In Bioshock, a video game series heavily influenced by the libertarian philosophy of Ayn Rand, the villain always seems to build a fantastical city either under the sea or in the sky, where people and businesses can escape the stifling grasp of government. It’s a fantastical premise that captures a conceit many folks can only dream of; what if we lived in a world with entirely different rules? Blind Ferret Entertainment releases a new series today based on Karl Schroeder’s Virga: Sun of Suns, which is just as ambitious if not more so than the aforementioned popular video game, but is it good?
Virga #1 (Blind Ferret Entertainment)
This comic is an adaptation of Karl Schroeder’s novel Virga: Sun of Suns and in a lot of ways mimics the publication Ferret is doing with Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. I haven’t read a single book by Schroeder so I’m going into this series completely blind. One problem many adaptations have in the comic world is trying to balance supplying enough information without being too heavy on exposition. Most likely many of the readers haven’t read the books, but you don’t want to alienate the fans familiar with the material either. Luckily for fans and new readers alike this comic reads well, balancing action and exposition fin a well paced and interesting story.
“Oh, your mom makes suns. I was going to say my mom bakes cakes but I guess you always have to top me!”
Instead of dropping a lengthy summary to open the book, scriptor Jeff Moss lets the exposition flow naturally. I for one found it much more enjoyable to figure out what this world is about rather than getting a bunch of details like so many poorly scripted films resort to. You don’t actually get the protagonist’s full name until the final page, but it’s not much of a spoiler to say his name is Hayden and he lives in a world where gravity is a commodity. Due to some hazy laws concerning the floating of asteroids that people live on, there seems to be an imperialistic nature to governments. Anyone who tries to build their own sun, and therefore a gravity of their own, appears to be in a good way to make some enemies.
Love the bending perspective here.
Of course, that’s all the higher level stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with the character of Hayden, his relationship to his rebel parents or the goings on in this issue. This issue introduces all of these concepts, but also tells the story of how Hayden went from rebel son to assistant to the big bad guys. This issue hops around in time between eight years and presumably there’s a lot to fill in for later issues.
That can’t be safe!
As far as character is concerned, it’s hard to gauge Hayden. He seems to be an amalgam of many young heroes we’ve seen before. Really it’s the world that has the most character, at least so far, and it’s a pleasure to learn about it. Visually everything is incredibly robust and built up. Clearly adaptations have a leg up on other series that don’t have the benefit of years of work and thousands of words to flesh things out. That said, as far as the first issue goes I’m still a little in the dark on who Hayden is.
Guy Allen was a great choice to do the art for a series like this, particularly due to his strength in drawing machines and gadgets. I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is steampunk, because the design and uniqueness to everything from clothes to crafts sets it apart from that subgenre of fantasy. There’s definitely a sense of steampunk, but there aren’t obnoxious looking gears and overly elaborate tech just laying around. Instead everything looks natural and as if it belongs. If I had to compare it to another artist I’d have to go with Tony Harris. The only gripe I had was faces weren’t consistent, but for the most part they were still solid.
Even costumes have an architectural nature to them. Bottom line, it’s fun to look at this comic, let alone read it.
The color work by Michael Birkhofer doesn’t go too bright and stick to shades of browns. Dare I say of all the things in this book, it’s the color that reminds me most of Bioshock: Infinite. While we’re on the topic of look the lettering by Rus Wooton is really inspired. I don’t usually even bring up lettering, but here it adds a weathered look to everything that helps make the world look lived in rather than something that flashed into someones imagination.
Speaking of lettering for a second, this book actually contains thought bubbles! I don’t know when exactly DC and Marvel decided to get rid of thought bubbles, but it’s striking to see when you read as many comics as I do. Generally speaking thought bubbles are from an older time in comics and it’s neat to see them come back.
I don’t know what that thing does but I want one.
- Strong world built up for our pleasure
- Phenomenal art, lettering, and color
- Not sure I know the protagonist yet
Bottom line, this comic is an incredible introduction to a vivid and interesting world I want to visit again. I’m going to want to pick up the book if it continues to razzle-dazzle me with interesting art and a complex world that’s got its own internal logic.
Unfortunately I’m not sold on the protagonist just yet, even if the supporting cast is pretty interesting. That said, Virga’s ambition reaches farther than most $3.99 comics, so its value is unquestionable at $.99. Very much looking forward to the next issue!
Is It Good?
Yes! Fascinating world with fascinating concepts to explore. A real adventure.