By Steven Prince
On the run from galactic bounty hunters, amidst a sea of political and religious subterfuge, two star-crossed loners may very well hold the key to all there is and all there will be. If only they believed in that sort of hogwash. Following up on last year’s The Third: Revelation, Steven Prince takes cues from The Incal, Saga and The Fifth Element and presents the next chapter in his wholly independently produced tale in The Third: Rebirth.
Allowing indie creators the opportunity to get their work into the hands of hundreds of thousands comic fans, the Comixology Submit program is a much-needed and much welcomed option. It’s a chance for consumer and creator alike to celebrate in the tradition of sharing stories and opening doors for budding writers and artists whose abilities and ideas may never have had the chance to develop, let alone ever flourish. Steven Prince should be commended for taking full advantage of this and readers should, in turn, take the dive into the ever-expanding world of The Third that he is building.
In brief, the story thus far has introduced us to Anneli Sur Michio, a young woman comes from a long line of planetary crystal miners, a perilous profession (think Deadliest Catch fisherman, but with like spaceship bungee-jumping). On her first jump, she stumbled across The Third, a “mythical object of faith and untold power”, that is at the heart of the galaxy’s primary religion as ruled by Don Maximus of the Universal Church. That dude has The First and The Second and he’s kinda into having the complete set, what with the potential for unlimited power it is believed to have. Anneli meets Devan who initially tries to steal The Third, no knowing what it is, only to find themselves targets of bounty hunters working for Maximus. Got it? Great, let’s look at where we are now.
Firmly set in the sci-fi adventure genre, it’s scope is bold and ideas well-conceived. One could pick up this new three-issue chapter without having read the initial entry, but expect a slightly steep learning curve in fully understanding the motivations and backgrounds to many of the characters. That said, Prince has a firm grasp on their personalities and nicely introduces (or re-introduces) both Anneli and Devan in the opening pages of issue one.
Serious and hardened from a tragedy-rife youth, Anneli is on her own for the first time and hides her insecurities behind her steely demeanor. In sharp contrast, is the headphone-wearing, ne’er-do-well, occasional thief, Devan, who’s no stranger to hardships himself. Their dynamic is unquestionably the strength of the book, their playful jabs at each other successfully written honestly and never feeling entirely forced even as it moves beyond the “will they, won’t they?” phase it inevitably was headed. Prince also delivers the best dialogue of the series through these two, as well as the ship’s disembodied intelligence, Mifune. The same can’t be said for the antagonists of the book, as quite a bit of their dialogue borders on cliché, specifically the near-Iago like evil proclamations of Don Maximus and the action movie tough-guy threats of bounty hunter Bilal. That however doesn’t impact Prince’s structuring ability, as events move naturally and thoughtfully throughout these three issue and deftly shift focus from the machinations of Senators and business leaders to the more dire struggle Anneli and Devan find themselves in.
Surprisingly, but seemingly intentionally, Rebirth doesn’t delve too much further into the mythology of the three omnipotent artifacts that have framed the events therein. Instead, Prince takes the time to smartly explore his character’s perspective on the nature of belief, in a higher power, in creation myth, in anything. Anneli, during a particularly spirited exchange, may have very well hit the nail on the head as she relates her father’s own religious leanings, “Believe what you want, but don’t trust anyone that tells you what you must believe.” Echoing similar sentiment, but for entirely more narcissistic reasons, are Maximus’ son and his cadre of collaborators looking to overthrow the current religious status quo. Prince plays these scenes for all their Shakespearean Caesar-like drama, building the suspense by highlighting their increasing anxiety at their lack of action. Both the deeper myth of this world’s origins and the ultimate actions taken by those looking to usurp it are the key ingredients to wanting to return for The Third’s next installment.
Admittedly, for those that typically only read the latest Big Two or big name creator-owned books every week, the art is going to be a jarring change from the norm. Prince is at a stage of not yet having a style per se, but if one were pressed, his straight and determined line work could be considered to be in a very raw Annie Wu-type camp. But the kicker is, Prince clearly demonstrates great artistic instinct, if not developed rendering ability. There are some panels that utilize great dramatic camera angles (a sniper in the jungle, a bounty hunter parachuting down in space on an unsuspecting Devan) and it is never unclear what’s happening. There’s just a general flatness to the art, a lack of depth to the figures and their relationships to the setting that may very well be indicative of the tools used, as it is the ability. There are a few scenes where Prince does incorporate shadowing and hatching effectively (an amorous encounter in a tent comes to mind) that makes the inconsistency of its application all the more apparent. It should be said that on the whole, Prince has visually come a long way from Revelation and his figure work is significantly less stiff and backgrounds more detailed, specifically the jungle flora on Gir-O. He knows when to go small and when to go large and how to lead one panel into the next. The art is never bad, and that’s not damning with faint praise either, it legitimately succeeds in delivering an experience that communicates who these characters are and the scale on which the events are occurring. Prince’s instincts shine through in each issue.
The Third: Rebirth in many ways reflects the core of what Comixology Submit program is all about; steadfastly exploring a vast space of limitless stories, unsure where you fit in the larger scheme of things or if there even is a larger scheme and meeting and confronting obstacles along the way. Putting yourself out there against an established, powerful entity. Most importantly, finding your story.
Issue One of The Third: Rebirth can be found on Comixology here for $0.99: The Third Vol 2: Rebirth #1
The Third: Revelation, in its three-issue entirety, is also available on Comixology here for $3.99: The Third Vol. 1: Revelation