It may be hard to type – and sound like a sequel to Se7en – but “Ei8ht” is off to a solid start. This time travel-themed miniseries from Dark Horse unfolds its plot gradually, hitting some unusual notes along the way.
Written by Rafael Albuquerque & Mike Johnson
Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque
From American Vampire’s Rafael Albuquerque!
Welcome to the Meld, an inhospitable dimension in time where Joshua, a chrononaut, finds himself trapped. With no memory or feedback from the team of scientists that sent him, he can’t count on anything but his heart and a stranger’s voice to guide him to his destiny.
* From the artist of American Vampire!
* Cowritten with Mike Johnson (Supergirl)!
* Traverse the past, the present, the future . . . and welcome to the Meld!
The first page of the comic explicitly colour-codes everything for us: “The past is green. The present is purple…” It’s an interesting approach, and not one I’ve come across – as least not laid out this clearly. We don’t get the opportunity to make use of the scheme, though; this issue takes place mostly in the Meld, a sepia-coloured in-between space that our cronut – chrononaut – winds up in.
Other than the fact that he is there – and scientists have something to do with it – we’re pretty much as lost as Joshua is. He’s come from the future, and so has little memory, in this limbo, of what he’s supposed to be doing. This would seem like an odd place to start a comic, but luckily, a tiny dinosaur sorts things out for us. I won’t lie: the tiny dinosaur alone garners this comic extra points. I don’t care what they do; tiny dinosaurs make good comics, and this one serves a plot purpose by leading Joshua straight into trouble.
I’m not the biggest fan of time travel stories, mostly because, especially in comics, they tend to skew towards fragmentation, toward jumping around between time periods and hoping the reader will keep up. The relatively linear course of this issue – the gradual building up of Joshua’s predicament, from tiny dinosaur to band of marauders – is refreshing. There’s something to be said for actually sinking your teeth into something before we go bounding across space and time. And if the colour-coding scheme is anything to go by, bound around we will, soon enough.
Dialogue-wise, Joshua is too busy freaking out for us to get a read on him; the marauders don’t surprise us much with what they say either. We do get a surprise, early on, from a scientist, who hints at a romantic tendency in Joshua. This thread is, of course, left hanging; but it’s a touch of emotionality, and it offsets the grim world of the Meld nicely. One would hope Joshua is going through all this for some good reason, and while it’s a rather slender piece of background story, it’ll do for now.
Rafael Albuquerque’s art looks lovely in its sandy tones touched with turquoise. Bits of red – a colour with no role in the colour-coding scheme – escape the realm of utility and break up the sandy desolation. There’s a tendency towards starkness; lots of empty backgrounds here in this Meld, contrasted with cluttered, jagged foregrounds. Joshua, too, is a mess – a cross-hatched jumble of stubble and frayed nerves who sometimes disappears into his environment entirely.
The marauders are ragtag in typical fashion, and it’s only the youngest of them, Hari, who really stands out. Albuquerque skews sweet but not saccharine in her portrayal, getting across our first indication that the Meld isn’t a complete hellhole.
To get back to the tiny dinosaur for a second: Albuquerque draws this one with a lot of flair, choosing some wonderful, catlike poses. The larger beasts that show up for the last few pages are similarly impressive; they have an appreciable weight to them, and conspire with the unusual architecture to keep the Meld disorienting.
The reveal of the last page falls a little flat, mostly because it’s not a reveal with a lot a suspense behind it. We’re just meeting a new character, and so many comics end that way that it almost feels like a cop-out. It would seem this series is going for macro, trade paperback appeal, though, so less-than-stellar issue endings can probably be forgiven.Continued below
It’s hard to make a sweeping judgement about “Ei8ht”, based on this issue; we’re getting a glimpse of just a sliver of the overall story. That said, this deliberate pacing may also be the series’ greatest strength, giving us time to absorb the strangeness of Joshua’s situation. In the mean time, the appeal of the art is strong, and the colour-coding aspect shows a lot of promise. So far as miniseries go, “Ei8ht” might be a tiny dinosaur worth following.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – Could be the start of something gr8.