In Review: Artifact One #4

A good stopping point, but not a conclusion for this saga.

The covers: Two different covers to find, hopefully without interference from the Akoulouth. The A cover is by Romina Moranelli, the interior illustrator. This has Remi getting grasped from behind by one of the creatures she encountered in the cave at the end of last issue. I like her dramatic pose and the odd design of the antagonists, that could be a costume or some type of fusion of flesh and metal. The colors are too dark on this, however, with the creatures a blob of color. Even Remi is too dark, with the emotion in her face lost in the darkness. The image that accompanies this review is lighter than the physical copy I purchased. Better is the B cover by JP Mavinga. This is a setting at night that’s illuminated by the tremendous fire of a tree that Remi is watching burn. The whites, oranges, and yellows overpower the darkness and allow just enough of Remi, who’s got her back to the reader, to be seen. I love the layout and the tease of what this event will mean in this issue. Overall grades: A C+ and B B

The story: The two creatures that chased Remi last issue have taken off their masks to reveal they’re humanoid. They speak to one another in a language Remi can’t understand until she says hello and asks them several questions. The female answers, “We are the lost tribe. Descendants from a forgotten world. Sent into the farthest reaches of space.” As the third generation of survivors they “ventured back out into the world, but disguised so we might have a better chance. So that we might not just survive, but thrive.” Amaithea, the woman, states that the buckle that Remi holds, that says NASA, is a symbol of their home. “Our way.” This revelation from writers J.T. Krull and Vince Hernandez is put aside to return to Halden where her friend discovers someone he was supposed to look after missing. Running to the center of town he finds the person who is missing and then something happens to him. The fate of both men is discovered by Remi, Amaithea, Ezra, and three others that night. Something happens soon after this discovery that’s exciting, but forces Remi to make a decision. The final three pages have Remi journeying to a new location where she is shown something that will continue to change her views. This conclusion seems rushed, as characters are dealt with very quickly and Remi is rushed to see something. There is not a conclusion to Remi’s story, merely a pause with the hope that it will be continued soon. I enjoyed what I read, but felt unfilled by the quick end, though the last panel is a masterstroke. Overall grade: B-

The art: I am still impressed by the artwork by Romina Moranelli. She has created a wonderful world of people and constructions that I could spend forever having her guide me through. The two individuals that are revealed in this issue are similar enough to Remi to be of a similar species, but different enough to stand out in a crowd. The second and third pages visually summarize what happened to the people that landed on Adenia. It’s accompanied by narration, but it’s so clearly drawn by Moranelli it doesn’t need to be read, though I would advise doing so. The worry on the young man’s face on 5 is palpable and what he sees on 6 is heartbreaking. I love the looming figure behind him in the fourth panel and the final panel on the page is a good cliffhanger. The imagery in the fifth panel is saddening and I was surprised that there’s no reaction from Remi in the sixth panel; I know that she is part of an alien culture, but the lack of emotion to what she sees makes what’s seen worthless to the reader. Thankfully, this is the only visual mistep in Moranelli’s repertoire. The full-paged splash on 8 is great with it clear as to where everyone is before the action begins. I like this scuffle and how Remi participates. Page 12 returns to a familiar setting and I like the sequence of actions done at this place. The power of what Remi has done is immense at the top of 13. This power is a good lead to the next panel which has her making a decisive action. Every panel on 14 is beautiful. On this page the lack of emotion from Remi is justified by her thoughts. The trek on 15 is good, with the setting and the characters excellent. The next two pages are set in a different location and the action there is shocking, nefarious, and wonderfully staged. The close-up that ends the sequence is fantastic when combined with the two words of text. The design of the item on the penultimate page is spectacular. What’s revealed on the final page is a very simple design and I admit to wanting it to be a little more complex, though the final image is the best visual climax since the ending of the original Planet of the Apes film. I would definitely be welcome to seeing more work by Moranelli. Overall grade: A

The colors: The major setback of this book are the colors are way too dark on several pages. Being a comic book, it’s okay to cheat with the reality of a situation, such as on the first page which is set in a cave. Lighter colors, such as blues, could have been used to connote a dark environment. Colorist Enrica Eren Angiolini (Pages 1 – 15), with flats by Viviana Spinelli, makes it difficult to see the visuals. Better are the two pages of flashbacks that tell the tale of the people Remi has encountered. I really like the use of pinks, violets, and blues to create this alien environment. The fourth page’s center panel is a much brighter image of Amaithea. She and Ezra should have been this easily seen from the start. Lightening the cave would have helped considerably. I like the pale yellows for Halden, but when back to Remi and her allies look how dark things have become; Page 7 is practically a waste with only Remi clear. The same holds true on 8 where the characters blend too easily into the settings. Again, lightening the background would have aided the visuals. The action taken on 12 is beautiful and becomes a stunning sight due to the strong colors on 13. Daylight improves things immensely, but they they again go too dark for the next four pages. Case in point, the sound effect on 16 cannot be read because the sound blends in with the visual — and it’s on a white background! This was very disappointing. If I can’t see the visuals, why am I purchasing a book that depends on visuals? Overall grade: D+ 

The letters: Dezi Sienty is responsible for the indecipherable dialogue between the aliens, dialogue, sounds, and the concluding for words. I like the way Sienty makes the aliens incomprehensible to the reader and Remi, increasing their alien feel. I love that lower case letters are used in Remi’s dialogue and those who speak the same tongue. It’s rare to see this in comic books and doing so calls attention to it and reminds the reader that these characters aren’t human. There are a few sounds in this issue and they’re good, but the addition of more, especially during the fight, would have made it more exciting. It’s not Sienty’s decision to do so, that’s on the writers. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A good stopping point, but not a conclusion for this saga. Characters seem to be rushed to get to their final destinations, though the ending is a triumph. I loved the artwork, which has created a wonderfully unique look for this world. Had the coloring not been so dark it would have been more enjoyable to see. The letters are also visually arresting, done in a font that emphasizes the difference between the races. I enjoyed this series quite a bit and I hope that Aspen doesn’t take too long to continue Remi’s saga. Overall grade: B-

To order a print copy go to https://www.aspenstore.com/Artifact-One-4-Cover-A-_p_4386.html

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Artifact-One-4/digital-comic/762813?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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