By Levi Remington
Ether takes the investigative murder-mystery of Sherlock Holmes and infuses it with childlike imagination and adventurous fantasy. Picture a perkier Dresden Files, but replace the main character with an emotionally distant scientist, and give him a giant, purple, chain wearing ape as a sidekick. Matt Kindt and David Rubin have been laying the groundwork for 4 issues now, and with this issue they provide a satisfying conclusion to the first arc that will leave readers begging for more.
We’re treated to a darker side of Boone as he traverses his hometown, away from the Ether, and we get a glimpse into how his cold, calculated, and obsessive behavior might be destroying his personal life. Matt Kindt effectively projects his own struggles onto the page here, and the readers are presented with a multi-faceted dilemma. Where does one draw the line between what they were born to do, and what they deserve to have?
Kindt has been open about his struggles to balance a work-life with his family life, and for Ether he has reached deep within that part of himself to beautifully capture the plight of the ambitious man in Boone. An aspect of Boone's characterization that I respect is the moral ambiguity of his decisions. Each reader will have their own opinion on Boone based off of how they relate to his conflicts. Narration is utilized to full effect here, shaping Boone’s personality as he analyzes the logistics of his situation and spouts off various rational philosophies. His inner-monologues are both enlightening and entertaining. I haven’t encountered many characters like Boone, but his dynamic with this world is fascinating.
David Rubin’s art is a pleasure to behold. His style reminds me of a magazine I used to read as a child, Highlights, where the colors pop and the characters are distinct and numerous. While the art in those magazines is much more simplistic and kid-friendly, I make the comparison because Rubin’s art is imbued with a sense of innocent wonder and optimism. Even his depiction of the decrepit triggers a wave of warm, fuzzy nostalgia. Perhaps it's the way he shades objects with a small number of thick lines, or maybe it's his use of rich colors and expressive characters. There are some truly delightful designs too, from the industrial neon of the Copper Golem to the conniving wickedness of Lord Ubel, these characters possess abundant detail in their construction. The backgrounds are also full of detail, and the meticulously chosen color palette helps streamline any scenery transition. The muddy gray color palette of Earth distinguishes itself from the bubblegum colors of Ether. It’s a perfect fit for the story.
After reaching the end of this issue, I was ecstatic for the future of Ether. I went to read other people’s thoughts, and had uncovered some rather bleak grumblings in a few corners of the internet. These people claimed it was to end at issue #5! In light of this terrible news, I reached out to Matt Kindt on Twitter, and was happily reassured that there is “definitely more” to come, and that the team has “lots more ground to cover.” So stay chipper, dear readers. This isn’t the end for Ether. All is well with the cosmos.
I'm enormously pleased with the results of Matt Kindt and David Rubin's collaboration. Boone's story strikes a chord with me on an emotional and aesthetic level. It's a joyous read with marvelous characters, vibrant art, and a riveting story. Issue #5 is a turning point for the series, and an excellent conclusion to the first arc. Here's to an equally ethereal second volume!
Written by Matt Kindt
Art & Lettering by David Rubin
Published by Dark Horse Comics