By Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Comic books are without a doubt one of the few mediums where you can get away with loads of unconventional storytelling on top of already innovative, even experimental, concepts. Regular readers can handle it, though, and are even prepared to buy books based on a short synopsis and a preview of the art — more so if they recognize a name from the credits. Maybe they understand that not every comic needs to be told the same way, maybe they appreciate the variety, or maybe they just know that comic books have the ability to do more than, say TV or film. There’s something to be said for the right combination of writing and artwork, especially when it’s enough for fans to gamble on a serialized story that may not even make total sense after the first issue. It could be creator recognition, or perhaps someone is drawn to the book for the other reasons, the material itself, but the truth is, assuming there’s a hook of some kind, new titles continue to prosper in an industry overflowing with options.
Ether, the exciting new comic from Dark Horse by Matt Kindt (Dept. H) and David Rubin (The Fiction), is a great example of what it takes to attract readers, while at the same time pushing the boundaries of what a comic could be and all without committing to one specific genre. Ether acts as a sort of filter for everything great about comics, meaning everything possible within comics. The first issue sets up the plot, and does a large degree of exposition, although mysteries persist. On the one hand the storyline is, on its surface, a mystery and our hero Boone Dias is the gung-ho investigator. On the other hand, at its core, Ether may be an exploration of more personal and dramatic subject matter. Besides who the creators may be — which in this case are two top-notch pros — and the fact that this is a murder mystery, all you really need to know going into this new series is that it’s a visually emotional trip across worlds.
Beyond that, Matt Kindt writes the story within several genres: sci-fi, fantasy, magic, action-adventure etc., with a focus on supernatural elements. Despite a lot of explanation there are still things unknown to us, and plenty of reason to keep reading. At the end of the first issue we’re a little more filled in, more intrigued and slightly more perplexed. Kindt delivers fun characters with genuine personality as well as evenly paced, authentic dialogue. What may not feel totally new and original is still in Kindt’s distinctive style and anyone familiar with his work knows that he produces a sense of originality in everything he does. Kindt’s brand is fun, but not in an all-ages appropriate context. He’s writing for grown-ups who want to enjoy the experience without feeling like they’ve invested in a guilty pleasure, or a high-risk concept. It’s one thing to be innovative, even experimental, as long as you don’t sacrifice the reader’s attention span or interest. Kindt writes stories, this one in particular, that make us ask questions out of amusement and curiosity rather than confusion or bewilderment. You’ll want to know more about the world, the creatures living in it and just how much experience Boone Dias has with the Ether and how it affects his life in the real world. Basically, Kindt can’t reveal enough about this fantastic place called Ether!
But when it comes to Ether’s art, by David Rubin, the book goes well past fun and is downright exciting. It’s exactly what makes this comic such a trip, and in fact trippy. Color palettes alone are crucially important here, but also pleasantly unhinged. Rubin’s colors show us an all-new, highly imaginative world, but also do more than just insinuate a place other than our Earth. The obvious contrast between worlds is key, but there seems to be a thrill on Rubin’s part that transcends to the page where he knows nothing needs to be a certain way. The sky is green in one scene, with multiple suns on the horizon, then pink and speckled on the very next page with total disregard for time of day. It works so well because it doesn’t have to work in a normal, typical manner. Rubin’s style is near psychedelic anyway in the way his line work is loose yet exact, detailed yet random. Buildings and structures take all shapes and form, characters likewise are inspired by all manner of creature, human or otherwise. In short, this book is right up his alley; however, without his thoughtfully artful approach the comic may not have the same impact on readers.
Just when you think there’s no room on the new release rack for a new title, Ether comes along and changes your mind. If the combination of Kindt and Rubin is enough to make us sit up and take note, then reading issue #1 is enough to make you add it to your pull list. Need a change from overdramatic or mainstream comics? Then look here. Need an entertaining mystery that’ll keep you engaged while putting a smile on your face? Then check this one out…Ether is likely the next big, standout book and is sure to gain appreciation and recognition alike as the series progresses. There’s nothing wrong with yet another new series, especially when it’s of this caliber.
Ether #1 will be released on November 16th from Dark Horse Comics