You remember when everywhere you looked, in almost all forms of media, there were vampires? I swear, they were everywhere! In films, videogames, books and graphic novels. Damn you Stephanie Meyer! That was your fault! But recently, I’ve noticed a trend. Things are starting to move away from the vampire genre and into the sci-fi genre. More and more sci-fi elements are seeping into our collective consciousness’s (dear god, I hope that’s spelled right). And what’s best about sci-fi? aliens! From classic films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind to the Mass Effect games, we all love ourselves some alien stories. With that in mind, here’s a webcomic about aliens who come to Earth, only to get more than they bargained for. Oh, joy! This is the first chapter of Greetings from Earth by David Higgins.
Firstly, I’d like to talk about the premise. It’s about aliens who come to Earth and misunderstand a lot of things. “What’s wrong with that?”, I hear you cry. It’s just that, oh… I don’t know. I get the feeling that it’s been done before. But I couldn’t possibly think of any- My Stepmother is an alien, Coneheads, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Earth Girls are Easy, E.T., Starman, Mork and Mindy, Battlefield Earth, The Brother From Another Planet, Meet Dave and Thor! Do I need to go on? I bring this up for two reasons. One, this trope has been done to death, like I said. And two, whilst it has been done before, there is no reason why you can’t do it again so long as you do something different. Something that distinguishes it from the rest. And does it do that? Let’s have a look.
Well, the story starts with an old alien telling his grandchild a story about Earth form his past. Many years ago, the old alien was the captain of a spaceship going to Earth to investigate it. So the aliens land on Earth, and I have to admit, the comic solves the obstacle of how any alien invaders could be stopped by bacteria (also known as the War of the Worlds cop out) in a rather funny way. They cough a bit and that’s it. Not entirely scientific but still very funny. Hats off for that one.
So the aliens don disguises to blend in with the humans. Pretty soon after they start to explore the human world, I realised something. You never see a human. You might hear them speak or see a hand, but you never see all of them. This is both brilliant and frustrating. It’s frustrating because I’d like to actually see them interacting with humans on a personal level. But it’s equally brilliant because all the attention is focused on the aliens. This is what I was talking about when I said that this comic needed to distinguish itself from similar things. In films and TV shows, when aliens arrive and start mucking about, it’s usually done through the perspective of a human, at least partly. Here it’s entirely from the aliens perspective which makes it unique, to me at least. If there was one reason I had to pick for you to read this comic (although there are others), this would be it.
And then, as if that wasn’t enough, another interesting thing happened. The aliens start to slowly acquire human characteristics. One becomes a kleptomaniac, another becomes a sexual fiend, another becomes an alcoholic… okay these aren’t the BEST traits that humanity has to offer, but I thought it was a nice twist. The aliens believe that all these traits indicate that they have caught a human virus and so they try to see if they can cure themselves. This leads to a scene where the Captain has a nightmare that he is a naked human woman. And we see the woman. Nearly all of her. Nearly. *Sigh*.
It was around this point in the story that I realised something. To me, this comic seems to be more story focused than character focused. What I mean by this is, the main thing that we are being shown is what is actually happening, in terms of the events of the story rather than how the characters feel about the events or even how they feel about each other. There are a few snippets of things like this but they are very brief and overshadowed by the story itself. Let me be clear, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s not like the characters have zero personality, and the story is a good one. It’s just that I have always held the opinion that a good story is half character focus and half story focus. Equal balance between the two. This feels vey unequal, and I think that’s a shame. It’s like the writer was in such a rush to tell this great story that he forgot to tell us about the characters. Which is sad, because I think what little I’ve seen of the characters is quite good. I want to know more about them. About their hopes and dreams and motivations and all that crap. If you think about it, it’s a credit to the writer that even though the characters don’t get a lot of focus I want to see more of them.
Having said that, some characterisation does enter into the story here. Concerned with the “virus” that has affected them, the Captain decides to activate a device that will… I think blow up the sun. I’m not sure, it isn’t explained very well. Still, this leads to something interesting. Right before they… do the thing with the sun, the Captain calls it off. After a moment of reflection he realises that despite everything that has happened to them, he is fond of Earth. He orders the device destroyed, establishes a quarantine zone around the planet and receives a message from the leaders of the world, asking to talk, ending the chapter on a cliff-hanger.
So, final verdict? Well… it’s not perfect. There are a lot of things that could have been better about it. But, honestly, none of the things that are wrong with it are major. It’s a lot of little things that just bug me. And when this comic does manage to get it right, it get’s it RIGHT! So is it worth your time? I’d say so, yes. It’s not for everyone but I’d recommend you try it all the same.
But what did YOU think of Greetings From Earth? Was it a space epic for the ages or the vestigial leftovers from half the comedies of the 80’s? Why not let us know in the comments or on Twitter? And the first person who says “Nanu nanu” gets a slap in the face. You have been warned!