This week I had the chance to read the first two issues of James Cavanagh’s Native Lands. This is a new comic series that was released in the last quarter of 2015 and while there are plenty of superhero comics out there, I think this series is one that puts another new twist on the superpower fantasy. Native Lands blends sci-fi and mystery elements into the evermore common superhero drama now seen on TV. After a catastrophic event kills off most of the city of New London’s population, those who survive are left with various abilities, but are taken in by a mysterious organization that experiments on them and plans to relocate them all to another planet.
In the first two issues we are introduced to Jackobei, a golden-skinned fire-starter; Bastian, a beast man who suffers memory loss; Emma, a woman seeking her sister and trying to uncover a conspiracy within the labs; Charlie, a young boy orphaned by the catastrophic event and seeking his elderly friend Izzy; and Aaron, a man with markings on his body who clearly distrusts the scientists.
Nothing about Emma, Aaron, or Charlie’s abilities are revealed, but Emma is clearly the primary protagonist in this series, making her disgust with the people who operate the labs very clear. Apparently, no one knows what caused the disaster that gave all of the people their powers, but through short flashbacks we get glimpses of each character’s perspective of the event and a little information about who they are.
From what I’ve seen in these first two issues, I guess it would be unfair to label this as a “superhero” story, since so far it is something more like a prison drama involving people with special abilities. With the flashbacks and the prison-like setting it reminds me of Orange is the New Black, but without the humor. The space drama and mystery aspects are reminiscent of something like The Expanse. I get easily drawn into stories that have a mystery behind the larger plot, and a good character-driven story with plenty of interesting twists always makes for a good read.
The survival element also makes this story interesting. Similar to The Walking Dead, you have an unexplained outbreak that kills off a lot people while the survivors must figure out how to piece together their lives in this new world and find their families. It is as if Native Lands managed to blend the compelling aspects of the aforementioned television shows, combining the best elements to make a compelling comic book.
At its core, this is a story about loss, bonds, and identity. While not a whole lot is revealed in the first two issues, it seems like Cavanagh and his team are shaping up a nice narrative for a long-running series. Revealing more about the main cast will give readers more reasosn to root for the heroes, so I expect the title to gain even more momentum soon. I am especially curious to know just how powerful some of the main characters are and how their powers may be utilized, given that they likely won’t be rescuing normal people from burning buildings or wearing tights and capes.
I’m expecting the story to expand more on the survival aspect, since it already introduces the conflict of superman versus man, and once they arrive on their new home planet it may very well become superman versus nature. There are a lot of concepts that can be explored in this series and the artwork works very well with the narrative. I’m hoping fans of sci-fi and superhero comics will give this series a chance, and that Cavanagh and his team will keep readers looking for the next issue as the universe they are building in Native Lands continues to broaden.