Autumnlands lets a genie out of the bottle, and in this issue we learn a lot about the forces that created the Galateans, and this world. In good form, though, Busiek and Dewey give us just enough information to answer some lingering questions (namely about the Galateans, and some of the questions about the relation of the Autumnlands to Learoyd’s humans), but it introduces some new players whose motivations are still unknown. Warning: this review will have some spoilers, as any meaningful discussion of what happens is impossible without mentioning the events of the story. Learoyd, Bertie, and Dusty spend some time among the Galateans and learn a bit about the creation of the Autumnlands. The Galateans acted as stewards of the planet when it was still raw, acting on behalf of a scientifically advanced species. Hearing this explanation also makes clear to Dusty that the fate of magic in the Autumnlands is not going to be easily solved. They stay and rest for a bit, but something causes the temple to shift and become unstable. Learoyd and Dusty manage to flee, while a previously encountered character watches from a distance.
In an earlier review (for a different website), I mused that this series was deliberately blurring the lines between fantasy and science fiction. This issue drives that home, particularly with the creation of the Autumnlands. What does it say about the humans at the beginning of the story (who, while more advanced than our society, are analogous to modern man) that they create the Galateans in the form that they did? Was it a desire to act as gods themselves by harkening back to earlier human mythology? What does that say about how we view fantasy, which in some ways is a new way of telling myths? For that matter, the Galateans are nothing if not pretty ruthlessly sexually exploited by their masters. Is that a comment on fantasy as well?
If we learn a lot about how this world was created, the reasons why are still unknown. What we see of the Masters in this issue makes them look like nothing more than power-drunk hedonists, but presumably they had some reason for creating the world beyond far-future pleasure resorts (though that would be an interesting kind of reason). More importantly, where are they now? Was the planet meant to have life on it, or was that an accident? If so, why was life needed?
I have been left wondering when it is we’ll return to the cities, to Sandhorst and the power politics of the other beasts. Now that the crisis has been truly clarified (and this issue makes it clear that there isn’t going to be an easy fix to the diminishment of magic), it would be a perfect time to see how they will respond once they learn what is going on. It’s the fantasy equivalent of the ecological crisis we ourselves are facing: peak magic has passed for the Autumnlands, at least for the moment. Of course, many of them will have no reason to believe Dusty and Learoyd, especially once they see Learoyd and their understanding of the Champion myth is further eroded.
Then, of course, there are all sorts of practical questions about what happened in the temple. Bertie had reasons to be angry with the Galateans, so did he have something to do with the temple’s fate? If not, what happened to him? And what about the observer? There will be plenty of things to look forward to in #13.
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Autumnlands #12 Writer: Kurt Busiek Artist: Benjamin Dewey Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital