Writer: Mark Powers
Artist/Cover artist: Chris Lie
Colors: Joseph Baker
Letters: Brian J. Crowley
Editor: Mike O’Sullivan
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
Price: $3.50 US
To say Drafted is an ambitious project would be putting it lightly. Former X-Men editor Mark Powers has crafted a story in which every corner of the globe serves as a setting, and individuals from all over the world, from a diverse array of backgrounds, serve as the expansive cast of characters. While there are science-fiction elements in the story, Powers’s plot is more about sociological speculation and the politics of the apocalypse. It’s really quite intriguing and, like I said, ambitious. The problem is that it’s too large in scope. Powers spreads the story out over too many locales and too many characters. There’s a scattered quality to the plotting, and the reader is never given a central figure to latch onto. The art certainly captures the immensity of the story, conveying the detail of disaster effectively. Artist Chris Lie achieves a somewhat realistic look… until one looks at the characters’ faces. Devil’s Due is to be commended for experimenting with genre and subject matter here, but there are glitches in the experiment that interfere with the results.
Berlin and Ottawa have been devastated by earthquakes despite being located nowhere near any known fault lines. People in Jerusalem and St. Louis have been subject to a temporary quarantine in the wake of inexplicable but identical phenomena that befell both cities simultaneously. And now, aliens appear all over the planet, spreading the same message in every language: a deadly, cosmic threat is on the way and mankind’s only hope is to join and follow the commands of a coalition of the not-so willing from beyond the stars. People react differently to the message. Bitter enemies come together in prayer, while world leaders feel they’ve been given an ultimatum they cannot accept.
Chris Lie’s artwork is something of a cross between a manga look and Scott (Omega Flight) Kolins’s unique approach to comics storytelling. Lie crafts the backgrounds meticulously, conveying the huge scope and chaos of the disasters that have struck various cities planetwide without resorting to gore. He handles disparate settings quite well, and I would imagine it’s no small challenge to depict so many locations in a convincing manner. From a convenience store to Mecca, the detail is almost overwhelming but thoroughly effective. Where Lie’s art goes awry is with his depiction of the characters’ faces. He doesn’t convey differing, distinguishing features well, and many characters boast faces that look elongated, flattened or otherwise distorted. There’s not a lot of variety in the physical shapes of the characters either.
Powers achieves a nice balance between an encouraging message about world harmony and a more pessimistic view of international politics and humanity’s propensity for paranoia and violence. The former offers the most satisfying moments in the story, especially when it comes to the interaction of Jews and Palestinians. Powers’s script suggests that focusing all of mankind’s attention on the same issue at the same time would be a unifying experience, and the manner in which it’s presented is quite convincing, despite the incredible circumstances that led to it.
The writer also tries to bring the immensity of the events in the plot down to earth by filtering them through the eyes of some everyday characters. The problem is that we visit with each of the players in this drama so briefly that we never get to know him or her that well or the perception of what’s happening around them. The only character we really get to know on any significant level is U.S. President Preston Walker. Most of the cynicism in the story stems from his role. He’s something of a blowhard who wants to look tough and doesn’t really reflect long enough on the real ramifications of his decisions. In his first scene in this comic, he stumbles over his words during a news conference, which was clearly a jab at George W. Bush. The satirical look at the current U.S. leadership doesn’t fit with the overall tone of the plot and script.
While we don’t get to know the characters all that well, I realize that Powers’s main goals here are to set out the central premise and introduce the main players in the drama. Unfortunately, the slower pace doesn’t work all that well in the episodic format. I can’t help but wonder if Drafted might have worked better as a graphic novel. A larger format would have suited the larger purview of the plot. 5/10