Solar Flare is a post-apocalyptic comic from the creative team of writer James Haick and artists Branko Jovanovic and Song Ye. The story follows a survivor group from Florida immediately before and after a massive solar flare knocks out the vast majority of electronics in the world while main character Jake Clifford sets out to find his young daughter Mazzy, who was visiting relatives when the power went out. He’s aided by his best friends Brent Collins and Dr. Jerry “Figs” Wilman, his client and U.S. Navy veteran Frank Henry, and Figs’ assistant Layla Christen.
Unfortunately they meet resistance from your run-of-the-mill post-apocalypse looters and, far more sinisterly, Jake’s uncle Kevin, who’s a member of an alt-right militia with ties to a reactionary senator that puts the blame for the power outage on a joint Saudi Arabian-North Korean terrorist attack using a massive E.M.P. device (despite being told otherwise from the scientists in charge of researching the matter).
The story itself is a serviceable take on the post-apocalypse genre that finds room for some biting social commentary. Aside from the inciting incident, it doesn’t break any genre conventions, as Haick uses the tried-and-true method of focusing on the personal struggles of the main character to ground the story enough for readers to really get into the story. The fact that Jake’s childhood friend is also the guy in charge of the government’s response to this exact scenario who also just happens to be in town (arriving just before the solar flare causes all flights to crash) from his tour promoting awareness for the eventuality feels contrived, and the first act of the narrative feels rushed to get to the post-apocalypse part of the story. The exact timeline is unclear, but it seems that within hours of the event the streets are so dangerous that travelling in anything less than armed groups is nearly suicidal, and no police are ever seen trying to get a handle on the situation.
That being said, the post-apocalypse genre is more about the world than it is about the plot, with the world-building and characters doing the bulk of the storytelling. Where Solar Flare Season 1 really shines is in its social commentary, specifically society’s over reliance on technology and the presence of alt-right malcontents in American society. The core of the narrative asks what would happen to society if all modern technology suddenly stopped working, and all but states we would no longer be able to function. A big issue it raises is that the only ones actively prepared for a breakdown of society are a reactionary fringe of hateful, bigoted, and violent extremists. This is reminiscent of some of the best zombie movies, which used the undead to make a point about the state of society. For those out the States, alt-right extremists have actually come to prominence in recent years, and I feel that Haick is attempting to comment on this. He paints them, and the politicians that subscribe to their ideology, as the greater-scope villain of the piece, and it’s in this regard that the narrative really shines.
The only real weak point is the art. Jovanovic and Song’s art takes an appropriately dark tone, making heavy use of shadows to affect a foreboding atmosphere. Unfortunately this often puts the character’s faces into shadow unnecessarily, making it difficult to tell one character from another, hampering the narrative overall. The artwork itself isn’t bad, in fact at its best it feels like a call back to Eduardo Risso‘s work for 100 Bullets, but this decision does take away from the reader’s ability to enjoy the story.
On the whole I liked Solar Flare Season 1. It’s a unique take on its genre and feels very well researched, providing a good read despite its flaws. It’s far from perfect, but it’s hardly unique in that regard and I admire any creative team that isn’t afraid of taking a stance on an issue. If any of this interests you, then you can pick up the book from the creators!