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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Amongst the Stars. Jim Alexander (Writer), Mike Perkins (Art), Scott Martyniuk (Letters), Will Pickering (Art). Planet Jimbot (2015)


Update from the Chief Wizard (19.06.2015):
'Amongst the Stars' has made the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance (SICBA)  short-list for Best Graphic Novel 2015.  The winners will be announced in  Glasgow on the July 4 2015. To celebrate Planet Jimbot put together a PDF sampler of the book, which features 5 pages of the story.  This is absolutely free to everybody. 
For the Amongst the Stars PDF sampler, click on the following link:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1mcab4gr8utanu7/ATS_SICBA_Sampler.pdf?dl=0,  
Also, the book is on sale at the Planet Jimbot online shop for a special SICBA price of £5.50 plus P&P  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PlanetJimbot
For details of how to vote check out the official SICBA site:http://www.sicba.org.uk/.
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A very engaging and unexpected story about alien contact that uses a very clever idea to drive the plot. The inhabitants of the planet Tchalling have developed a group consciousnesses, enveloped in The White, a crafted environment that surrounds and supports them. When they reach out and encounter the individual consciousnesses of Earth the shock is tremendous. The smart bit is that the inhabitants of Earth are only vaguely aware of the presence of the of the alien, the impact is massively asymmetrical. The story  unfolds in unexpected ways and with the presence of a disabled academic who bears a strong resemblance to a very famous disabled academic with a strong interest in space and time is just one of the nicely unexpected routes the story follows.
The strongest aspect to the story is the hard boiled optimism that Jim Alexander displays, the future for everyone is hard fought, it is also worth the fight. There is no drop into easy pessimism or deeply cynical destruction for all involved. Rather there is a nicely messy possibility that life is a challenge that should be accepted and pursued. Jim Alexander has neatly found a path through the extremes of an alien contact leading to  future sunny uplands of a shared galactic future for humanity and a remorseless destruction for the natives due to contact with alien ideas, technology and germs. Framing the contact asymmetrically is a great way to create a viable alternative path, the craft that Jim Alexander uses to exploit the opportunity is a pleasure to read.
Mike Perkins art resolves three problems with flair and subtle humour, the alien planet smother in the white dome is featureless, the alien nature of the locaton lies in its blankness rather than the detail. The Tchallins themselves are drawn in very restrained terms, very close to human looking, they look a little like elongated and slightly emaciated punk rock fans with an odd mix of  Mohicans with pony tails. The mastery of body language that Mike Perkins displays prevents them from being just silly and they are strongly expressive and confusion and fear they experience is palpable. The second problem is the bridge the distance between one plant and other in a way that shows the physical as well as the emotional distance. They way that that problem is solved is simple and brilliantly satisfying.
The Earth sequences are full of details, lots of shadows and background. They appear crowed and full compared to the empty scenes on Tchalling, they give weight and solidity to the cast who have been contacted and are affected by it but do not grasp exactly what is going on. There is no significant action for Mike Perkins to go wild with, the biggest set piece is a wedding, the action is much more subtle and low key. It is astonishing how much the art brings out all the nuances in the cast, they are so strongly expressive and still individual. They are not simply signposts, they are given depth and weight which is crucial to the story and the  slingshot finale.

Growing Pains, written by Jim Alexander, art by Will Pickering and letters by Jim Campbell uses pitch black humour to great effect. When the police are called to deal with an incident at a block of flats the outcome is very unexpected and very well set up. Pacing is everything in a story like this where the balance between the set up and pay off has to be very carefully set. Will Pickering's art is uncluttered, it gives the cast the chance to come out strongly, the action and reaction has to be carried by the cast in a very confined space. Jim Campbell's lettering are so effective as to be nearly invisible, they arise so naturally from the cast and story they just speed the reader on to the climax.
Great science fiction and a extra treat, a pleasure.
Chief Wizard's Note:  This a review copy very kindly sent by Jim Alexander from Planet Jimbot,  For more information or to order a copy, which you should do, please contact,  planetjimbot@gmail.com

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