Ei8ht #2 is a great example of a beaten-to-death concept being resurrected with a fresh point of view into something inherently new, something with a new way of doing things in an old vein. The story begins with the Doc from the first issue in an exploratory plane during a thunderstorm. It’s one of those old saws where getting hit by lightning just the right way gets you shot back into the distant past--the dinosaur times. The story cuts to Joshua, our main character, and his continuing adventures in the Meld, as he tries to navigate unfriendly locals (Nila), friendly locals (Nila’s little sib, Hari), and sociopolitical movements in a world without time or defined space (The Spear and his master, The Tyrant).
As I stated during the group review last month, Ei8ht’s most notable feature is that it’s a color-coded comic. You may argue that color-coding is childish, or that, if you sit down and analyze the work of a talented colorist, all comics are color-coded, but this one integrates it into the visuals incredibly seamlessly. Albuquerque has taken such a simple concept to make it easier to follow the story and also to figure out new ways to play with color in the medium, and it’s working out extremely well on both fronts. Aside from just the coloring, Albuquerque’s art throughout Ei8ht is a delight; it’s just as expressive as his work on American Vampire, but he gets a lot more room to play and flex some sci-fi muscles that he’s been hiding. I don’t know how he’s managing a monthly Ei8ht as well as a monthly American Vampire... Maybe he’s a machine? Either way, the fact that his work isn’t suffering on either title is truly laudable.
Having said all that, this book still manages to be crazy pretty with a good high concept and not a lot of meat to sink into. Given that it’s a Dark Horse book and therefore must be a mini-series, there’s a limit to the amount of time we’ll spend with Joshua, or in the Meld; within those limits, you’d want to see a lot of character building, so that the things that happen matter. Ei8ht manages that with a handful of characters (mostly Joshua and Hari, whose tales are fairly standard, but still played minimally to maintain their tragedy), but with others, they’re just walking, yelling ciphers (looking at you, Nila).
The plot of Ei8ht is interesting, but still very cryptic for the second issue of five. By this point, we have an intrusion to track (i.e. whether or not Joshua will be able to get back to the future and save his wife), but we don’t know what the mechanics of that goal look like, at least for now while his memory is shot (“why is he in the Meld in the first place?”, for example) and we don’t know much about who the Doc is or how his story plays off Joshua’s tale. It’s an interesting tale being paced out like a novel, not like a monthly book. Although, one thing that I truly love about Johnson’s script is its willingness to be opaque, in a Looper-ish sense. There’s no page space wasted on things like how this time travel game works, since, although it may become important when Joshua finally tries to leave the Meld, it is nowhere near important right now.
Issue 2 was a definite improvement for Ei8ht. Issue one wasn’t bad by any means, but it got a lot of extra credit for its use of color and its great art. Issue two takes those things and synthesizes them into something approaching the heart of the actual book, where it’s firing on all cylinders--it’s just not there yet. I think we’re close, and I think when this book comes out in trade, I may have to eat a significant amount of my words, but right now, it feels like its lagging.
Ei8ht #2 Story: Rafael Albuquerque & Mike Johnson Script: Mike Johnson Art and colors: Rafael Albuquerque Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 3/18/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital