by Mark Mitchell and Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Mark: I’m unsure how exactly to begin unpacking Jay Faerber and Sumeyye Kesgin’s Elsewhere 1. It’s an issue that’s pregnant with ideas, yet surprisingly without depth. It moves incredibly fast, but when it ends there’s the feeling that nothing has happened. Like buying cotton candy at a carnival, it looks like there’s a lot of substance, but once you’ve consumed it all, you’re still left feeling unsatisfied. But if Elsewhere 1’s ideas are interesting, how come the issue never really takes off?
The root of the problem lies in the fact that the audience lacks a surrogate in the world of Korvath, a character to whose point of view we can relate. Amelia Earhart should play this role, as she should have an outsider’s perspective on the whole thing. She has seemingly crash landed on another planet/in another dimension, is saved by two strange feline-adjacent aliens, Cort and Tavel, and is warned of a foul and malicious tyrant who rules the land, but she provides no pushback and requires no clarification. Her lack of resistance keeps the action moving at a commendably steady clip, but the issue would have benefited from a little bit of brake pumping every once and a while.
Amelia is also undercut as a character because she has no specific voice. Who is Faerber and Kesgin’s Amelia Earhart? What defines her? Is she brave? Is she sarcastic? Does she repeatedly use colloquial phrases from Earth that Cort and Tavel can’t divine? I’m open to any interpretation of the character, but there’s not much going on at this point.
There is one moment where Amelia is alone and has a chance to take a breath, and in this moment she reveals that she actually is shaken by everything that’s happened. Unfortunately, by this point in the issue it’s too little too late. She’s been too much of a blank slate, even mastering the art of flying a Steed (basically a dragon) without blinking an eye.
The entire Steed sequence is a missed opportunity. It’s a moment that works well in theory — Amelia Earhart is an ace pilot, ergo she can fly a dragon no problem — but it falls flat on the page. There’s no hesitation, no fear, no anything from her through most of the issue, making her inhuman and cold. Cort and Tavel are aliens and readers still relate to them better. True, they share some of Amelia’s casual flipness, but it plays better on the page. They have a shared history, and their banter comes across as being jaded rather than uninterested.
All that noted, this is not a dire comic book. The idea that famous missing persons have been deposited into another dimension (or whatever the reveal ends up being) is a fun one, and I can see the book getting a lot of mileage in future issues out of bouncing different personalities off of one another. Plus, the characters Faerber and Kesgin introduce in this first issue are pleasant enough to be around with the potential to be better defined down the line. It’s disappointing, then, that none of that potential is paid off in Elsewhere 1. I can see a scenario where four or five issues down the line things start coming together in a satisfying way, but on its own merits, this premiere isn’t memorable enough to stand out in the crowded comic book scene.
What’s at stake here, really? Do Faerber and Kesgin see a larger patten in Amelia Earhart, D.B. Cooper, and other real-life missing persons to come? Or is it enough that they all disappeared without a trace? On the most basic level, what is Elsewhere about? More than just the logline, what is it about? Does it have anything interesting to say?
What’d you think, Ryan?
Ryan D: I’m right there with you, Mark, in the sense that I really wanted to fall in love with this title, but had that cotton candy feeling as well. The tricky thing about Elsewhere 1 is that this is not an Amelia Earhart story, at least not just yet. I signed up for this book to be a cool sideways look at an historical figure ending up in a magical world, but instead get a magical world which also features an historical figure. Your points about not feeling connected to Earhart are compounded by the fact that I did not fall in love with the world.
Korvath feels like a fairly paint-by-numbers fantasy realm, featuring a baddie warlord, some surprising beasts, and different technologies. It seems to me that Jay Faeber wanted to rush to the world-building aspect of the comic to set the stage for Earhart, Cort, and Tavel, but instead skipped giving us rich characters and really only gave us a few kernels of information about the universe. There is Lord Kragen who looks evil, has horns, and surrounds himself with other people who have horns, all while trying to suppress a resistance movement (which is populated, thus far, with people who do not have horns and sport tribal markings on their bodies). Also there are flying creatures, some of which are empathic. So audiences end up with characters who we can’t hook into and rushed exposition to set the main stage of this world. It reminds me a bit of Empress, which hurried readers, along with the stock characters, from sci-fi set piece to the next bigger set piece. But even the hardest of sci-fi writers need to build drama from a human perspective to make the space operas worth enjoying.
There are a few niggling things which bothered me, as well. For example, when the guards arrest Earhart:
Did these guards not just bring in another human (D.B.) or two if Fred the navigator also ended up in the same predicament? Might they not have a protocol for this, at this point? I’d also like to know, at some point, how D.B., who disappeared in 1971, ended up in this world before Earhart, who was last seen in 1937. Also, they really skimmed over how Amelia understands the language of Korvathian. That’s bugging me. When I get into a new universe, I like questions such as this to pull me further into the world, not send up red flags in my brain!
While it may seem like I’m nitpicking, I’m mostly just disappointed. I was really excited to get a bit more of the lore of Amelia Earhart through the wonderful lense of fiction. Instead, I’m mostly having fun looking up those historical facts on my own via the internet. I’m hoping, a lot like Mark, that this might just be “first-issue syndrome” and, now that the creative team has laid out some groundwork, this world can grow and the characters find their dramatic footing. If it doesn’t soon, though, I’m bailing out before the landing.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?