Faster Than Light
Story and Illustration by Brian Haberlin
Image Comics presenting a Shadowline Production
Comics readers tend to have a variety of interests, which is part of what I love about this medium. Walking into Ultimate Comics gives you access to as many genres as Barnes And Noble might. Fans of action can hit the superhero section, fans of crime drama can check out Brubaker and Phillips, and the horror fans can check out the works of Niles or Valiant’s Shadowman book. There are plenty of cerebral science fiction books on the stand, but full disclosure, I generally don’t enjoy them. As a kid, I wasn’t especially taken with space. I didn’t enjoy Star Trek, I stopped reading Heinlein after a couple of books, and at Dragon*Con this year, I steered clear of the Dr. Who cosplayers. Leave it to Ultimate Al to start changing my mind with this week’s selection, Faster Than Light.
The story is pretty cool. A group of astronauts is about to go exploring the universe now that someone has cracked the formula for faster than light travel, and they have heard that a race of alien monsters is headed for Earth, so they need to fly around preparing for that. Before they can get going, they see a new planet in our solar system. They tentatively name it Ouroborous and fly out to check it out, and spoiler alert, there are big scary monster tentacles all over the place. I may not have understood all of the scientific words, but the book was only using those to frame a story about a man taking over control of a team, balancing the fear of the unknown with the desire to see something absolutely novel. He’s navigating the relationship with the former captain of the ship he’s taken over, he’s having tense conversations with the tech people about the safety of the ship itself, he’s running meetings with the international council running these missions. With the exception of the scary tentacles, there’s very little plot movement, but the emotional soup of the issue, everyone scared and excited and distrustful, has me excited to see the next chapter. And man, those tentacles are great.
The best part of the book, though, is that readers can download a free Android of iOS app at experienceanomaly.com/ftl and use the camera to scan certain pages for interactive holograms. When you scan the establishing shot of the space station, for instance, the tablet will show a loading bay hovering between the page and the camera, and if you tap it, it will open and let an image of a spaceship fly out. When you scan the page with the tentacles, tentacles appear in your screen and lash out at you, and you can tap an icon to see a paragraph summarizing what the astronauts know so far. Marvel’s attempts at this augmented reality have been so hard to use that I haven’t even tried since the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover, but this app was easy to use and made for a fun reading experience. And how cool is it for a book about man and technology to pioneer a new interaction between reader and tech?
I highly recommend you take your Smartphone down to Ultimate Comics in Chapel Hill or Raleigh and give this sci-fi tech experience a spin. Just watch out for monsters.
Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics & the NCComicon