“Ether” returns from, well, the ether in true Dark Horse fashion with another mini-series. What fantastic adventures awaits Boone and company and can it match up to the legacy left by the end of the previous volume? Let’s jump right in and find out.
Written by Matt Kindt
Illustrated, Colored, and Lettered by David Rubín
Flattened by Kike J. Díaz
Matt Kindt! David Rubín!
From New York Times bestselling Mind MGMT creator Matt Kindt and Black Hammer’s David Rubín comes this fantasy adventure about a science-minded hero intent on keeping the balance between Earth and a magic world!
Portals between Earth and the Ether begin to crack open unleashing devastating magical fury on our planet and only adventurer Boone Dias can seal the breaches. In order to put an end to this chaos, Boone recruits a powerful team of mystical beings including a grumpy, spell-writing fairy; a bickering, lavender gorilla; and a bull-headed, motorcycling spell-hacker. These heroes set off on a journey taking the reader through the center of volcanoes, deserts full of living mummies and sphinxes, and a bizarre fairy forest in an effort to save both worlds from complete destruction!
As with any series that reboots, restarts, or is a series of mini-series, there is a certain amount of reorientation that must be done for new and old readers alike: not every story begins where the previous one ended and every comic is someone’s first. Such is true of “Ether: The Copper Golems.” The first few pages catch us up to speed on what’s been going on in the life of Boone Diaz and he is a far cry from the wild freedom fighter he is at the end of Volume 1. Now, he is a dirty, scruffy resident of an Italian prison.
Even though these scenes are used to reintroduce much of the information already conveyed through “Ether,” Kindt’s deft script and Rubín’s moody artwork turns it into something engaging. A testament to the character work done by Kindt and Rubín, this scene also manages to be a series of reveals between Boone and Agent Perdua. By doing this and peppering in new details and new dynamics into the scene, it works for new and old readers alike.
This series, much like this issue, spends its time split between worlds, between the bombastic, bright, almost manic Ether and the dirty, dingy, slow, depressive Earth. They are representative of Boone’s own mental state and personality. Rubín depicts this beautifully through, of course, the coloring choices of Earth and the Ether — greens and blues for Earth and otherworldly neon pinks and oranges for Ether — but also through Boone’s physicality and attitude. On Earth, Boone is surly, contemplative, with a constant scowl and his movements are limited. On Ether, Boone looks younger, smiles near constantly, talks more diplomatically and is all around livelier.
In a story all about stopping an evil, dimension-breaking villain, an agency presumably the Illuminati, and a fantasy world you can only get to by being near death, taking the time to slow down and explore what Boone’s actions have wrought is what turns this comic into something more. There are a glut of “in another world” stories out there so finding what makes each one sing is imperative. If you can’t, then that series may not be worth your time.
This one is.
The only complaint I can level against this issue is that, as a continuation of the previous series, it doesn’t follow up on the ending of the last volume quite enough. We’ve jumped forward in time, Boone having worked to take down Ubel for months but we never got to see that. At the moment, it feels like we’re playing a bit too much catch up, like there is one issue missing. This could be the plan Rubín and Kindt have though. Not everything needs to be explained right away and this is the story of Boone’s mistakes in addition to the reality shattering issues of Ubel and his golems.
Moreover, beyond the larger themes and ideas that Rubín and Kindt have layered throughout this issue, the pages are beautifully composed and show a creative team that is completely in sync. One set of pages that best exemplify this are pages nine and 10. They are both a set of eight panels, two wide and four long. It opens on an establishing shot of Boone’s old home. Next to it is a panel of Hazel, Boone’s wife, sitting in a chair. From off panel comes a word balloon: “Hazel?” it reads. The next panel is Boone standing in the shadows, with Hazel’s response also coming from off panel. From there, the panels repeat, with Hazel and then Boone, the conversation being terse, short, somber before the final two panels are of Boone standing silently and then taking a step forward.Continued below
Rubín could have made the two central sets of panels one long panel, as the way they are laid out now function in the same way. By doing this, however, he increases the distance between Hazel and Boone. On a page level, we can see them sitting across the room from each other but in each panel, they are impossibly far apart. The gutter dividing them, as they have been divided by dimensions for years and how their hearts are irreparably separated.
Then Boone takes a step. The next page, at first glance, seems to just be a zoom-in on Hazel, closing in on her emotions. Yet, from the placement of Boone’s step as the final panel before this, this zoom is being done by Boone, i.e. we are in his point of view. Hazel fills his vision but he is still far away so he takes another step, allowing her to speak and simply closing the distance he put between them. We cut away from his eyes to finally show the two of them sharing a panel, with Hazel delivering a line that cuts deep into the truth of Boone’s decisions. He kisses her and then we get another shot of his foot, this time walking away, a TAP! sound effect taking us to the next scene.
It’s a short scene but one that, without it, the comic would be lesser for. There is only so much Ether adventures one can take before needing something more human. Thankfully, Rubín and Kindt know this and continue to provide a story that satisfies on many levels.
Final Verdict: 8.1 – Rubín and Kindt return to the world of Ether better than ever, penning a beautiful and somber opener to what promises to be a wild ride.