With a strong female lead character and otherworldly artwork, “Elsewhere” reimagines the disappearance of America’s most famous female pilot like never before.
Written by Jay Faerber
Illustrated by Sumeyye Kesgin
Colored by Ron Riley
Lettered by Thomas Mauer
Mysteriously transported to a strange new world filled with flying beasts and alien civilizations, Amelia desperately struggles to return home. Along the way, she forges alliances and makes enemies as she goes from aviator to freedom fighter in a rebellion against a merciless warlord!
Like the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, or Stone Henge, Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance somewhere over the Pacific in 1937 is the kind of story that lends itself to endless speculation. Seven decades later, amateur historians and armchair detectives still sift through the meager evidence available to explore increasingly tenuous “What if” scenarios and intricate conspiracy theories.
Recently, in fact — in an incredible stroke of luck for Image Comics and “Elsewhere” co-creators Jay Faerber and Sumeyye Kesgin — a previously undiscovered picture emerged that seemed to offer an interesting solution. In the photograph, which bears an official stamp from the Office of Naval Intelligence, a ship tows a barge that appears to carry an airplane. On the dock in the foreground, several people stand, looking toward the camera. Until the theory was later debunked (the photo, it turns out, was published a full two years before Earhart disappeared), many people were convinced that the photograph showed Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, alive and in Japanese custody, having survived their alleged crash. As with previous finds, this tantalizing new discovery made international headlines and reignited the conversation among fans all over the world. It may have been completely off base and not viable in the end, but at least it was entertaining, for a while.
It also set the stage beautifully for the far more entertaining, far more imaginative “Elsewhere,” which picks up where the thread of history ends to spin a compelling fantasy tale that feels like what should have happened. Thankfully, in the debut issue, at least, the story doesn’t even pretend to offer real answers, and that’s exactly what makes it so fun.
On the very first page, Turkish illustrator Sumeyye Kesgin (one of the book’s co-creators, along with writer Jay Faerber) renders a brilliantly otherworldly scene that immediately helps us abandon any preconceived notions. A rocky fortress looms high above several stone spires, an impossibly massive moon just over the horizon. On the next page, which immediately thrusts us into the action, we meet two furry, humanoid prisoners (Cort and Tavel) in the midst of making their escape. In the space of a few short panels, we’ve got a vividly drawn, yet still mysterious setting; a pair of interesting characters who aren’t exactly like us, but still very relatable; and a high stakes action sequence that immediately grabs our attention.
Bam! This is exactly how an issue, and a series, should start.
And just as we’re beginning to invest emotionally in Cort and Tavel (who are still in chains, desperately trying to avoid the lights of “the spotters”), they discover Amelia Earhart, hanging from a tree in her parachute. It’s a brilliant and efficient beginning that expertly avoids tiresome exposition and cumbersome backstory. We simply suspend our disbelief and dive in.
Aside from creating a unique and compelling world, Kesgin renders Earhart with a combination of grit and style that show her toughness and badassery one moment, her underlying vulnerability the next. It’s a great combination. She is simultaneously heroic and “larger than life,” yet fully human, too. A stranger in a strange land. Naturally, she is completely comfortable soaring through the air. In this case, standing on the back of a “steed,” a huge, leathery looking creature with dragon’s wings and a flowing mane like a lion’s. In one killer two-page spread, she holds the creature’s reins, expertly guiding it between a series of floating islands that hover in mid-air, chained to the unseen ground far below. Savor the scene and note what can only be foreshadowing of things to come. It’s utterly gorgeous.
As great as the artwork and story are, however, some of the dialogue sounds stilted and forced. In one clunky exchange, Faerber goes a bit too far out of his way to explain English and “Korvathian” (spoken by Cort and Tavel) must be the same thing, despite the fact the characters have been communicating effortlessly from the start. It seems awkward and unnecessary to explain this rare coincidence (rather than just accepting it for what it is) while needlessly interrupting the flow.Continued below
Similarly, the line work is brilliant, but the overall color palette feels unnecessarily constrained. Virtually all of the scenes take place outside at night, so deep blues and greens dominate, but it would certainly add a great deal of visual interest to work in more frequent warm accents. As it stands right now, other than occasional magenta and bright white speech bubbles, it’s all a bit monochromatic and tends to run together.
Thankfully, the overall premise and strong characterization of Amelia herself, not to mention the great twist at the end, are more than enough to overcome these minor deficiencies.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – “Elsewhere” nicely taps into our fascination with high profile unsolved mysteries. With a well balanced characterization of Amelia Earhart and a gorgeously rendered fantasy world, this series should have legs, with many twists and turns to come. It’s also a fitting tribute to a larger-than-life American hero.