COMIC REVIEW: Aether and Empire #2 – The Status Quo
By Jeff Ayers
Writer: Mike Horan
Pencils and Inks: Bong Ty Dazo
Colors and Cover: Tim Yates
Blue Juice Comics
Issue 2 of Aether and Empire sets the reader right back down in late 1800’s Britain, complete with cockney accents and regal dress. Yet, true to the nature of Blue Juice Comics, this story is much more than it seems, airing on the side of the fantastical, with some science fiction too.
Straight from the cover, done again by the talented Tim Yates, this issue stands out on any comic book store rack. Rather than stick with the highly bombastic colors and theme of the first issue, this cover is a stark black background, with silver and gold imagery that instantly makes you think you are picking up an old tome, rather than a mere comic book. Again, this book, and the story within, is quite different from what you might expect, especially since the events of the first issue depicted flying airships, amidst a backdrop of a semi-normal late 1800’s Europe.
The reader is treated to an exchange between a worried scientist, Barnaby Dunwood, and Lillian, a woman of good standing who seems to be betrothed to another scientist. We learn that her fiancee is missing, and Dunwood wants to mount a rescue mission, in the name of science, and also for the lady he has secret affection for. This entire sequence plays out like a daytime drama on the BBC, and is helped along by heaping doses of “proper” old time-y speak, thanks to the deft writing style of Mike Horan. As the story progresses though, we learn that Captain James Bristow, the hero from the first book, is being tapped by Her Majesty’s military for the same mission. What is the mision? Why, the first manned mission to Mars, of course. In 1879. That is the kind of crazy cool twist the Blue Juice team of writers and artists are so good at producing, and it certainly takes Aether and Empire to a whole new height, pun intended.
The “Best There Is”: One thing that is incredibly hard to do as a writer, is to write in any accent, especially if it is not your own. Mike Horan is not from late 19th century Britain, or even British, cockney or otherwise. Yet, he does a great job holding down the tone of the characters, while not being too over the top. Sure, the first sequence in this issue is a little “soap opera”, but it is written that way to project the underlying themes behind the characters involved. The characters switch between well-to-do upper crust characters, to military type characters, to Everyman characters in a relatively simple pacing, which truly adds strength and gravity to this story. The line work by Bong Ty Dazo is beautiful in every panel, whether it is a close up of a single character, or a grand steam punk type set piece with crowds encircling it.
The “Isn’t Very Nice”: The amount of characters, motives and set pieces has already reached staggering levels in just two short issues. Aether and Empire, much like Blue Juice Comics’ other science-fiction story, The Accelerators, reads like a movie script and introduces the reader to many different story points at breakneck speed. It doesn’t call for more exposition, that could potentially derail the pace of the story, but maybe a “previously on” section at the beginning of the next few issues, to help readers keep the action straight. I really liked the mock newspaper headlines at the end of the issue, which did add to the story that was already played out, but holding the hand of the reader a little more might help keep everything in perspective. A minor gripe though to an otherwise stellar issue, because once the story is collected in a trade paperback, it will all be easier to digest as a whole.
FBI Score: 9.5 out of 10. Blue Juice Comics knows how to put a great creative team together, and publish some truly fascinating stories. Aether and Empire is quickly becoming another powerhouse in their growing arsenal, and in just two short issues Mike Horan, Bong Ty Dazo and Tim Yates have crafted a compelling story that can barely be contained on the page.