We’ve seen the world end plenty of times. We’ve seen the future, too — comics, TV, books and movies have turned these topics upside down and inside out. Now we have Eclipse, a comic set in the not too distant future where a solar event turns sunlight deadly, wiping out billions of the population in the process; writer Zack Kaplan (who we recently sat down and interviewed) has thrown off the yoke of end-times convention and given us a different take on what happens when our society faces an epic dilemma. Is it good?
Eclipse Vol. 1 (Image Comics)
The first four issues of Eclipse are compiled in this Eclipse TPB, wherein we’re introduced to the world after the solar event has left the survivors of humanity seeking shelter in an underground city. There are still jobs, police, government and corporations to deal with and it if wasn’t for the fact no one goes outside in the daytime, you could almost mistake the world of Eclipse for our own. There are a few exceptions to the “no-daylight” activities rule of course; a group of engineers that maintain and repair machines outdoors, who are vital to the city, wear special, coolant-filled “Ice-man” suits to make survival possible in the terminal sunlight. The first four issues follow the story of one of the Ice-men named David Baxter and we are introduced to the world through his eyes as he is drawn into a murder investigation that involves a killer who is immune to the harmful rays of the sun.
Writer Zack Kaplan makes the first arc, involving Baxter tracking down the killer, feel intimate and solitary; while Eclipse Vol. 1 gives a measured feel of the larger world, it does so without choking the reader with dozens of storylines and details for the sake of world building. Baxter, is a loner who is obviously affected by his past, but he isn’t written like an archetype; there’s no sense of bravado, quippy one-liners as the action unfolds, or close-ups of him gritting his teeth as he performs a superhuman act out of sheer willpower. Quite the opposite in fact — Kaplan makes him seem fragile; you root for Baxter because he seems like a man out of his depth and outmatched by his invulnerable opponent, not because the book tells you to. He’s also likeable because even with the painful memories he has, you get a sense that he still has hope, which may be the point of the whole book.
What really stands out when reading through Eclipse is the number of textless panels. It’s a world empty of people and the lack of speech bubbles emphasizes the isolation of Baxter as he walks in the sun-drenched wasteland, which builds tension and pulls focus to the art of Giovanni Timpano. Some of the most standout scenes of the book involve Bax’s pursuit of the sunlight immune killer and thanks to Timpano they look incredibly cinematic, from the killer’s first attack, with the truck and mirrors in the first issue, to the climatic chase in issue 4, through the shadows of moving solar panels. Timpano certainly gifts Eclipse with its own unique visual style that enhances the tone set by Kaplan’s writing perfectly.
Colorist Chris Northrop fills the interior scenes in the subterranean city with cool and dark colors that fit the location. However, it’s the daytime coloring, filled with tan, yellow and white, that give Eclipse‘s panels a semblance of real heat; the washed out and bleached world above ground feels dangerous and desert-like. Northrop makes the shadows into believable sanctuaries for the characters, while anything outside those safe zones, and touched by the intense light, is instantly nuked into dust. Northrop made the color of daylight a character of it’s own in Eclipse. It brings a feeling of tension to any of the panels it appears in, as any of the characters, other than the immune killer, could die just from it’s presence.
Is It Good?
The first story arc from Eclipse is a well thought out and executed tale which found the right artists to complement the tone and setting of the book. I read the comics as they came out and I feel the TPB is the better way to experience this excellent story. Eclipse Vol. 1 flows well from one issue to the next, and forms a nice, tight narrative as a whole; it presents a unique imagining of the future and a hook that is used to great effect, but isn’t overused to the point where the characters are just fodder to be sacrificed to the sun. Whether Eclipse continues to focus on protagonist David Baxter or we get to see other points of view from characters in this world, there are certainly enough tidbits and loose threads to continue the story in fine form. I look forward to seeing if the series can continue the high standard set by this premiere chapter.