Saturday, February 18, 2006

Prime Directive

There isn't much science fiction on the comic shop racks; for some reason, genuine SF has rarely done well in comics format, although pulp-hero SF adventure has found a niche. But Chris Dreier, Jacob Paplham, and Federico Zumel have crafted a genuine SF story in their graphic novel Unit Primes--a grim, apocalyptic story that finds hope in the most hopeless situations.

The story focuses on a trio of aliens on the trail of a destructive entity/construct known as Unit Prime. There are many Unit Primes--purportedly, one for each galaxy--and they exist solely to destroy life wherever they find it. The trio of aliens are survivors of earlier Unit Prime attacks; their ranks are increased when they find a boy, the lone survivor of another planet wiped out by the Unit Prime. In this boy, the surviving aliens find a new purpose--but will the four of them possess the skills and abilities to prevent the Unit Prime from carrying out its mission on other planets, or are they attempting to confront the most irresistible of all forces?

Unit Primes, like much SF, is ultimately a story of humanity in an inhuman situation. The story is at its strongest when it focuses on its most emotional elements, and Dreier seems to be well aware of that. He devotes much of the novel to an exploration of the relationship between the young boy L-Bee and the maternal alien Yiralo, juxtaposing their empathic relationship with the harsh and seemingly insenstive Alo's stern attitude towards the young newcomer. The story is at its weakest, though, when it turns into a planet-rescuing adventure; those pages seem to distract both the reader and the creators.

Artistically, Unit Primes is most successful in its portrayal of relationships and emotional intimacies, and at its weakest when it attempts to present epic action. This means that those planet-saving segments are the least effective in both story and art; as a result, there's a lengthy segment near the end that breaks the intensity of the story, but Dreier, Paplham, and Zumel manage to recover for the final segments of the story.

Zumel's front cover art benefits so much from color that it's a shame the budget didn't allow for color throughout; even in black and white, though, the book's emotional storytelling makes for memorable reading.

Unit Primes #1
(Afterburn Comics $11.95)
Grade - B

1 comment:

Chris Dreier said...

Cliff, thank you for your review. I'm glad that you liked it. I'm beside myself when you said "the book's emotional storytelling makes for memorable reading". Wow! And you gave it a "B" which is quite possibly the highest grade I've ever received.
Honestly, thank you very much.