Boom Studios 2015
Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Eric Scott Pfeiffer
In the early 21st Century, seven billion people died during a global papillomavirus outbreak. As the disease tore through communities, the world’s governments took radical action to ensure humanity’s survival: the brains of the dying were scanned, modelled, and uploaded to a vast computer simulation housed in enormous data centers around the globe. They called this simulation Arcadia.
Welcome to the future of science fiction, one that infuses reality with technology that isn’t too far off in our own future. There’s something inherently fascinating and creepy at the same time of a global pandemic sweeping the world and then taking the memories and essences of the dying and putting them into a virtual reality environment. Families, people living their lives in virtual reality never aging never growing older and yet still learning, thinking and more importantly evolving. What happens when that environment isn’t enough for them and they want more? Surely this sounds like a recipe for disaster.
There’s something dark and ominous as Alex and Eric start this story. While we don’t really see the process i’m guessing the first page is taking one of the dying and putting her into her new reality which is immediately followed by a man working outside Arcadia Base Station 1. It isn’t pleasant and appears to be lonely gut wrenching work also there seems to be so much more than meets the eye. Governments are smaller and nations having had taken such a hit aren’t in the game of espionage as they used to be but we see some of it here.
Then we move onto a new scene and surprisingly it takes a while before you understand what’s really happening here. A girl is flying and a helicopter is warning her off that Arizona is a no fly zone. It seems that the virus had more than one effect, then again we get plenty of written clues if you are paying attention. This is my first exposure to Alex’s writing, that I can recall, and I have to tell you it’s a shining new voice in the sci-fi genre. I really enjoyed seeing the two sides of the story one from a person inside the new virtual reality existence and one from a person close to her on the outside and you see how one has aged and one hasn’t it really is quite remarkable.
There’s a meeting of the President of the United States with people inside the system as well and it looks kind of bleak in some ways as those inside see themselves and the majority and living bodies the minority so who has the rights and who exactly are the ones in control? This isn’t a book you can breeze through you have to really read it and think about what’s going on here because if you try to skim or go too fast you’ll miss something.
Eric’s work on the interiors is pretty remarkable as well. The darker scenes in the real world are dramatic and evoke feelings that something wicked this way comes. In Arcadia the world is brighter more futuristic and at times stunningly glorious, I’m thinking Arcadia New York City for the latter. Also the depiction of some of these people in Arcadia look like silver skeletons and they just give that creepy you can’t trust me vibe making the dialogue we see that much more impactful.
This is new and different and unique in ways it combines these different factors. The Pandemic, the fall of society as we know it and the rise of something new and uncontrollable really is both exciting and terrifying all at once.