ELSEWHERE Vol. 1

Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Sumeyye Kesgin
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

It’s been a good while now that I’ve been checking out books by Jay Faerber that like to emphasize creating a kind of breezy, whimsical world and with a little added push on having a colorful cast of characters. ELSEWHERE, his new joint from Image Comics, does not seem to be shaking up his overall approach to what he likes to create in the sense of prioritizing backdrop and characters, but this time around he does shift a little out of his comfort zone by going almost “pure” fantasy with his world and then a dramatic shift of making the lead in that world an actual human like you and me in disappeared aviator, Amelia Earhart. Which is fun for a multitude of reasons, first and foremost being her very much “fuck you, I do what I want because I’m Amelia Earhart” attitude works well in a fantasy setting. But, unfortunately, what doesn’t really work for me, at least after this first collection of issues, is that kind of tone in the fantastical setting Faerber concocted with collaborator Sumeyye Kesgin.

Here’s the deal onto why ELSEWHERE, while overall enjoyable, didn’t quite sell me. The world ELSEWHERE inhabits, Korvath, is a very lush and vibrant world thanks to the world that Kesgin does here. There’s floating islands, flowing plains, some creative architecture on the buildings and some cuddly yet bite your head off flying beasts and whatnot. It’s all a really great visual package to behold as Amelia gets a crash course in it, literally, as she parachutes into Korvath after the incident that disappeared here from our world and into the history books. And while it looks so beautiful on the outside, it’s filled with your typical, darker fantasy backdrop items these days: A ruthless overlord, plucky rebels fighting to stem off and hopefully overthrow the oppressive regime, some vicious creatures out to mindlessly stamp out our heroes while they run from sentient villains. It is a well-executed and realized world with some reality intrusions beyond Ms. Earhart that add some flavor to the stew Faerber and Kesgin are churning up. Unfortunately, its breezy tendencies and a rather incompetent villainous horde added to the mix also tend to horribly undercut any real tension the book tries to create.

I really don’t want to give too much away in this first volume for those looking to try it for themselves, but to emphasize my last point I have to give at least a Crib’s Notes. And in those notes, in the span of four issues we are introduced to two rebels escaping the dungeons of the evil and wrathful Lord Kragen who run into Amelia, Amelia willfully is taken in by Kragen’s minions hoping to find her missing copilot, Fred Noonan, before easily escaping after coming up empty on that gambit, and then later her and like three dozen rebels launch a rescue mission on Kragen’s fortress looking for captured allies and a last ditch gambit that Fred is there before hopping out of there. Three times in four issues Kragen and his forces completely fail to stop this “rag tag” band of misfits from basically coming and going at will. That’s like, Skeletor, levels of incompetence. Michael Wolff is going to be writing a tell-all book on how pathetically inept this regime is when it comes to stopping plucky lady pilots from the 1930’s. Even if you factor in maybe some latent attachment with the (sadly pretty predictable) reveal toward the end, it seems like the only thing this despotic army has going for them are fear, which I guess may end up being the point once we get some more world-development as ELSEWHERE progresses. For now, though, it kind of softens the impact of a world that can’t tell if it wants to be a playground for our lead or a harrowing realm in need of some light.

All that criticism factored in, I am still not sure if I’m writing this book off yet. It does have a ton of personality going for it, that’s for sure. Amelia herself, obviously, has a lot of positive energy and adventuring spirit going for her, even if it overshadows the villainy afoot in this book and pretty well neuters their threat level. Also, the potential for some other reality merging into the world of Korvath is intriguing here; we already have famous con man D.B. Cooper involved and he’s a fun side-character, so who knows who else Faerber and Kesgin will rip out of the zeitgeist of whatever eras they choose. Being able to play with fantasy tropes and historical tropes given the erratic nature of how Korvath interacts with Earth Prime, or whatever you want to all for it. There are a lot of neat little world-building hooks and nooks and crannies to this world, but this first story arc just speeds by these things a little too fast to let the reader fully think about the implications of them all, while also wheeling down and past a villain that for all intents and purposes looks pretty toothless in their debut and as a doorstop to where Amelia’s path takes her as she tries to get back home. ELSEWHERE is home to a very magical and endearing place, but it didn’t quite enthrall me with its spell that felt hastily cast. Faerber and Kesgin seem like they could be on the verge of a breakthrough, though, so I may give them one more chance to wrap me up in their wizardry.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.

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