Arcadia #1 might be the strongest Boom! Studios premiere in recent memory. Created by Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer, the book examines the philosophical implications of digital immortality. It’s a dark future, but the plausibility of the events makes the story hit even harder.
Arcadia is a simulation that houses the minds of seven billion human beings. These people were killed during a global papillomavirus outbreak and the only way to save them was to upload their consciousness into enormous servers around the world. After seven years, two different societies have come to power: the living world and the simulation. While humanity is safe in Arcadia, it’s not a permanent solution. The virus is still mutating and slowly decimating the world’s living population. Without anyone to maintain the servers, both groups will slowly fade from the planet.
Paknadel does an incredible amount of world building in this single issue. There’s very little exposition in the pages. Instead the world grows organically around the characters and the readers are given space to draw their own conclusions. It’s interesting to note that the digital world looks remarkably similar to the real world, going so far as to pit a liberal California against a conservative Arizona at one point. The philosophical implications of the world are impressive as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how the ideas of digital immortality evolve over the series.
What I admired most about the issue was the impressive number of plot threads woven into the world. The book introduces quite a few characters, but all of them are well-defined and interesting. It’s a testament to the writer’s skill that after only a few pages with each of them, I’m invested in their individual stories. Their plotlines cross in unexpected ways and the book does a great job of staying unpredictable.
The art in the book is stylish and wears its sci-fi inspirations proudly. It combines the sweeping landscapes from movies like Blade Runner with the oppressive cold from horror movies like The Thing. It’s an interesting blend and the variety of settings allows for Pfeiffer to stretch his creativity in different directions. The depiction of the melting protesters inside the simulation are especially awesome to behold, blending the horrific melting flesh with the clean, polygonal figure underneath. The only complaint I have with the art is that the style sometimes makes for some strange looking facial expressions. This is particularly evident in close-ups where the characters sometimes look too alien-like to be believable.
Arcadia #1 is an incredible book. It’s smart, fun and thought-provoking, if a little grim. The effortless combination of philosophy and story make for a captivating read. Any fans of science fiction or apocalyptic fiction should have this book on their pull list.