Image Comics’ Primordial series is full of beauty and heartbreak. It takes complicated concepts and boils them down to the devastatingly powerful emotions at the center of this story. Primordial #5, the penultimate issue to this stunning series, is no exception. Writer Jeff Lemire, artist Andrea Sorrentino, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Steve Wands deliver a gut-punch of an issue, setting us up for a high-stakes finale.
Lemire writes with such subtlety, slowly teasing out a completely different version of world history. In Primordial #5, we see how these subtle differences have rippled out into giant changes. But still, Lemire doesn’t get distracted by his own version of history. Sweden being a Soviet state in 2024 is an interesting detail, but not the focus of the narrative. Lemire continues to focus on the characters who have been gently driving this story forward. Their interactions are full of heart and emotion. The animals, aboard their spacecraft, communicate with each other earnestly. Lemire has developed this earnestness in these characters organically, but their sincere exchanges feel perfectly timed to up the stakes in a series that is running out the clock. It’s almost as though the characters know they only have one more issue in which they’ll get to share a page.
Sorrentino has shown a wildly different art style in Primordial than what his readers are used to. Laika, Able, and Mrs. Baker, on their spaceship, have always been rendered in a Frank Quitely-esque style, with no shadows. In Primordial #5, Sorrentino blends this style with his usual shadowy chiaroscuro style. It results in bright panels full of photorealistic characters that have small but dark shadows, contrasting with the overall glow of each scene. Peppered into this issue, as well, are pages with a painted quality to them. It’s abundantly clear that Sorrentino is pushing himself to try out new things and experiment with different styles. Even the moments that feel a little strange and out of place – like a cartoon heart doodled over a painted panel – are exciting to see. Because they’re proof that Sorrentino is a creative force to be reckoned with. Everything is on the table for his experimentation, and we haven’t even begun to see what he’s capable of.
Primordial #5 starts with panels that are bleak but beautiful. Stewart infuses scenes of grey and brown with a subtle brightness. And as the issue continues, Stewart ups the brightness more and more. There’s a joy that’s rising up in each character. As they’re feeling lighter, so does each page. But then Stewart makes a turn for the more ominous. He begins to associate bright colors with moments of violence and panic. Neon reds are used to show flashbacks of death. So as we get to our last few pages, the vibrant colors feel like they’re balancing on a tightrope. They could be heralds of joy, or omens of oncoming danger.
Wands’ lettering is full of small details that make this issue shine. Just like in Primordial #4, we get a moment when our animal characters panic. We see Abel’s dialogue revert from the wispy word balloons that represent his newfound intelligence back to the simple balloons of his animalistic days. His font in this moment is scratchy and looks primitive. He’s scared, and his words show that. Elsewhere, Wands adds little elements to his sound effects so that they stand out in the chaos. The “CHK” of someone arming a weapon pops out at the beginning of a panel. Meanwhile, the “AT-AT-AT” of the weapon firing is cut off by the panel edges. With this, Wands breaks down each moment of a wild scene. Each individual step has its own flavor and purpose.
Image Comics’ Primordial has always been about an alternate version of history. But Primordial #5 finally shows us what the present in that world would look like. This creative team perfectly balances the intrigue and emotion of this series, leaving you both devastated and hungry for more. Primordial #5 is out from Image Comics on January 19th at a comic shop near you!