“Spry, I know this is hard for you. I’m going to give you some good advice, but it may sound terrible. So, bear with me.”
“Eighteen years is a long time to wait for anything. It’s your whole life. But, for my people – for other races – it’s the blink of an eye.”
“It may take you a little longer than your classmates to figure out where you go from here, but your path will be revealed soon. I know this. And, I’m rooting for you, as always.”
“You’re not alone.”
Eighteen-year-old Spry has no place in the universe. A boarding school refugee from a broken home with a dead-end job and no prospects, his only refuge is the card game “Heroes of the Caliphate” (in which Armored Hoplite soldiers seek to capture shape-shifting aliens called Shapers), and his only real friend is a teacher named Niva.
But, that’s all about to change as the revelations pile up around him, and he learns that those around him may be more than they seem and the game may be more than just that. And, he’ll have to embark on a desperate quest with little training and no clear direction; he’s going to have to rely on the last person he can: himself.
Drawing from a rich genre of lost and outcast youth, writer Eric Heisserer [The Thing (2011), Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)] imbues his lead, the stubborn, loner, underdog Spry, with an arrogance that counterpoints the deep yearning inside him. The dialogue is crisp and the storytelling tight and fast, layering subtle nuances in both word and silence. Artist Felipe Massafera ramps up the excitement, moving capably and briskly from small, intimate scenes to wild battles with cinematic grace and style, letting his lush lines set up a fully realized world, with Wes Dzioba’s deft coloring bringing it all to life.
Heisserer has made a career on solid, seat-of-the-pants scare films, but as evidenced in his afterword and the pages of this issue, his real love is the space opera. Originally conceived as a spec script, the studios ignorantly passed. The reason? Basically, it was too original.
For the studios, maybe. But, luckily the folks at Dark Horse were smarter and gave it a perfect home. And, luckily for us, too, because this is the kind of rollicking, original, and exciting comic that people are constantly looking for, that feels familiar and fun and new all at the same time. The kind you want to buy multiple copies of and give out to your friends when they complain about the lack of good storytelling out there and say, “Shut up and read this!”
And, I gotta get me a deck of “Heroes of the Caliphate” trading cards!
VERDICT: FIVE MINT TOR AJAX CARDS out of FIVE
This review was first published at Fanboycomics.net. Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news).