Short Cuts 61: The Seeds; Nocterra Vol. 1 – Full Throttle Dark; Time Before Time Vol. 1

The Seeds
Ann Nocenti, author; David Aja, artist
Berger Books, 2021

The Seeds collects a four-issue miniseries set in a dystopian future. How dystopian? So bad that some think that planet Earth may be dying. The bees are swarming (a sign of the resurgence of the natural world); a rebellious group of romantics have fled a tech-oriented society to create their own; and a small group of aliens have come to harvest the last seeds of humanity. Idealistic journalist Astra wears a hazmat suit to protect her from toxic air and fallout, like everyone else in the tech zone. When she crosses over to the wild tech-free Zone-B in pursuit of a story she meets the aliens, and has photos to prove it. Later she changes her mind about the love affair between the human Lola and the alien Race and joins them on a ship sailing to reseed the planet. This is a completely changed world, with only a few ties to current reality. So one could hardly expect a concrete ending to the story, which is mainly about creating a claustrophobic end-times atmosphere. Aja’s monochromatic nine-panel grid captures the tone perfectly, managing to be both beautiful and brutal at the same time.

Nocterra Vol. 1: Full Throttle Dark
Scott Snyder, story; Tony S. Daniel, art; Tomeu Morey, colors
Image Comics, 2021

Another dystopian story, but with a generous helping of horror elements. The initiating event is the sudden onset of complete blackness: not only was there no sun, but not even stars were visible. Val Riggs was a child when it happened. Now she is an adult working as a ferryman, transporting people through the dark in her eighteen-wheeler. It is dangerous work, because the perpetual night is populated by shades, horrible monsters created when humans are infected by the darkness. Val is seeking an illuminated sanctuary, and agrees to take on an old man and his niece as passengers. The old man may be more than he seems: a group of hunters come after them claiming that he is responsible for the darkness. As if that were not enough to deal with, Val is also seeking treatment for her brother Em, who is coming down with the darkness infection. The whole story is like a road movie with nearly continuous battles with monsters. The final sanctuary turns out to be a mirage, setting up the next arc. Daniel and Morey create a dramatic, widescreen visual setting. But for me the whole thing felt predictable, like an average movie blockbuster. I doubt I will continue with it.

Time Before Time Vol. 1
Declan Shalvey & Rory McConville, writers; Joe Palmer, artist; Chris O’Halloran, colors; Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, letterer
Image Comics, 2021

This wild time-travel adventure has the year 2140 as its central focus. There a criminal organization called the Syndicate can smuggle people back in time for a fresh start. Tatsuo works for them as a smuggler, but wants to leave the Syndicate and his life of crime behind. When he makes his move to steal a time machine, he is forced to take an FBI agent along as a partner, which makes them both time fugitives. Their trip back to 2093 puts them into the hands of rival group the Union, where Tatsuo takes the gamble of selling out the Syndicate in return for his freedom. From here things get complicated in a way that can only happen in time travel stories, which also includes an undercover Syndicate agent in the Union and Tatsuo’s vengeful boss. Forced to travel to 3455, he returns to 2093 with a mystery package and an upgraded time machine. They take off, having triggered a fight between the Syndicate and the Union, as well as coming to the attention of the Syndicate’s leader in 2679. It promises lots of mayhem in the next installment. Palmer’s art is on the cartoony side (with fairly basic backgrounds), but he captures characters and action sequences very effectively.

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