Jun 24, 2015
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 120: Alien Fire #1, January 1987
Over the last week or so, I've tried to reconceive my project as something like mining. I know that there are valuable things to be unearthed, but they're hidden by lots of rock and dirt. I think today's comic is that little trace of gold that keeps me digging.
Now, I don't remember where I got this comic. It's old enough in the collection that I didn't input purchase information when I catalogued it. It's from Kitchen Sink Press, which gives it a pretty good pedigree to begin with, but pedigree is not always a sign of a well-constructed comic. I also am pretty sure I've never read this one before, which means it probably came to me in a large pile of comics and was lost in the shuffle.
I'm glad to have re-discovered it, then.
I'm not a huge science fiction fan these days. I used to adore author Robert Sawyer, but then I read some of his non-fiction, essays and addresses and such, and he came across as being every bit as myopic from a rational viewpoint as many religious pundits are from their viewpoints. It wasn't something I could really accept, and I stopped reading his books. So Alien Fire is really some of the first hard sci-fi I've looked at in years. And it's really good. Anthony Smith and Eric Vincent do a wonderful job of building a world, of elaborating different sentient points of view, even to the point of really well-demonstrating some alien points of view. They also manage to show the human point of view as alien, which is a nice touch in interplanetary science fiction, and one that really helps with a supposed verisimilitude in storytelling about something that we don't have a reality of yet.
The art is gorgeous, filled with detail. We're treated to a desolate 21st century Earth, ship-to-ship space combat, glimpses of the rich and beautiful at an interstellar port, and the realities of maintaining an interplanetary vessel in the depths of late, late, interplanetary capitalism. Vincent also manages to convey very convincingly emotions in non-humans through depictions of body language and facial (and sometimes tentacle) expression. I truly look forward to seeing where the rest of the story goes, if I can manage to track it down.
Moreover, the focal human character who is an archivist on board The Wooden Bird is a collector. Earth popular culture ephemera is a going concern outside of the solar system, so the story is not only a good hard science fiction piece, but also a metatextual celebration of the very form the story is being told within. Also, it makes me feel hopeful that my own collection might one day be valued as cultural artefact. Though maybe that's a bit narcissistic for a Wednesday morning.
I'm hoping to be able to find the rest of Alien Fire some time in the future, but until then, we'll be mining further into the various strata of the collection. See you tomorrow. Bring your headlamps!
(Edit: I lost numbering here. Was originally published as Day 121.)