Aftershock Comics has been producing stories with a kind of metaphorical vision not unlike the one seen in 2000AD comics. The publisher has taken to pushing series that focus on large scale concepts, on changes and shifts that threaten to alter status quos and established orders (think Harlem Heroesor Judge Dredd). Join the Future #1 is one such comic as it contemplates and worries about a future where technology becomes even more imperialistic in scope and thirsts for utopia under the false pretenses of progress. That the comic goes about this concept in the guise of a Western makes it a series that demands attention.
Zac Kaplan and Piotr Kowalski approach Join the Future as a kind of frontier story where humanity has separated into high-tech megacities that are entirely dependent on technology and Midwestern rural communities that renounce technology altogether, living like farmers and depending on nature’s own bounty to survive. It’s a play on extremes. Tech life vs. organic life.
Owning up to the comic’s title, the story takes it time to show us just how these megacities (maybe a wink to Judge Dredd fans out there) send out representatives—or salesmen, more like—to convince people to sell their lands and integrate into their tech utopias. The idea is that rural life is insufficient when megacities have developed cures for cancer and have unlocked the secrets to limitless food supplies.
In that regard, Join the Future reminded me quite a bit of Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, where the poor live in a state of extreme poverty on Earth while the privileged social classes live in a space habitat complete with advanced med-bays that cure all kinds of diseases and illnesses. This reflection on two entirely opposite ways of life is as effective here as it was on Elysium (although Kaplan and Kowalski’s comic has a better sense of narrative).
The use of Western archetypes on a visual level elevates the narrative wonderfully as it makes the differences between the megacities and the rural communities stand out in glaring detail. Kowalski does a great job of landing an old-school take on both the cowboy aesthetics of the Midwest and the classic sci-fi look and feel of the cities. The worldbuilding is familiar but dense, doing a lot of the heavy lifting as Kaplan builds up to an eventual clash between tech followers and cowboy traditionalists.
On the book’s approach to character development, we get just enough to establish a conflict that feels like a slow burn towards a long fight against the tech utopias. We follow Clementine Libbey, daughter of the town’s Mayor and big sister to Owen Libbey. Clementine carries herself like a character that will be forced into a leadership role yet to be revealed, a voice that she’ll have no choice but to use in upcoming issues.
There’s a strong YA feel behind Clementine, akin to characters seen in books such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, but she’s also more mature. We get a sense our heroine will dip her toes in both the pro-tech and anti-tech worlds for some time before revealing all of her cards. I’m not entirely sure Kaplan and Kowalski want to paint Clementine as a country hero in its entirety.
On the book’s colors, Brad Simpson does an outstanding job of keeping Kowalski’s old-school Western/sci-fi approach in line with the traditions it uses as inspiration. The megacity setting is bright and crisp, looking like a brand new car straight out of the factory (which says a lot about the city’s identity). Simpson captures every building, every drone, and every surface perfectly and coats it with that high-tech shine. Conversely, the Midwestern setting offers an interesting contrast in colors, with more muted tones that make the town of Franklin and its surroundings seem past their prime. It serves the story quite well.
Join the Future is a comic in no rush to reveal all its cards. In its first issue, we get a compelling situation with several moving parts that are sure to result in some very interesting looks at what the future will be and whether it’s in our best interest to join it.
Join the Future #1 has a March 4, 2020 release date.
Script: Zack Kaplan, Art: Piotr Kowalski, Colors: Brad Simpson
Story: 10.0 Art: 10.0 Overall: 10.0 Recommendation: Buy
Aftershock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review