Pullbox Reviews Edgeworld #1- Strange things afoot on the edge of space…

Meet former United Authority soldier Killian Jess. As the ranking Magistrate of Rush, capital of the planet Pala, he’s got a lot happening. On any given day, it falls on him to listen to, adjudicate, and resolve disputes of all kinds and in some cases that resolution can be pretty final. These duties are complicated by the presence of the riftgate, a portal that makes travel from our universe to countless others- and vice versa- quick & easy. To the multitude of alien races traveling back and forth through the gate, Pala is just a rest stop. An inconsequential layover on their journey to wherever it is they’re going. To the native Palans, it’s the center of the universe. To Killian, Pala is home in every sense of the word that matters.

In the midst of a series of brutal sandstorms, Killian finds out that there’s a mystery afoot. Coinciding with the storms, the worst of which can leave the inhabitants of Rush buried in the sand for days, a series of disappearances have been claiming victims. At first presumed to be simply folks out wandering around when they should have been taking shelter, it’s discovered that there could be something a little more sinister at work.

Kinda sounds like something that could keep a Magistrate busy, doesn’t it?

Combining the very best of science fiction concepts found in shows and books like Babylon 5, Firefly, & The Expanse, Edgeworld opens with an engaging introduction to a world caught in the middle of exponential growth. Writer Chuck Austen handles the ensuing chaos with skill, populating his world with people who never come across as two-dimensional afterthoughts regardless of how little time they may have on the page. That in itself is a feat of creative might, but it’s followed up with the ability to handle characters with varying degrees of personal complexity, crafting their interactions in ways that are both believable & relatable. The third point Austen nails down is in his crafty use of humor seeded throughout the issue. The funny is delivered where and as it needs to be, never overbearing if subtlety is called for and bordering on slapstick where a heavier hand is appropriate. The bottom line, so far as the writing goes, is that Edgeworld is full of people. Many of them are extremely likeable, some of them… are not. In any case, Austen is creating a world ripe for expansion in both form & attitude, and it’s a place that I’m looking forward to exploring.

On the part of the artwork, the team of Patrick Olliffe (illustrations) & Lee Loughridge (colors) is more than able to keep up. Olliffe seems to be taking a similar approach to Austen’s, populating Edgeworld with a diverse population of beings but instead of focusing on variations of the Bug Eyed Alien trope he’s taking a more subtle approach. While the city of Rush is packed wall to wall with a variety of species, with hardly a repeat appearance to be found among the pages & panels, they all still give the impression of being fairly normal folk going about their fairly normal days. Just do yourself a favor when you’re reading, and don’t skim through. This one shouldn’t be rushed By speed-reading you’re going to be missing out on just how jam-packed and detailed Olliffe’s work really is, but the attentive reader will find as much character in facial expressions as in the dialogue. The final touches added by Loughridge, colors bringing depth and definition to an alien world that could almost be compared to an Old West mining town, serve up a visual experience that’s fantastically mundane. Loughridge sticks to a more muted palette, something ill-suited for a book populated with spandex wearing superheroes but perfect for this gritty sci-fi western.

My last bit of praise is going to letterer Jodi Wynne. In Edgeworld, the reader is given a lot of information to process in a short amount of time. Panels cluttered with poorly placed dialogue, or even worse dialogue rendered in unnecessarily complex or fancy fonts, would have been distracting and downright irritating. Wynne saves the flourishes for when they really count, as in snippets of background chatter in alien languages, while never taking attention away from the awesome art to be found on the page. That kind of balance is great to see in a comic like this, where any wasted space could interrupt the story’s rhythm.

As ComiXology continues to grow, not only as a distributor of digital comics but also as a publisher with their line of Originals, the creative talent they’re attracting is keeping pace. For some diehard purists, the idea of digitally exclusive titles might be a little off-putting, but I’d to warn against shutting the idea down out of hand. Speaking as a curmudgeonly old guy, resistant to change for its own sake, I have to say that digital comics are a pretty convenient way to keep the “to read” pile stocked with new material. Limiting oneself strictly to “floppies” is going to limit your options for some really great reading.

Final Score: 11/13

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