Amongst The Stars is quite the novel science fiction concept from author Jim Alexander. Aliens try to reach out to Earth through their collective conscious; however, they become mentally trapped here, in the equivalent of a mental horror movie. It’s up to humanity to rescue them, if they can recognize the aliens in the back of their head.
It’s a heavy concept to wrap your mind around, especially considering that the main conflict lies in a collective consciousness’s nightmares. To artist Mike Perkins credit, he represents the alien’s existential horror through clever abstract drawings, such as several aliens being pulled into a film projector like phantoms. The Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance (SICBA) has named it on the shortlist for graphic novel of the year, and the publisher, Planet Jimbot, has been kind enough to send us a 5-page sampler.
The art style itself is simple black and white. The lines are thin, but the designs detailed. There’s also hardly any shading. Overall, this gives the comic an almost retro feel, and I definitely felt transported back to the styles of the 80s. The aliens’ designs didn’t really pull me in; they look very humanoid, with a long ponytail sprouting off their neck. It feels like a very generic alien design, and I wish there was something that felt more original about it. I’ve definitely seen this creature looming in the back of a Star Wars cantina on some distant planet. The artwork does little to create much of an atmosphere. There’s almost no background—either a blank whiteness or a complete blackness. While Perkins may be trying to convey infinite space, we, as readers, are still trying to wrap our minds around the concept of these creature’s mental existence, so I think more is required than just a blank page.
The trouble with a sampler of a hard, ambitious science fiction story like this is that it’s too short to get a full grasp on the story’s conflict. Moreover, it takes a talented writer to reduce a strange concept like a collective consciousness or a mental horror into something relatable. That’s my biggest concern with Amongst The Stars. I feel like the ‘horror’ that these aliens are feeling isn’t well-defined. Also, the story might stumble into a blatant plothole: if these creatures are so far advanced from us that they’ve developed a collective consciousness, how do they unwittingly stumble into a devastating situation?
While I admire Amongst The Stars‘ ambition and its originality, I feel like its abstract conflict and rather generic artwork don’t pull me in enough to tell a gripping story. Still, ambitious projects like this are always welcome additions to the graphic novel universe. Comic books may be one of the only art forms that can represent such an ambitious story, thanks to its mix of the visual and narrative, as well as its less restrictive limitations when compared to film or theater.
Have you checked out Amongst the Stars yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!