Review: Primordial #1
The Space Race between the Soviets and the Americans during the 1960s has always been fertile ground for conspiracy-centric storytelling, ripe with classic sci-fi concepts and ideas informed by a long tradition of weird fiction. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s new book, Primordial, is firmly set within that tradition, but what it’s managed to produce on the visual front is what truly stands out as special.
Primordial follows a black electrical engineer from MIT called Dr. Pembrook, a man who’s interest in an American space mission where monkeys were shot into space to test travel by shuttle leads him to a secret report about the operation’s hasty cancellation that questions whether the alleged failure of the project was fact or an elaborate fiction to cover something up.
Pembrook’s discovery pushed him down the rabbit hole into conspiracy territory, led by a question that instantly makes the story take a whole new spin: what if the animal shuttle flights revealed something that scared everyone into not pursing further travel?
Lemire’s script perfectly captures the nail-biting paranoia that tends to be a staple in these types of stories, but when things get cosmic, it’s Sorrentino who steps up and steals the spotlight. It works because Lemire allows the plot to unravel in two spaces, if you will, in which Pembrook’s side is allowed to develop on its own while the animals’ flight is also given room to present its trajectory.
The more traditional, almost spy-thriller aspects of the story belong to Pembrook while the all-out sci-fi part of the equation is afforded to the animals. Sorrentino capitalizes on the setup to let loose in what can only be described as pure and unfiltered creativity, especially when it comes to the space travel sequences.
Panel work in these sections of the book break with structure and form to reach a higher level of visual play that ranges from panel collisions to colors flying off into unexpected parts of the page. It all combines to create a sense of wonder and even fear that frames the animals’ experience as a complete transformation of the rules of physics that will transport them to uniquely unknown places.
It tips its hat to Jack Kirby sci-fi, but it also borrows from classic rock and prog album cover art to breath life into many of the surprises the book viscerally throws at its readers as the story’s pacing picks up. In other words, Primordial is a visual marvel, a feast for the eyes that’s hard not to get lost in.
Dave Stewart’s coloring is largely responsible for the visuals’ triumphs as well. The book is bright and it captures the kind of naïve optimism that tends to characterize attempts at space travel. It makes for an experience in which the unknown is given a chance to reveal itself and to pose questions that go beyond what’s seen. Stewart’s work elevates that idea and gives it new dimensions.
Primordial #1 possesses a very exciting and intense sense of discovery and exploration that rests on the notion that secrets and conspiracies can generate quite a set of sense-shattering images. It’s a supreme example of what can be achieved with visual storytelling and how comics can offer narrative possibilities other mediums can only hope to imagine.
Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Andrea Sorrentino Colors: Dave Stewart
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Recommendation: Read and make sure to give comics to space animals for their voyages
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review