Kurtis J. Wiebe has been a good friend as well as an inspiration to me for some time. We met at Emerald City Comic Con 2011, so since ECCC happened this past weekend, it marks our fourth friendiversary.
When Wiebe first chatted with me about Pisces over a year ago, I knew it wouldn’t disappoint, and after reading an advance copy of the first issue, it hasn’t. Wiebe spoke about how researching imagery for the body horror he wanted to convey was like facing his fears and demons. Likewise for me in reading this. To sum up my feelings at the start: curious and hesitant, anticipating the onslaught of bodily fluids and gore. I kept thinking, It’s coming, it’s coming…nope, not here, and then: OH FUCK! Before diving into my thoughts and reactions to it, check out the preview here:
The plot, essentially, is this:
Former fighter pilot Dillon Carpenter found everything he wanted when he returned from the Vietnam War. A loving partner, a dream career training with NASA to travel through space, and soon, he will learn, a prime candidacy for a secret mission, one that will forever change the world: First Contact. But as Dillon prepares, his war trauma returns and he’s haunted by dark visions of his future. There is but one constant; the voice whispering from the stars.
-SPOILERS DEAD AHEAD-
Wiebe has said that this story, for himself and the series’ artist Johnnie Christmas, is “incredibly personal” and deals with themes of mistakes past, guilt, and fears of the future. There’s no waiting for these themes, as the opening pages depict a drunk and wrecked man who is obviously drinking away some pain. Including a trifecta of time frames was a smart move to portray Dillon’s (the main character) regrets, and these transitions through time aren’t abrupt. The co-creators patiently explore one period or memory, which keeps the audience wanting to know more about the other two.
Dillon’s co-pilot, Henry, is introduced accompanied by a slew of swear words and phrases that remind me of Wiebe’s other series Rat Queens. I’ve felt in the distant past that using expletives in writing can be too much, taking away from the story even if it’s the way the character’s written, but Wiebe has a way of incorporating them naturally, like your favorite sailor-mouthed friend who goes off at the drop of a hat, captivating you with their mother-cussin’ skills.
Christmas’s art is true to life, even with colorist Bonvillain’s vibrant contrasts of greens, reds and yellows that convey the intense world of sci-fi horror. The way Christmas depicts rain is particularly worth noting. I could almost hear the water hitting the ground and splashing into puddles, filling them up, paralleling Dillon’s full cup of guilt as Henry is taken hostage. Not long after this, we’re given a tease of what heebie-jeebies, of the bodily kind, are to come. There’s a panel that had me wincing and saying, “Ew ew ew” aloud. You’ll know it when you see it.
Another part that seamlessly transitions from one time frame to another is near the end when an ocean mixes with the cosmos. Dillon is drawn to a body of water and enveloped by a brutal tidal wave, revealing a new timeline set in the darkness of the universe. This part creates a very real and literal sense of how one drowns in fear and scares me more deeply than body horror. This moment, and the hints carefully placed throughout the rest of the story, reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s use of silence and its depiction of being out of control in the depths of space.
By the end, I counted three regrets that Dillon carries with him, and it’s easy to sympathize with his mistakes and humanity. However, I also feel like this guy is totally fucked and alone. The tension between seeing how lost he is and wanting to witness his redemption is one of the story’s driving forces. The character building Wiebe’s done so far, and will continue to do, will definitely carry me past the nightmare-inducing and at times nauseating imagery that I’m sure will come with it.
Pisces #1 is due to release on April 29th.