Drifter Volume 1 (collecting comics 1-5) harkens back to the glory days of science fiction in the 1970s. Mysterious, inscrutable, metaphysical ponderings on humanity and relationships (to other humans, alien life forms, even an entire planet), with characters you may not even like but who fascinate you regardless. Coupled with illustrations which decode the story through color and you have a title that is anything but predictable or expected – and all the better for it.
Story: Abram Pollux keeps meeting death – and inexplicably surviving. He crash lands on a remote mining planet, is attacked by an alien life form, immediately shot by a human, and then finds himself bandaged up in a mining settlement, half alive. Pollux has his own agenda but he will have to contend with the planet and come to understand it and its inhabitants – human or otherwise – if he is to ever leave. Because not coming to terms with planet Ouro is leaving a path of destruction in his wake.
The story is driven through inner monologue – very stream of consciousness that allows the author to play loose and fast with readers’ understanding of what is happening. Pollux is certainly not a likeable character and his actions are quite a mystery through most of these first five issues. As such, readers looking for a simple and straightforward story will be left with many “WTF?” moments and likely end the story frustrated. Those looking for nuances and deeper meanings in their stories will find much to explore in subsequent rereadings.
The illustration work is more straightforward than the story, fortunately, grounding the metaphysical musings and providing a lush color structure to enjoy. From luminous underwater blues to one of the best illustrations/coloring of a sunset I’ve ever seen in a comic, there is a lot to love visually in Drifter.
Ostensibly, the story is about Pollux and discovering his mysteries – why is a year missing from his life right after the crash, what appointment is he late to when he crashed, why did he crash, and who exactly is he? But to the writer’s credit, the story has a huge secondary character: the planet Ouro itself. Pollux is unable or unwilling to come to terms with all the planet throws at him and there are devastating repercussions as a result.
A large cast of side characters provide more context and exploration of the ‘humanity’ theme that underpins Drifter. Some, such as the sheriff, were quite interesting. Others, such as the young girl bounty hunter or Pollux adversary Emmerich, were too sketchily written to really appreciate yet. But in perhaps the one misstep in an otherwise excellent title, a catholic priest with a secret felt heavy handed in a book with so many subtle messages: yes, religion has a corrupting influence and yes, Pollux is aptly compared to being messianic. But the priest storyline honestly could have used a finer hand and more restraint. His scenes distract and almost upstage the Pollux/Ouro narratives.
Drifter is a title that will divide – it’s not an easy read nor should it be read quickly. Rereads reward yet the mysteries are only barely touched upon even up to five issues. But a beautiful color palette and illustrations do make it worth the extra effort. Reviewed from an arc provided by the publisher.