Jacob Tate is about to finish high school. He is heavily invested in conspiracy theories. He has a one-eyed Welsh corgi named Shadwell and lives with his normal aunt and uncle. He struggles in school because of his focus on conspiracy theories, and all his college applications have been denied. However, his hobby is about to become the focal point of his life, as something strange goes down at his aunt and uncle's home.
Beyonders #1 marries teen angst and X-Files, as the story is just as interested in the conspiracy theory material as it is showing that Jake is super-smart, unmotivated, and disinterested in the mundanities of life.
The comic has two issues to surmount: overcoming the conspiracy-focused sci-fi/fantasy formula and making Jake not look like a underappreciative little prick. It doesn't quite clear either hurdle.
I kind of want to beat up Jake and put him in a locker. His aunt and uncle are perfectly nice people unworthy of the thinly veiled scorn and condescension he gives to them, and Jake's obsession with conspiracy theories is a short trip away from Alex Jones-town.
There are echoes of another AfterShock comic in Beyonders, and that's Lost City Explorers. That comic benefits from imbuing tragedy and an ensemble into its conspiracy-laden narrative. Beyonders doesn't introduce the rest of its cast in the first issue, preferring to focus on Jake.
Bringing it back to the plot, you know how this one is going to go down. Jake is going to discover something disturbing in his life, helicopters, government comes crashing in, he's discovered too much, he's gotta go on the run. The first issue suffers from the fact that you're waiting for that to happen. It's not a spoiler if I tell you that it does, right? You know how this story goes. That's the problem.
Shadwell the one-eyed Welsh corgi is awesome though. He should be the main character.
Wesley St. Claire's artwork adds a rough and gritty, Frank Miller-esque aesthetic to the book that gels well with the conspiracy narrative. He doesn't have much to work with here beyond a large house and the school setting, so there's little to make gritty-looking. It's still a good style, and the muted colors match it well.
Beyonders has room to grow and improve, but its first issue is predictable, slow-moving, and centers on an unlikable protagonist. Perhaps it will improve with future issues. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this installment. I'd suggest giving it a pass.