When it comes to Science-Fiction, I prefer sophisticated storytelling over flashy concepts. Space explosions and alien battles are all well and good, but I prefer a story that uses the genre to explore larger themes. This is a sentiment shared by indie comic creator J.G. Birdsall in his Venus Rises series. Birdsall is releasing a new weekly webcomic set in the world of Venus Rises exclusively to Patreon subscribers. The first issue of Venus Rises – Parallels will debut on May 5th.
In Venus Rises humanity has fled a ruined Earth and colonized its neighboring planets. The elites now live on Mars and their resources are supplied by a working class who has been relegated to Venus. At first, this arrangement was necessary for the survival of the human race. Now, tensions between the two groups have reached a boiling point and civil war looms on the horizon.
One of my favorite things about the regular Venus Rises series is that Birdsall is telling an epic story through smaller, more intimate moments. This trend continues in Parallels. The first issue’s narrative takes place across only two scenes, both of which have great pacing. Birdsall makes the most of the page count and pulls readers into the story within the first few pages. It then ends with a cliff-hanger that will have readers excited for more.
Although Parallels – Part 1 is a good jumping on point for current and new reader alike, the plot of this first issue is a bit vague. Taken at face value, the story is entertaining, but I would have liked to see a little more depth. No backstory is given, and the characters are never fully introduced to the reader. Admittedly, this is a first issue, so these aspects are most likely planned for later in the series. Yet, without adequate context, there is no real tension. Since we aren’t truly introduced to the characters, we have no sense of the stakes they face. Nor do we have a reason to care about their fates. As I said, I’m sure these things will eventually be covered, but it would have been nice to see them touched on in slightly greater detail.
Artist Bora Orcal draws the issue in a style that reminds me of the old pulp comics put out by Warren Publishing. The first half Parallels is illustrated with a high level of detail that looks like it has been penciled directly onto the page. Orcal utilizes complex line-work and expert shading. He captures the vastness of space while presenting spaceships and human beings in a believable and realistic scale. The second half of the issue is unfortunately drawn in less detail and lacks the same sense of scope as the first half. Whereas the first half has a refined look, the second half comes across as more abstract. The city in which the scene is set is drawn well but this isn’t always true for the characters. I would have liked to see the same level of detail upheld over the course of the entire issue.
Luckily, there are a few aspects of the art that unify both halves of the story. Although the issue is presented mostly in black and white, there are pops of color throughout. These accents highlight the focus of a single panel without distracting from the overall scene. Birdsall and Orcal also tell the story using creative page layouts. Even though the narrative doesn’t play out within a traditional grid, it’s always easy to follow the flow of a scene. The panels are laid out in such a way that the eye has no trouble following the progression of the story across the page.
If this review hasn’t been enough to get you interested in Parallels, check out this promo video. For those who want to catch up before jumping into this new series, the first two issues are available for purchase. You can also check out my spoiler-free reviews of Issue 1 and Issue 2.
Conceived and Written: J.G. Birdsall Art: Bora Orcal
Color: Elif Kut Lettering: Elif Kut
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy