When it comes to science fiction, many stories can be divided into utopian visions of the future and dystopian ones. Star Trek envisioned a world united in deep space exploration; The Road Warrior saw a bleak post-apocalypse where one would kill for gasoline. Edward Bellamy’s novel Looking Backward presented a year 2000 where all of mankind lived in a glorious Marxist state; George Orwell’s 1984 had a much different view of the socialist regime of the future.
In both cases, we can see active political discussion dressed in the politeness of literature, both essentially positing the future as based on the present. And as even a cursory viewing of the B-movies of the 1950s can tell you, while the details may often be far from accurate, the basic premise remains the same. This is because even though it is nine years after 2001, the future has yet to occur. Are we, here in the 21st century, living in glory? Or in despair?
As time-honored as this tradition is in the genre, it is a welcome change of pace to read a story that comes at it from a different angle, a story that considers time not strictly as a linear state. Days Missing, published by Archaia Press, indeed strays from the normal path of comics story-telling in many ways.
The basic plot revolves around a being known only as the Steward, who appears to be a fairly normal human except for the fact that he is immortal, existing outside of time as we understand it, and with the ability to effectively “fold” days, erasing them from mankind’s memory. This immensely powerful being has appointed himself mankind’s guardian, although as the series progresses, the reader can see that this is not entirely altruistic. Like so many heroes, the Steward is lonely, and he believes that by sheparding the human race towards its eventual evolution, he will finally be among a race of beings like himself.
This premise could have been handled as so many super-hero stories have been before, passed from creative team to creative team until much of the resonance of the character was lost. But since we have here a character that spans such an inordinate amount of time and is therefore not relegated to one period in history, it would seem Archaia decided to open things up a bit and switch creative teams around indefinitely. Writer Phil
Hester and artist Frazier Irving bookend this mini-series, with David Hine, Ian Edginton, and Matz each scripting an issue for Chris Burnham, Lee Moder, and Hugo Petrus to respectively draw. I could not say that this is the first time this sort of editorial decision has been made in comics, but it certainly is the first in my recent memory, and to achieve the effect that it does.
Days Missing gives some rather keen insight into the state of human affairs, whether they take place in modern times or in the days of Cortez or Mary Shelley. This last, in the Hine/Burnham issue, is a particular feat, tying in Frankenstein, that modern Prometheus, with the Steward, himself something of a fire-bringing god.
Throughout it all, the creators do not focus on the end result, whether humankind reaches Eden or hell on earth. But by giving us an immortal’s perspective, we see the path that can lead us to one or the other. Though the Steward is technically on our side, and is extremely powerful, there is only so much he can do to assure the future. And with the introduction of an unnamed, unseen nemesis at series’ end, readers can rest assured the Steward has more than man’s own blunt ignorance to work against.
A follow-up series is forthcoming, and it will be quite interesting indeed to see where this experimentation with not just superheroes, but science-fiction will go next. There is great potential in Days Missing, in that it could lead to a sort of story-telling utopia, and not the sadly typical post-apocalyptic nightmare so many comics have degenerated to in the past. I get the distinct feeling we will not be disappointed.