Now they are fugitives in space, how will the crew of the Sundog survive? A new arc for Berger Books’ expansive science fiction series, Invisible Kingdom, starts this week and it’s straight into action for G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward’s band of intergalactic misfits.
When building on an introductory arc, the greatest challenge for the creators is to keep the story fresh but also true to what has come before. A number of series get the beginning right but falter at the next stage. So, how does Invisible Kingdom fare?
A New Adventure
After establishing the characters and the world layout in the first arc, Wilson begins the second story by challenging those conceptions. She forces the reader, and the characters, to face uncomfortable realities about the world that she has built. The all powerful Lux corporation holds planets and their people to ransom, with few daring to challenge them. Words spoken by Government officials are just that, words. In reality they are worthless against the hold that Lux has over the people.
This first issue in the second arc reinforces the isolation of the Sundog and it’s crew, highlighting the dangers of non-conformity. The narrative focuses on characters like Vess and Grix, comparing the life they had with the new, dangerous one they have chosen. Their sacrifices become clear as the story unfolds, illustrating what they have to give up to fight the system.
There are a number of wonderful character moments in this issue, especially for Vess. There is an emphasis on her and how she has been affected by the events of the first arc. Wilson shows the reader the inner conflict of the character through a series of events in this issue: struggling with mediation, returning home, and even altering her state of dress, all of these things symbolise a great change within the character.
Taking note from classic heroes-on-the-run science fiction stories, Invisible Kingdom has a diverse central cast and puts them into conflict with a comparable crew. The ‘good’ fugitives face the ‘bad’. Think of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, the 1970’s Star Wars comics, or even elements of Saga. Wilson is able to bring the heroic nature of the Sundog crew out by contrasting them with characters who are the opposite to them.
The Future’s Bright
In a sea of science fiction comics and movies, how do you make yours stand out? The simplest way is to make it look different to everything around it, and that is exactly what Christian Ward does. He has a singular style that is instantly recognisable on the shelf.
Everything about his work is bold; bold shapes that form the characters and backgrounds; bold colors that are striking and emotive; even the layouts are bold as he uses interlocking panel shapes to drive the narrative across the page. Unusual panel layouts represent aspects of the story so that overlapping panels with no gutters speed up the pace of the action or an off kilter layout expresses the chaos of a space battle.
Ward’s work is immersive in that it takes over the page and drowns the reader in the visuals. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the panels borders are their to contain Wards work, to keep it controlled. When those borders disappear it is like the world has been unleashed and there is no stopping it. Invisible Kingdom as a whole feels like this, as if the story is barely scratching the surface of this new universe.
Even Sal Cipriano’s lettering is affected by the bombastic nature of the narrative and art work. His speech balloons appear standardised but the borders are inconsistent, with the border changing thickness around the text. His caption boxes have rounded corners making them match the fluidic artwork and any radio communication has jagged edges, breaking the surface of the images as if it the text is forcing itself onto the panels. Cipriano’s approach blends with Ward’s work to create a single visual style.
The first arc for Invisible Kingdom was impressive, it challenged the reader mentally and visually. This new story is continuing this trend and has not lost any of its charm or visual flair. Wilson’s world building and characterisation is wonderfully engrossing. The influences of T.V. shows like Firefly or comics like Saga are there but the style of storytelling and the type of characters that Wilson writes are original and exciting.
It challenges conceptions of dominant corporations and their place in the world. It also looks at faith; at religion on a grand scale but also personal faith and belief. What do we do when our faith is challenged, when we are forced to fight that which we so strongly believed in?
Invisible Kingdom continues to be a majestic read. It is entertaining and thought provoking with a unique visual flair.