[20 November 2005]
This new series from 360ep apparently serves as a prequel to the video game series Advent Rising. Unfortunately, this first issue has little of the action one would typically find in a video game, and so I’m not sure exactly how successful this tie-in is going to be.
Gideon and Ethan Wyeth are two teenagers newly arrived on the asteroid Artemus, where their engineer father is running mining operations for the United Resources Corporation. The comic follows the storylines of the two brothers as they adapt to their new lives in the Academy. Gideon is an awkward freshman seeking acceptance, while Ethan is a star ROTC cadet trying to establish his authority as the new head of the slacker squad.
Despite the science fiction setting, the story in the first two issues (sold as a package) is really standard teenage coming-of-age stuff. It’s a light teen drama, with a pinch of space. In fact, the science fiction elements seem tacked on, and if anything they weaken the story presented in the first two issues. The writers seem to have grabbed a handful of concepts from the sci-fi cliche grab bag and tossed them in. The kids ride hoverboards, that fantastic technology everyone has been clamoring for since Back to the Future 2. The galaxy-spanning URC mines asteroids for something with the unoriginal name H-Ore to ship back to earth to clean the oceans (it seems odd that a civilization that can travel the galaxy can’t figure out a simpler way to clean the ocean than mining substances in outer space). Not very original stuff to any fan of sci-fi.
No, the futuristic setting is really secondary to the character-driven stories of Gideon and Ethan. Gideon faces the typical problems of any freshman in a new school. On his first day, he’s picked on by the older kids, picked on by the girls, picked on by the locals… As you might gather, Gideon isn’t the most socially adept. He falls for a girl named Olivia, one the local “Rockies,” lower-class kids who ride hoverboards and generally stand around being cool and rebellious. Of course, he’s one of the rich off-worlders, so Olivia and her crew want nothing to do with him. If you’ve seen any teen TV show or movie ever, you know that he’s going to do his best to show his street cred and win her heart.
Ethan is also having girl troubles of his own. He’s put in charge of Squad Blue, the losingest bunch of ROTC cadets on the asteroid. Determined to whip them into shape, he’s put into conflict with Abbey Van Horn, former group leader and, as the last name should tell you, the typical spoiled rich kid. As Ethan attempts to assert his authority, she does her best to show him up.
Of course, the stories of the Wyeth brothers aren’t the most original in the world either. It’s the stuff of Beverly Hills 90210, but it’s handled well. The characters are written with spirit and drawn with a rough realism that keeps the story grounded in the futuristic setting. The chief problem with Advent Rising is the pace. Bill Jemas was one of the architects of the “decompressed storytelling” movement of the last few years, and his influence certainly shows in this series. Scheduled for six issues, this is supposed to lead us to the game, which centers around Gideon discovering his destiny to unite the universe. By the end of the second issue, the future intergalactic messiah has barely learned to ride a hoverboard. Assuming that’s not the sum total of powers needed to qualify for hero of the universe, we’ve got a long way to go, and just how it’s going to fit in to another 130 pages or so is a mystery. Hell, we haven’t even seen an alien yet.
All in all, Advent Rising is a promising title, likely to be a hit with a younger audience and with fans of the video game. However, the industry-wide tendency to stretch stories as much as possible mars what could be an excellent, if by-the-numbers, coming-of-age-in-space story. With the overly relaxed place, perhaps a better subtitle would be Easy Listening the Planet.