far, far away. Every page features an explosion of color as Ward seeks to render the worlds in a way that matches the thought Wilson put into building the universe. The panels flow freely throughout the issue, with Ward breaking things up visually by giving them various border colors for effect.

Invisible Kingdom #1 is an extremely well-plotted first issue of a series that seeks to parlay sci-fi sensibilities into something much grander. Grix and Vess are very similar in their views on life in general, even if they're coming at those views from different life experiences. Wilson's script is strong and fast-paced, providing a pretty quick moving issue that has the ability to slow itself down when necessary. Ward's illustrations are ethereal in their presentation that adds another layer of intrigue to the worlds being explored by the characters. Invisible Kingdom #1 is a great start to unraveling a vast, universal conspiracy story.

Invisible Kingdom #1 is available March 20.