High Level reaches its penultimate issue this week as Thirteen and Minnow finally reach High Level. Is it really the shining beacon on a hill, or a dystopian nightmare waiting to swallow them up?
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Religious cults, terrorist cells, witch tribes, mutants, mafias, sunken cities, drug dens, false prophets, real prophets, fetish camps, cybernetic enhancement junkies…Thirteen and Minnow have survived them all just to get to this moment. At last, our heroes arrive at High Level. But will the legends prove true? The answers will shock you.
Why does this matter?
This series has always been good at mixing science fiction ideas and real-world fears quite well. Like any good science fiction story, this comic series has served as a warning for what may happen to us all while mixing in crazy ideas (just look at the summary above).
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
There are some great ideas at work in this issue that’ll make you think. Characters say things like, “Faith is a hell of a drug, and fear is a hell of a preacher,” which adds weight to what the characters are encountering, but also an idea you can take with you and apply to what is going on in society today. The premise of this series has always been one that reflects the direction in which we are currently going, so in a sense this series feels like a warning of things to come. Science fiction has always been a great way to convey ideas about society in general and High Level excels at this. In this issue, we finally get to High Level and Rob Sheridan reveals a culture that’s no different than our own only turned up to a glaringly ignorant level.
While writer Rob Sheridan and artist Barnaby Bagenda reveal the truths of High Level, we’re also given some hints at what is to come. Nothing is what it seems — a staple of this series, and that includes people too. Thirteen and Minnow have developed a bond that may just see them through the finality of this story and they’ll need that given the double-crossing and other subtle hints at what is to come. One thing about this series that has always clicked is how it doesn’t overtly broadcast what may come next.
The art continues to excel when large areas and populated spaces are involved. There’s a haunting nature to a group of onlookers watching High Level TV, for instance. Environments look somehow alien but familiar at the same time, serving as a way to see all of this as some kind of horror future for us all.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
That said, the art threw me off a few times, especially when the characters enter High Level. At this moment Minnow opens a door in the basement and the story immediately cuts to them in this wide open street. Did they get teleported? How are they there? It was confusing. To add to that, Thirteen goes from hoodless to hooded, so when we cut to High Level her head is a brown blob. It took some flipping back and forth to understand what happened there. Less confusing, but something that certainly caught me off guard is how the characters change their clothes to these light blue jumpers. They’re in street clothes in one panel, and in jumpers the next. In both cases, I was taken out of the story and wasn’t sure if I missed something.
Is it good?
The penultimate issue delivers on big ideas and subtle truths being laid bare. This is a good series that shows Rob Sheridan is only getting started. Read this if you love sci-fi stories with real-world truths.