Horizon Volume 1 by Brandon Thomas,

What Horizon Volume 1 wanted to be was a high stakes, high octane sci fi actioner. But something was lost in the application – a concept that was never fleshed out enough to be anything more than nebulous and disenfranchising. The plot meanders, the story somewhat inscrutable, and the protagonists cyphers that baffle rather than entice. By the middle of this first volume, collecting issues 1-6, I was reading just to finish and not because I enjoyed it.

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Story: Zhia Malen has come to a polluted and dying Earth for one reason: to ensure that the humans do not come to do the same to her planet. For the humans need a new home and they are not too picky about what happens to those already occupying that new planet.

The story features quite a bit of cloak and dagger action – Zhia and her small band have superior weapons but only a small group to take on the Earth power bases. It was never explained (that I can recall) how her people knew Earth was going there, what they had done in the past so far, or even what Zhia hoped to accomplish specifically to stop the invasion. There’s a lot of assaults, killing, and evil hoomans, and of course our heroes are the good guys and conflicted about what they have to do to save their planet from invasion.

This feels like a book that someone tried to write around the idea that the humans are the invaders, instead of the other way around. This time, the aliens are the defenders and the heroes. But we don’t get a lot of information or backgrounds on them, their personalities are missing (other than cackling evil bad and determined good), and even then, the aliens don’t even feel very alien at all. It felt like two different humans fighting each other, just one was colored blue.

There are the usual dystopian future tropes here: corporations have taken over, mankind is inherently greedy and evil, and man has destroyed the world. I imagine there was also an attempt to tie in to what European settlers did to North and South America natives over the last millennium – assimilation and destruction of their cultures. But the parallel – exploration and expansion through choice (rather than because the Europeans had destroyed Europe and made it unlivable) – didn’t really apply. So there was opportunity to do a bit more with this story that just wasn’t explored, or at least not in a way that was meaningful.

The art did not help bring definition to Horizon either, to be honest. As nebulous and head scratching as the plot was, the graphics were also rather stylized and conceptual rather than enhancing the story. If the story is not gelling, then the graphics really should. But the illustration work was imprecise where it should have been emotive and evocative. If the plot didn’t lose me, the graphics did.

In the end, I didn’t feel for the characters or their motivations. I didn’t really care if they succeeded or if they failed. The villains were once again overly hubristic and prone to pontification about their nefarious plans. And the humans had technology that should have been surprising only to the reader, not the aliens who were sent to infiltrate and assassinate – especially with their information gathering abilities. And please – can we not have the trope where characters completely miss the obvious that every reader figures out and rolls their eyes when the villains reveal a dramatic ‘twist’ ability? Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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