July 2, 2015

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Series Review: Ei8ht 1-5, by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson


Ei8ht Issues 1-5
Created by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson
Script by Mike Johnson
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Joshua is sent through time on a mission that will make him question everything he thinks he knows about his past, present, and future in the mind-bending first arc of a new series that attacks the paradoxes of time travel head-on.

Great linework, dynamic coloring that helps ground the reader across multiple time periods (including a mysterious realm called The Meld, which appears to be outside specific time altogether), and a tight plot that must be impossibly complex at the drafting level come together to push this one into the recommended pile for me, just as it did for James in his review of issue one. While most time-travel stories tend to hand-wave at potential paradoxes (most notably that one with the living blue box), Albuquerque and Johnson instead opt to explore the problems inherent in mucking about with the time line, starting with something you rarely see--talking across time. In fact, that ability, however imperfect, ends up being a major plot point, as Joshua finds that help comes from an unlikely source--that may just link to himself in ways he never imagined.


Across the five issues, the creative team weaves an overarching mystery (What is the Meld?), a personal mystery (How does going into The Meld change Joshua's life, given what he finds there?), action-adventure (Can Joshua help stop a despot?), and of course, because it's a time travel story, a bit of Nazis thrown in for good measure. It's a careful balance, but the pair make it work, aided by Albuquerque's innovative decision to color the backgrounds of each period a certain way, preventing the reader from becoming unintentionally lost (intentional fog is present, too!). We're helped along by lines that are extremely loose and expressive. We can tell a lot about the characters by how they react, not just by the words places in their mouths by Johnson. Eye dart about, shoulders stoop or rise up when it's time to be heroic, and bodies are constantly in a state of motion, with emphasis not always placed on a full figure.

A particular scene that stands out to me is in issue 3, towards the end. Joshua and Nila, who are trying to stop the Nazi, are in a desperate situation. Joshua reacts, but has no time to let Nila know what he's doing. Albuquerque's panel breakdowns for this show Nila's panic, as she cannot comprehend what her supposed ally is doing to her. She's off-balance, then angry, then in sheer terror, and we know this partly from Johnson's dialogue, but mostly by tracking the look on Nila's face. She's wide-mouthed and wide-eyed, with fingers splayed trying to escape. It's such a great moment, and very typical of the linework featured in Ei8ht.



What's really impressive, though is the consistency of the art. For example, early on, Joshua is shot in the leg to prevent him from running away. Later in the comic, we see him running again--and the leg, now bandaged, is now bleeding. Another character's scars are always in the same place. These are details that should never be overlooked, but you'd be surprised how many comics--especially those featuring so-called "hot artists"--fail to keep quality control like that. Editor Sierra Hahn and the entire creative team deserve a lot of credit for ensuring continuity. In a comic where events can change due to the time shifting, being able to notice what stays the same--and what may change--is essential. The creators and editor understand that, and act accordingly.

Ei8ht has a ton of potential, and is a great sci-fi comic that I'm worried might have gotten overlooked. If you dig stories that feature theoretical physics, dinosaurs, and beating up on time-displaced Nazis, all with amazing visual work, make sure you grab these either as back issues or pre-order the trade in Previews now.