'Primordial' is What You Want from the Team that Made 'Gideon Falls'
We're already calling the new Image Comics Odyssey from Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart a cosmic classic.
Something's wrong. The two words are stamped on Primordial's back cover and echo throughout the first issue. It's 1961, and Cape Canaveral is closing up shop. Doctor Donald Pembroke arrives on the scene, and he thinks they're about to relaunch the Space Race. In reality, he's here to sift through the technology and determine what bits of software and hardware require repurposing for military devilment. John F. Kennedy's New Frontier fantasy rots amongst mothballs.
Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are back bending space, time, and form. The sequential tricksters behind Gideon Falls (and let's not forget the radical Old Man Logan and Green Arrow: The Outsider's War cuz they are equally magnificent) are tripping through history and delivering a sci-fi mystery adventure that would give Harry Turtledove the vapors. Primordial imagines a woeful planet that rejected the infinite realm beyond our third rock from the sun.
The populace was told we halted exploration after the Jupiter missile carrying the rhesus monkey Able and the squirrel monkey Baker exploded into the void. The truth is something else entirely. And Doctor Pembroke stumbles over it while dumpster diving in Cape Canaveral. Answers lead to more questions, and those questions lead to cosmic conspiracy.
Image Comics is calling Primordial "2001: A Space Odyssey meets We3." For those in the know, the descriptor sends anticipatory shivers through their system. It's a massive promise suggesting big heavy ideas regarding humanity's nature, their thirst for understanding found both within and without, and our inability to shake violence. With only one issue barely out there in the world, it's hard to say if Primordial will live up to those other two undeniable classics, but considering Lemire and Sorrentino's track record, doubting their success is utterly foolish.
Sorrentino is pushing Primordial through 2001's Stargate. When Pembroke is scrounging, the panels are presented in characteristic fashion. Sorrentino is not a slave to the grid; he's constantly shaking it up to capture the emotion of the scene as much as the narrative. But, when it's time to get wild and consider the unknowable journey Able, Baker, and the Soviet space dog Laika have gone on, Sorrentino propels Primordial into chaotic wonder. And it's not the same visual head trip as experienced in Gideon Falls when that book went gonzo. Sorrentino magically finds new ways to interpret the impossible, and the comic leaves the viewer (cuz you're watching this book as much as you are reading it) gobsmacked.
Aiding in that psychedelic sorcery are Dave Stewart's colors. Primordial screams off the page, but not in every panel. There's plenty of governmental drudgery to navigate, and at times the Cold War cloud threatens to wash away any joy. This only goes to accentuate the kaleidoscopic nightmare when the yellows, purples, and reds erupt during several critical page-flips. Stewart and Sorrentino are every bit as dynamic a duo as Lemire and Sorrentino. This is a team that elicits an intense reaction, and when it all comes crashing down on that final page, you're left gut-punched. The waits between issues will be painful, friends.
We were going to be thrilled no matter what the comic we got from these three. The glee comes in experiencing how different Primordial is from past collaborations. What was the Space Race's importance? Was it merely a political enterprise, another treacherous play between the Soviet Union and America? Did those first steps on the moon ignite a new age of scientific imagination, supporting the many technological advancements we take for granted today? Where would we be if we never bothered with those stars?
Doctor Pembroke carries hope in probing the beyond. He senses a great wrong in the dusty Cape Canaveral that surrounds him. We know his history is not our history. Therefore we dismiss his fringe reality as the inferior one. Primordial #1's final page might offer a brighter alternative. I dunno. Gotta see what #2 brings.
What I do know is that humans suck, and animals are always our better. Give them the keys to the kingdom. Let them show us how to do life on Earth and the solar system beyond better. Lemire, Sorrentino, and Stewart have fashioned an Odyssey in Primordial, and thumbing a ride is as easy as adding it to your pull box.
Quickie Review: Primordial appears to be what Image Comics says it is, "2001 meets We3." Lemire, Sorrentino, and Stewart deliver an explosively cosmic exploration of humanity's desire to do more, see more, and know more while forever in conflict with fear. The art slaps and stuns you into lingering. These are pages you'll devour quickly and return to immediately. 10/10
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorer: Dave Stewart
Letters and Design: Steve Wands
On Sale: 9/15/21
Synopsis: Mind-bending sci-fi collides with Cold War thriller in this six-issue miniseries by the bestselling and Eisner-winning creative team behind GIDEON FALLS! In 1957, the USSR launched the dog, Laika, into Earth's orbit. Two years later, the USA responded with two monkeys, Able and Baker. These animals never returned. But, unbeknownst to everyone, they did not die in orbit…they were taken. And now they are coming home.