Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Looking for sci-fi setting inspiration? Forget Mass Effect and head to your local comic shop.

Ever since the New 52 launched last August, I've been buying comics weekly digitally from Comixology and have been loving it. I've been focusing on superhero books and only buying three of four different issues each week after I've figured out which would work in the long run, and I've noticed a real trend in the books I keep on buying and enjoying - Science Fiction!

SF has always been more core genre since Star Wars as a kid, and even my love of Lord of the Rings can't quite push me over the edge to say I prefer fantasy over science fiction. Of course, if you can mix it up together, all the better. I find that the titles I'm buying even from the larger publishers tend toward more science fiction-y tropes and settings. For example, it being Wednesday, I picked up three issues from series I started with and haven't quit - Green Lantern, Batman and Robin, and Wolverine and the X-Men. While all three books are definitely superhero books, they also all tend toward high-tech gadgets, outlandish villains, and quirky aliens.

Even more so, this seems to be the year of Image Comics, and two books that recently launched have really captured my imagination. Even better, they're both very firmly rooted in the tradition of mashing-up science fiction and fantasy, although the first one is more of the swords and planets variety while the second is looking like it might be a definitive space opera.

Prophet is just two issues in (starting at at #21 with pretty much a complete revamp of the character from the 90's), but it's AMAZING when it comes to new ideas. Conan meets Rip Van Winkle meets Planet of the Apes (but weird), The art from Prophet is one things that sets it apart from everything else I'm reading right now.

At times it can be weird, down-right gross, and uncomfortable, but the story is amazing. It's set in the extreme far future and our main character is only slightly more aware of what's going on than the reader is. In just two issues, Prophet has presented an amazingly weird world that defies genre expectations. It's cryptic, constantly throws new ideas at you, and you are desperate but eager to keep up with the pace. I really recommend picking the first issue up digitally for $1.99 to give it a shot and see if you it's your thing. Then, do your best to not be incredibly motivated to play a traditional swords & sorcery game out of the setting.

Saga, which heralds the return of Brian K. Vaughn to comic writing, is probably one of the biggest hyped books to come out in a while. It's actually a fairly traditional story of star-crossed lovers, and while the characters are likable and interesting (something fans of BKV will come to expect of his writing), it's really the outrageous setting that drew me in.

Saga presents a world (galaxy really) of two races who have always been at war. You can see a representative of each race just by glancing to the left there at the cover of the first issue. And yes, that's a baby, so you probably think you've got it all figured out. Truthfully, you probably do have a lot of it figured out regarding the story, but the setting itself is something different.

Magic and tech exist just as equally viable methods to get your way in the universe of Saga. I was quite taken aback when early on in the issue we were shown some truly cool D&D style magic showing up in the middle of this clearly science fiction setting.

Also, there's robots, or some kind of weird mechanical guys with TV's for heads. It gets kind of hard to explain, but it's safe to say that Saga will be published as long as BKV wants to do the work. I would love to see an officially-sanctioned RPG for this universe (yes, even after only one issue), as I feel like there's a lot of meat on the bones and a TON of room to play around and create something original with your playgroup.

So there you have it! Mass Effect is great, but for real science fiction inspiration, comics has taken a turn for the awesome. Don't miss out.

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