by Zachary Clemente
Mankind’s colonization of the galaxy has left countless planets mined bare and lifeless. A space transport crashes onto a backwater world whose unique properties set the stage for a story that combines the dark wonder of a strange and alien landscape with the struggles of an abandoned and lawless frontier town.
Something about the first issue of Drifter – the new frontier sci-fi story from Image Comics – leaves a raw, unnerved feeling in my gut that can’t be gripped. I can’t help but see an omnipresent sense of desperation that kicks off with the first page and gradually builds as Abram Pollux, our man in the midst, attempts to find sense in his new world. Bad things come in threes and he got dealt all of them.
There’s a poetic and almost antiquated mannerism to the way characters talk in the world that Drifter introduces us to. Their conversational cadence feels born out the expectation one would have of people living years in an isolated ramshackle frontier town on an alien planet: one part appropriately stunted, another part guarded familiarity, peppered with esoteric expressions. This kluged language serves the citizens and story of Drifter very well, serving to describe their affected state and the situation Pollux finds himself in.
Pollux’s internal reactionary dialogue lends a tenable perspective to the oddities presented around him, grounding this rust-and-dust world in his steadfastness. Not without fault though – it’s clear that the Pollux we meet here is a mere glance and what he’s all about; a past of gunning, wronging, and suffering trailing behind him. Inklings of shrapnel from every stripe is present in Drifter – from Pollux’s past to the welded-together town sparsely populated by outcasts at best.
I feel now that Drifter is going to come in with questions, raise even more along the way, and drop us off without answering most – but that’s just fine with me. I’m a sucker for fiction that trusts its audience with the world as it as and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. While it’s clear that the world of Drifter is heady with history and phenomena; I believe that they are a means to provide context to the plight of its inhabitants and will aide in the construction of the ongoing drama that is Pollux’s recently saved life.
I want to make it clear that my previous commentary is coming from a holistic view; I wouldn’t find Drifter successful as mere words. I don’t mean to say that Brandon isn’t an accomplished writer, I just think that the way the story is being told couldn’t occur without his collaborators. It’s strange, but for a story so intertwined with being “on the brink” Klein’s art is lush in a grandeur that seems of a uniquely European vein. Perhaps it’s the color choices, done by Klein as well, that evoke a willingness to experiment. I’m fondly reminded of the sketch and concept art of Ian McQue who blurs (perhaps literally) the line between paper and digital work that many contemporary artists ride. This extends to Robins’ letters, conveying narrative perspective with sublime ease. I’m not entirely sure it was him, but there is a really thoughtful segment where alien calls are powerfully featured as strong strokes of language that Pollux, therefore we, cannot decipher. Another exciting aspect is the inclusion of Muller’s design talents; carefully crafting a design evocative of star maps, he reminds us of the scale of Drifter. Considerations such as these can truly make world worth buying into.
Drifter #1 is a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to a clearly well-crafted frontier tale and I heartily encourage you to request your local store to order you a copy.
Final Order Cut-Off is Monday 10/20, Diamond Code: ICSEP140546.
Drifter #1 hits stands 11/12.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.