December 30, 2010

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Cavemen in Space

Written by Joey Weiser
Illustrated by Joey Weiser
Adhouse

In the far future, even time travel is possible. This leads to a dramatic experiment by Professor Albert Casimir, who brings actual cavemen into outer space! Watch as tribe leader Washington must keep an eye on his people in an age where tribes are long since disbanded. Can they adapt to life with nothing to hunt, where technology can handle most everything? A new threat may soon show that life may not be as different as we think between the stone age and the space age!

I absolutely adore the cover to this comic, as the idea that a caveman would still keep a pelt on his back, even in the vacuum of space amuses me to no end. Weiser's illustrations remain as good as ever, with each character having a distinctive look and feel that reflects their personality. They're certainly basic, but that doesn't mean they are poorly drawn. There's a general sense of innocence and wonder in Weiser's comics, and his figures reflect that. If they had extensive lines or heavy inking, the feel of the comic would be completely different, and lose a lot of the magic. Plus, it's vastly amusing to see one cave woman turn herself into a 1950s femme fatal via Weiser's lens. The result is both horrifying and endearing at the same time.

As with a lot of Wieser's stories, this comic is one of discovery. Our cave people are taken from the only world they know and try to find their way in space. The cave wall artist cannot recapture the magic of his art, because it's no longer needed in this modern world. The materials are all fake. A little girl relies on her magical doll (more on that later) to get by. Another, changed irrevocably by experimentation, cannot find a way to mesh his new intellect with existing emotions. Washington tries to be the leader they knew him to be, but his knowledge is all in brute strength and primal protection, all but useless in an age of mechanical arms and laser beams. All of these characters must take a hard look at themselves, and find out what they must do to adapt.

When danger strikes, it's time to put the discoveries on the table. Some may be able to use their new place to find themselves, but it's clear that others will never be able to adapt. The journey is almost complete, leading to an ending that is sad in some ways but makes perfect sense. With discovery completed, our characters must move on, just as the reader does by closing the book.

In that way, this is a strong story. Weiser shows that we are all changed by our experiences, even if those experiences are fanciful. Regardless of the time period or how we arrive there, humans must always explore their feelings and needs. I liked how Weiser showed that, even within a science fiction context.

The trouble I had with this one, though is that everything seemed to work out just a bit too neatly. The little cave girl's doll was the worst example of this, changing as needed to save the day over and over again. Once is okay, but several times is a crutch to keep the plot moving. Similarly, Weiser's science works whenever he needs it to, without a lot of explanation. It might be asking a bit too much, but I'd have liked to have seen a few more failures to keep things realistic. I understand that the book is designed to have an all-ages feel, but I think a bit too much was sacrificed to keep the plot moving easily for anyone reading it.

Cavemen in Space is a sweet book with a good lesson for readers. There are a few holes in the story, which means I don't think this is as good as, say, Weiser's Mermin series or The Ride Home. However, it's a good story as long as you don't stop to think too long about how things are operating on the ship, and Weiser's illustrations keep getting better. I look forward to seeing where Weiser's sense of wonder and imagination take us next.