Ei8ht Volume 1 by Rafael Albuquerque, Mike Johnson

Ei8ht, Volume 1, collects issues 1-5 of the single issues. A hard science time travel plot device is tied to a softer story of a man trying to save his wife in this science fiction tale. Several viewpoints begin disparately but then start to converge by the end of the first chapter. And although there are a lot of ideas in here, the concept is let down by sloppy art and uninspired writing (far too many info dumps). This never felt like it was taking full advantage of the graphic format and that the illustrations were subordinate to the story.

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Story: A time traveler, Joshua, is sent to a special place independent of time called the Meld – a ‘time gyre’ where animals and things have been deposited and trapped from all periods of Earth’s history. He has been sent to kill one man; he is told that doing so will save his dying wife. But when he arrives, it is without his memory and with only a figure 8 on his wrist to tell him what needs to know. As his memories slowly return, several other time travelers will come into play – each affecting The Meld. For Joshua, the only thing that matters is that the woman who saved him looks very familiar – and he will have to fight to save her from the tyrant of The Meld.

My first thought with this volume was that we have an update of John Carter of Mars – but with time travel replacing space travel. Certainly, the author has great fun with the plasticity of time and enjoys tweaking the reader with subtle clues and hints that there is a lot in the future affecting Joshua’s present. Oddly enough, by the end, it didn’t sound all that clever any more – the solutions to the mysteries early on were rather pat and unimaginative. And I’m getting the impression that we have a very unreliable narrator if things turn out in future issues as I suspect about his wife.

The illustration work has a conceit: panel backgrounds are color coded to tell readers if something is in the past, present, or future. I didn’t need the color schemes and quickly forgot about the coding once I started reading. By the end, when I went back to look at something in the start, I saw the coding page again and kind of wondered why they did it. It wasn’t a confusing story and the color coding wasn’t really needed. In fact, once I looked again, I found it odd that scenes from 1940s Nazi Germany were color coded the purple meant to be the present (unless there is some twist or I missed something, the book is not set in the 1940s). Since most of the book takes places in the Meld, it’s a very orange world (the Meld’s ‘out of time’ color).

Which brought me to other problems. Things like everyone in the Meld speaking one language – despite being from all periods of time and places. Even the German soldier spoke perfectly – it just didn’t sit right. Not to mention the fancy outfits using a lot of cloth and metal armor – where’s the cotton? Where are the looms? Who shapes all that fancy metal armor? Did weavers and metalsmiths randomly show up in the Meld and teach all they know? It’s just so unlikely. Plus, add in surprisingly sloppy drawings (e.g., in one panel, the tyrant’s horns are dragon shaped and then the very next panel has them shaped like ram horns) and I couldn’t help but feel someone didn’t think this through thoroughly enough and then rushed through the illustration work.

As a time waster, Ei8ht is fine. But I couldn’t help but feel we were promised a better title than what was delivered here. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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