The Seeds #1
“1. Before We Go”
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist/Cover artist/Letters: David Aja
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books
Price: $3.99 US
This dystopian, sci-fi comic reads as though it’s drawing heavily from current events, turning relevant socio-economic themes of today on their ear in a dark vision of tomorrow, but it’s entirely possible this concept predates the era of Trump and Brexit politics. If that’s the case, then writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja couldn’t have found a better cultural backdrop against which to release this morose exploration of society. The script isn’t just cynical. It’s dripping with cynicism, slathered in it. And as a cynic, I loved it. The book also speaks to me as a journalist, as one of the central characters struggles to balances the struggles of the business of news with the idealism that’s inherent in what I see as a calling, not just a profession.
In the not-too distant future, walls have been built up around privilege, around Western culture that barely crawling forward, and everyone looks for an escape. Some escape into drugs, some into sex, but a few escape over the wall to a dead zone with no technology but a filthy kind of freedom. A journalist named Astra, forced to toil on sensationalist clickbait, yearns to tell the story of what’s happening on the other side of the wall, but happenstance points her in the direction of the biggest story of her lifetime.
There’s a lot more going on in this surprisingly subtle comic than my synopsis above would suggest, not the least of which are Nocenti’s darkly playful exploration of the notions of seeds, from which the book derives its title. There are references to a surreptitious seed bank from a doomed planet, to semen, to the importance of bees in pollination. It all makes for challenging, intellectual and highly engaging storytelling. There are multiple facets to the plot here, and competing conflicts.
The time I spend keeping up on comics news and soliciting of upcoming new comics is far more limited than it used to be, so I had no idea this title was on its way. There were two elements on the cover that told me all I needed to know: “Berger Books” and “David Aja.” Aja’s work for Marvel on The Immortal Iron Fist and Hawkeye set him apart from run-of-the-mill super-hero genre artists, and I’m thrilled to see him take on something far more unusual and mature here (not that those previous projects weren’t great offerings from Marvel Entertainment). The two-tone approach to the art here reinforces the sullen, hopeless tone of the setting and the characters perfectly. The designs are striking, notably for Astra and Lola (and the latter’s wheelchair). I love how Aja conveys the aliens’ inhumanity without having to show the reader they’re actually aliens, and I was struck by how well he captured the chaos of a newsroom. The cover is striking as well, but it looks far more like something one would find on a Jonathan Hickman comic (though that’s certainly not a bad thing).
Given my day job, I was obviously most interested in Astra’s storyline. Given the assaults on journalism that have become unfortunately commonplace in the United States these days, I was surprised that Nocenti chose to offer some pointed criticisms of the profession here. However, those barbs are deserved. Fortunately, Astra, though jaded, stands out as a shining example of a reporter who still believes in the truth, in the craft of telling people’s stories, in the importance of journalism – on local scales and broader ones.
Seeds is ultimately an exploration of self-imposed apocalypse, examining the end of the world literally, but also economically and culturally. It makes for an incredibly dour read, but the importance of the themes the creators bring to light with so much darkness is undeniable. This comic also makes it clear (as if it weren’t apparent just from then editor’s reputation alone) that titles in Karen Berger’s new imprint at Dark Horse aren’t to be missed. 9/10