Sometimes it’s nice to have an indie comic that is rough and unfinished feeling. It’s almost intimate, like you’re stumbling in on the product during it’s very beginning stages. It can be a special thing when it’s a good comic. Other times, it can be the very thing that kills the comic. It reminds you why professional work is just that. Then there are books like Centuries of Dust, in which the book is so polished that it’s more professional than indie. This is good too because it should be the actual goal of all indie comics. Producing a professional piece of work independently.
Not only does Centuries of Dust excel at being a professional looking comic, it’s also a well-plotted space story. This year has produced dozens of space centric worlds by top talent in the industry, but this is the first series that’s actually captured my attention. Other things like Decender and Invisible Republic made great attempts at creating sci-fi/futuristic worlds, but they missed the key ingredient in my opinion… characters. Sure they have characters, but not ones that I actually wanted to read about.
If you read Dark Horse’s Dark Matter from a few years back, then you’ll get a bit of the same vibe from Centuries of Dust. A crew of people wake up on a space ship with an android acting as their welcoming committee. The android, Anaximander, informs the crew that they’ve suffered memory loss from cryosleep and that their memories may or may not return. He then reintroduces everyone and their jobs on the ship. Anaximander informs them that they’ve been asleep for over five years and that they were pull from cryo because of a radiation leak that killed the other half of the crew. A hull breach is detected and the crew springs into action to make repairs and keep themselves from dying. But they have a lot of questions and a hull break isn’t going to stop them from searching for the answers.
Obviously from that last sentence you should assume that there’s more going on here. Just a group with memory loss wouldn’t really be enough to keep your attention, but the mystery going on behind the scenes makes a great balance. As for the characters, we start a journey with them to figure out who they are. How they’re going to act. Which one is going to be the no-nonsense hard-ass, which one is super friendly and who’s the screw-up. This is revealed as we go and it’s kind of interesting to see these people with no memories find themselves in a way.
The art is very strong. There’s a clean white aesthetic to the story. Pick a sci-fi property for inspiration, but it works here. It’s not so clean that it becomes washed out, but actually gives a strange backdrop to the mystery. The other big aspect of the story’s visual storytelling is Anaximander. Their design is perfect and reminded me a little of Portal. Anaximander's face has four lights that accompany other lighting on his body, that respond like a street light. Usually it’s green, but when danger strikes it can be yellow or red. What’s also great is the lettering that accompanies this. It too is green, yellow or red. It’s a simple visual effect, but it’s incredibly effective. It gives Anaximader a range when the android would otherwise have none.
In general, the coloring is very strong and adds to the atmosphere of the story. It looks like space, both on and off the ship which is important to the story. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important parts of the story. The lettering is also pretty damn great. Lettering doesn’t really make it into reviews because it’s usually pretty competent and there’s not much to say about it. It either helps or deters the story. In the case of Centuries of Dust, it stands out because of how much it helps the story. Examples like before with Anaximander, but then also when there’s an explosion that rocks the ship. It’s strong lettering and that’s great to see on an indie comic.
If you don’t like sci-fi, space driven stories, then you might not like Centuries of Dust. Most people either like sci-fi or they don’t. For me, I think this story did an incredible job of world building and producing a story that I wanted to read more of. This is the type of indie comic that other comics are striving to be like and that makes it a hell of a read.