Advance Review: Being Incredibly Realistic About A Broken World

Despite the things I've seen Frank Barbiere write so far, from the smash-hit Five Ghosts with Image, to the sci-fi classic reborn Solar: Man of the Atom from Dynamite, or the crime noir White Suits from Dark Horse, and even his previous superhero series with Boom, Black Market, I didn't really see the intensity of a social drama on the way from him in Broken World. That's probably the wrong phrase to use to introduce readers to a science fiction story about an asteroid poised to destroy the earth, forcing governments to "choose" who gets to evacuate and who doesn't based on space and time involved, but to me, there is some pretty ingrained social drama in this story.

brokenfeatWe meet someone who is calling herself Elena Marlowe, a teacher, in the days leading up to the asteroid's impact, as well as her young son and her husband, who is a government official. We know that she's tense and uncertain about her own ability to evacuate, something she's keeping from her family. But all around her, the world is really falling apart. Dissident elements are starting to protest their mandated impending deaths compared to those who are going to be "saved" and violence is brewing big time. Elena's students are barely coping with the psychology of the end. So, yes, this is not a light and friendly story. Nor should it be. It's far too realistic for that.

comics-broken-world-2Barbiere has demonstrated his ability to jump through multiple genres and splash around, bringing a depth and integrity to them that seems galvanized by his own belief in their redeeming qualities and value. He makes the reader believe in the superhero genre, the pirate story, the science experiment gone wrong, as expressions of some essential element of humanity depending on his choices in that particular story. This new series, Broken World, feels a little more overt about that. He's less concerned with how the conventions of storytelling might entertain us and more with how elements of human experience might engage us directly.

Have we ever imagined through stories like Titanic, what it would be like to be on a ship going down with only limited lifeboats? Then we can start to comprehend the situation for Earth in his story. Have we ever dealt with a government agency trying to get identification and paperwork filled out for ourselves or our family? Almost certainly. And since we have, we know that all kinds of things can go wrong under the best of circumstances. Now imagine trying to do that on a countdown to the end of the world. The horror.

And because the elements of this story, even in Issue #1 are so grounded, not a single thing in the story feels like a stretch. We don't ask where the asteroid is coming from, how the evacuation vehicles work. Those pale in comparison to dealing with riots, and questioning teenagers, and trying to keep young children from panicking.

Broken-World-1-preview-m8xvdv4oh3rl2svvjxfniiru5vppodkm6xtl4dy6egArtist Christopher Peterson, who we've seen in Dark Horse's Grindhouse and Black Mask's Mayday brings a realistic, slightly edgy linework to the storytelling that contributes a great deal to this sense of being propelled forward in the story without tripping over anything overwhelmingly moddish rendering the story "sci-fi" in capital letters. He's big on a sense of motion from his human characters, focuses on posture to express emotion and has a minimal use of small gestures that work well. The colors by Marissa Louise, too, are down to earth, slightly dusty and unpretentious, think, TV vs. big silver screen event. It's as if things are pared down so as not to distract from the human-driven aspects of story.

Now, I've only read the first issue, so I'm drawing some big conclusions about the trajectory of the series from that, but if the tone Barbiere and Peterson have established in Issue #1 follows through, this will definitely show how comics do drama right.

Broken World #1 arrives June 3, and is currently listed in Previews World with item code: APR151199. It reaches FOC today, Monday the 11th of May.

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Hannah Means ShannonAbout Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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