I have written about many sci-fi comics on AP2HYC before, but Peace of Mind by Callum Fraser stands out as a unique part of what can, at times, be a tired genre. It combines the best elements of The Matrix and Total Recall into a new and interesting story. Currently up on Kickstarter, this first issue raises more questions than it answers, but it effectively sets up what could be a great story. Every page of Peace of Mind has at least a few things in it (and often many more) that are worth stopping and thinking about. Even the cover of this issue is something to marvel at; the up-down, red and blue 3D distortion effect subtly sets up the themes of the story and invites the reader into a new, sci-fi world.
That world, by the way, is immediately shattered. We open on an idyllic household family: mom, dad, pet, and a couple of kids. But even before finishing the first page, the artwork begins to pixelate and an ominous error message pops up. To watch the “mom” descent into error on the next page is tragic and unsettling, as we see the faces of her “family” wash away into lines of code. Suddenly, she is one of many bodies in suspension tanks, patrolled by armed guards and hooked up to a virtual reality illusion. She has not paid for the highest level of service and so due to her error, she is unceremoniously dumped down the drain.
Here is where Emiliano Correa‘s artwork begins to shine. The splash pages of Peace of Mind that show the pile of disposed bodies are haunting. Correa dissolves from a deep, ocean blue into a bright purple/pink. The colors are pretty to look at and juxtapose the grotesque disregard for human life very appropriately. The one panel of the code around the woman’s eyes is also a nice touch. Really, really creepy.
Once again, the story shifts into new territory as we are introduced to Mickey, a blue-collar sewer worker. He spots the woman’s body, but notices something different about her. He quickly takes her back to his underground base where we meet his living mates, most importantly Leroy and Suze. They dig deeper into this mystery woman only to find out that she is indeed far more than she seems to be. They hook her up to a re-programmed robot and begin prying into her digital headspace. From here, the ending does not feature a big twist or game-changer, but it does make me want to read more. Besides, it’s always better to leave endings unspoiled whenever possible.
For me, sci-fi stories, more than stories of other genres, rely heavily on interesting and creative world-building. In this first issue, Peace of Mind‘s world building is relatively minimal, but most of it still works well. We get brief, yet impactful impressions of this world’s over-reliance on virtual reality. We also see the inhumanity of its hyper-capitalism (as stated by the comic’s creators) both through the actions of the VR guards and conversely through the generosity of Mickey and his companions. Some world-building aspects do not land for me, like Mickey’s distracting tangent about people not speaking old languages like French and Spanish any more, but it’s a quick moment. The pacing in this issue is very well done and works to its benefit even in its less exciting moments.
Overall, Peace of Mind is off to a promising start. Because of its similarities to other, more well known sci-fi stories, the danger of coming across as a re-tread of old ideas is high. This first issue was a good balance of familiar tropes and new scenarios and I hope to see this balance continue into further issues. Mickey is a likable and sympathetic protagonist and the mystery of this VR woman is ripe for exploration. I look forward to seeing where further issues of this story go.
Once again, you can find Peace of Mind‘s Kickstarter here! What are your favorite sci-fi elements? Where do you think this story could go next? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!