Fans of science fiction have been spoiled for choices lately in the world of comics. I’ve sang the praises of Image Comics for months, but lately I’ve been even more impressed by the sci-fi offerings from Boom! Studios. Arcadia #1 was one of my favorite debuts of the year, but it’s the publisher’s new series that impressed me this week. Broken World #1, from the creative team of Frank J. Barbiere and Christopher Peterson, is a book that does everything right.
The end of the world is coming. A massive asteroid is heading straight for the planet and there’s no way to stop it. The only option for the survival of the human race is to evacuate, though it falls to the governments of the world to decide who stays and who goes. Those lucky enough to leave will sleep aboard escape ships as they search for viable planets. Those left behind turn to religion, alcohol, or total anarchy. That’s the situation protagonist Elena Marlowe is thrust into in the series. For reasons unknown, Elena isn’t allowed to leave the planet. As civilization disintegrates around her, she races through Earth’s final days to make her escape.
The plotting in this issue is handled masterfully. The timeline shifts sporadically, moving closer or further from the point in time of the asteroid’s impact. It allows the book to open with grim imagery that draws the reader in before shifting back to explain the situation. Overall the pacing works well, though there is some heavy dialogue in the beginning that slows things down a bit too much.
Elena is one of my new favorite protagonists in comics. She often shows a calm intellect and amiable demeanor, but when the situation calls for it she’s quick to act decisively and mercilessly. There’s implicit depth in the character from the very beginning as we don’t know why she’s not allowed to join the evacuation. Her marriage to a high-ranking member of the organization in charge of the evacuation should have guaranteed her a safe exit. This is a character you can’t help but be intrigued by and I’m looking forward to getting some answers about her past and future.
The art draws you in from the first page. The opening splash page depicts Elena and her family holding hands and walking toward salvation, bordered on both sides by angry protesters. It carries a lot of emotion for a page that doesn’t show the character’s faces. The decision to parallel that design on the final page works perfectly to keep readers invested in the story. The panels are minimal outside of the characters, an aesthetic that matches the tone of the series. Peterson’s art isn’t flashy, but the understated artwork elevates emotional impact of the issue.
Broken World is a stellar debut. Barbiere and Peterson’s new sci-fi series absolutely belongs on anyone’s pull list, whether you’re a fan of the genre or just good storytelling.