This collection completes the series, which was always intended to be told in three five-issue story arcs. So at fifteen issues total I suppose it could be considered a maxi-series, even though it has always been described as an ongoing. In the current environment fifteen issues of an indie series would be a good run in any case. Since this is the finale, I will have to talk about details: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Willa arrives in Kansas City, but she has only an enigmatic symbol from her late father’s old journal to orient her, and she’s not at all sure what it means. Edison has made it to Chicago, bearing a giant insect head in a bag to prove his story about the impending attack by the farmers. Willa finally figures out that the symbol is a geographic location–visible from the sky–and heads for it. Only to be caught by Barrow (thought to be headed for Chicago, but evidently he has been the unknown person following her), who handcuffs her to an air tank and attempts to send her skyward.
But they both enter her father’s project. The big reveal is that it is an underground city called Crystal Springs: not the fix for gravity loss that we have been led to expect, just a clever workaround. The disappointment of that is almost eclipsed by the revelation that Willa’s mother is alive after all (flashbacks show how she found her way there, as well as her life there up to this point).
By this time I was so involved in the characters that the lack of a gravity cure truly didn’t bother me: I just wanted to see how everything worked out. And it does work out. The Chicago situation is resolved; the farmers are welcomed in Crystal Springs, so they can continue their work and help the other survive; Willa finally confesses her love to Edison. And the story ends with her heading out to explore the world with her mom. It’s an ending that leaves room for a sequel, chronicling her adventures, as well as life with Edison and the new broader civilization in Crystal Springs.
The title of this 12-issue maxi-series says it all. Set in the United States in 2022, it depicts a country where the current swing to the right has gone all the way into fascism. There has been a civil war, leaving behind a violent alt-right (as they prefer to call themselves), and a Special National Police Unit for the Matters of Domestic Terrorism (head investigator Peter Freeman says “I hunt enemies of the State”).
The story centers around two ex-lovers. Since their divorce both women appear to have gone in opposite directions. Amanda Parker has become radicalized, and is on the run with her partner, attacking fascist groups all over the country. When she is being interrogated by Freeman, architect Huian Xing says she blames her ex for the failure of their relationship and the loss of their child through a failed pregnancy.
There is a great deal of expository dialog about the state of the country and its politics, which has the potential to be a little too much like the actual daily news. But it is not so heavy-handed to impede the action. Much of that is provided by Amanda. Huian’s role is more complex: is she really cooperating with the government to catch Amanda, or are they both executing a shared plan?
I’m a longtime fan of artist Danijel Žeželj (mainly from Vertigo titles like Luna Park and El Diablo). His dark, atmospheric style is very well suited to this story, aided by Jordie Bellaire’s impressionistic color palette. His dramatic character designs and panel layouts enliven even the talkiest scenes, and the script makes frequent use of his skill with wordless pages. So I have no doubt that the second and final act will be visually striking, and look forward to the political resolution.
The publisher’s blurb for this just says “Endgame,” while the back cover has the description “The finale of a dystopian tragedy.” Admirably pithy, but I still think the endgame narrative is worth discussing. This second and final installment picks up the story seven weeks later. Freeman is still sleeping with Huian, while arranging to have her parents deported at the same time (to pressure her into giving up Amanda’s location). Amanda and her partner Arvid are in an abandoned building in Pittsburgh, waiting for something.
As they move on, Arvid’s family is arrested. There’s a palpable sense of the government watching everyone, which is reinforced by a wall of video monitors we see Freeman use to spy on Huian. She plants a bomb in his briefcase, then regrets it and tries to warn him…but not before it explodes, killing his wife and child. He visits her in jail, intent on killing her. But she had previously told him about evidence she had hidden proving his infidelity with her, which would ruin his clean “family man” image–so he commits suicide instead. The plan had been an assassination at a gala, but our last view of Amanda is her approaching a police precinct headquarters, fully armed.
Arvid returns home to check out his house. When he asks a neighbor for information, she reveals that she has been hiding his son, who was outside when the raid occurred. He had no idea, and this is clearly the closest thing to a silver lining this story has to offer. Hearing his pessimistic thoughts about the state of the world, she asks why he ever had a child. He replies, “Because despite everything…I can’t stop believing a better world is possible.” A surprisingly upbeat ending (relatively) to what is otherwise a bleak tale indeed. But beautifully told.