Contains mild spoilers.
The second issue of the independent, fan funded comic series Arks has arrived, and it begins to give readers a lot more insight into what’s happening on this strange new planet, as well as raising the stakes for our two protagonists.
The first issue of the series was one that spent most of its time shrouded in mystery, keeping the details of who this man we were following was, and what was happening, pretty close to its chest. It was only really at the end that where things began to get clear; in contrast, this issue gives readers a lot of information and begins to reveal a larger plot at play.
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With the two leads, Joseph and Lilith, now reunited we start to learn more about them. Lilith spends a great deal of the issue quizzing Joseph about who he is, what he remembers, and what he’s been doing. This is down to Joseph clearly having some kind of trouble going on, some kind of trauma or medical issue that’s been causing him to act strange, and Lilith wanting to figure out how his mind is. It’s a neat little conceit to get the two characters talking about things that wouldn’t naturally come up in conversation.
We get to learn about where the two of them met, their favourite foods, their pets, bits and pieces about their childhoods. We discover things that begin to give us insight into who they are as people and how their relationship works that we wouldn’t otherwise know. After all, people who’ve been in a relationship for decades don’t tend to list off facts about their lives. Possibly the biggest surprise in these revelations is that Joseph and Lilith aren’t as young as they look, and that when their minds were uploaded into the device that recreated them on this new world they were in their eighties, revealing a further startling feature of this strange technology.
The issue isn’t all about getting to know only the humans, however, as the two of them explore their new world and discover dangers waiting for them. There’s a big sense of mystery as they find strange things, animal corpses in strange conditions that hint that there might be something wrong with this world.
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Once all the drama of the issue is over, ending on a pretty scary cliff-hanger, we get some extra pages at the back of the book that give us some insight into the amazing technology that R.J. Collins has created for this story. We’re given information about the nano-technology that’s being used to transform this primordial alien world into a replica of Earth. We also get an explanation as to why some of the birds look weird and have extra eyes, because they’re cybernetic drones designed to search and scan areas to help with the terraforming. These pages are great, because they explain small details that have been scattered throughout the issues, and give a breakdown of things like the rapid synthesiser which we probably wouldn’t get in the story itself.
The art follows the same style that we had in the first issue, though it feels like perhaps it’s gotten better in some ways. I get the sense that the artist has become more comfortable and confident with the process, this odd combination of traditional looking and digital art, and has been trying new things. The pack of wolves that appear in the book in particular look really good, and they come across as particularly dynamic and menacing.
The second issue of Arks builds on the sense of strange mystery that the first issue had, introducing new, bizarre things for the readers and characters to discover, whilst also managing to bring us up to speed on things that were left something of a secret in the first issue. I feel like we’ve actually begun to understand who Joseph and Lilith are now, and now that we’ve begun to connect with them we can start delving into the bigger mystery at play.