Jeff Loveness has been doing some sweet ass cosmic shit over the last year or so.
First, he took Groot off into a space adventure that was more fun than it had any right to be. Next, he partnered with sublime artist Ramon Perez to bring fan favorite Richard Rider back from the Cancerverse (a move folks have been begging from Marvel for years) in a way that explored how Nova interacts with the cosmos and mixes it with mentoring a young hero and a touch of space horror.
And now he’s spinning another crazy cosmic tale tinged with horror and innovation for Aftershock Comics, which may just be my current favorite publisher.
In World Reader we meet psychic astronaut Sarah, part of a team of space explorers who are examining dead worlds. Captain Fields, the commander of the expedition, is terse with Sarah, believing her abilities to be nonsense. Her fellow astronaut Harris, however, thinks she just may be on to something.
Juan Doe deserves a heap of praise for his work on this issue. My previous experience with his work was the Animosity one-shot he penciled, which was great, albeit not as grandiose as one would think the artist on a space science fiction book should be. Well, Doe blows all expectations out of the water with his opening splash pages, crafting an alien architecture that evokes a feeling of otherworldly fear. I’m also head-over-heels for the cinematic angles that Doe uses, especially the scene with Harris and Sarah in the catacombs of the alien temple.
Of course, the strength of this issue is when the reader actually witnesses Sarah connecting with the last extinguished life on this planet. Doe excels in populating that alien world in flashbacks, and his aliens are compelling humanoids capable of clear emotion, while Loveness’ provides a narration here that is absolutely heartbreaking. Loveness describes a civilization torn apart by hatred, an escalating deterioration that culminates in a terrifying explosion.
And yet the alien world isn’t safe in the afterlife. Sarah’s melding with the alien ghost is put to an end by a grotesque, haunting figure that eats the essence of the alien and gives Sarah a glimpse as to what has been killing these planets. The colors that Doe uses to hop from scene to scene in that flashback, and especially the interruption and end of the issue, are powerful. They force the reader’s emotions to the forefront, upping the tension panel by panel.
I also want to give notice to Rachel Deering, whose work on the letters was a very pleasant addition. Right off the bat, the lettering of the captions caught my attention – all caps using a font that makes it seem as though the words were hand drawn. Her choices in font size made the story seem bolder, more intense.
And that’s part of the draw of this: it was a simple, yet incredibly innovative premise that Loveness provided, and his work in crafting this narrative has been fantastic. How Sarah’s powers work, her accompanying adventurers, the reveal of the cause of the dead planets. Hell, the narration in this book alone was just captivating, and the dialogue between Harris and Sarah was pleasantly organic.
This is a great start to a title that will soon be getting more than its fair share of acclaim: Juan Doe’s art is alternatingly beautiful and haunting. Rachel Deering’s stylistic choices emphasize instead of fade to the background. Jeff Loveness shows a love and attention to detail for this story that makes it engrossing. World Reader is an eerie, mysterious blast into a complex cosmic opera. You’d be doing yourself a disservice not to dive in.