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Turncoat #1

Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Artyom Trakhavov
Colored by Jason Wordie

I love detective stories, and I just recently saw Blade Runner for the first time at Durham’s Carolina Theater, so this is a great time for me to be reading a sci-fi noir series. I hadn’t expected this book to also tie in to this week’s Primary elections.

In the future, we finally defeat an alien race called Management after three hundred years of subjugation. Marta Gonzalez was a human working for the aliens, but she defected in time to help us send them away. Five years later, no one trusts her and she’s working a small-time detective job. Simple missing person, but something smells funny about it, and as she pieces the clues together, she begins to suspect the alien war isn’t over yet.

Better than the story, and it’s a good story, is the political message. Marta has her boots on the ground. She’s worked for both sides. And for the average person, life under alien rule is about the same as life under human rule. Rich people want to stay rich, and they do; poor people want to survive, and they generally do. Neither side likes the other. I’m unfamiliar with Paknadel’s work, but the attention to world-building is so subversive and wonderful. Cartoons, produced by the rich people, all carry the message of supporting the status quo in clever subtlety. Marta walks into a bar playing a song about war crimes. People debate about whether to pay in the alien currency or the new stuff. Plenty of humans still practice the alien religion, and their school system is still the preferred one for private education. Paknadel understands politics as something that affects all of us, that envelops all of us, but that also distracts us with the flimsy promise of change. The grim world is splayed out in hyperdetail by Trakhanov, summoning the talented grotesque of Last Gang In Town but with a sense of humor closer to the backgrounds in Chew or Ms. Marvel. The aliens themselves are never fully seen, but enough visual motifs show up in the way human culture has developed to help the reader imagine.

As we wrap up our Primaries, as we prepare for a long and hideous battle in national airwaves, we are going to hear each side promise that a vote for the other candidate is dooming us all. Books like this remind us that whether or not our side loses, we are still going to have to set the alarm clock. We will still have to go to work and pay some taxes and share tables with each other. So let’s try to keep perspective. Let’s try to love each other even if we are convinced they are voting for a monster, and let’s make it through November together. I want my side to win. But I want to see you beyond your vote.

Come on down to Ultimate Comics in Raleigh or Chapel Hill and get on board this amazing new miniseries. And even if you hate it, I promise to respect you. But you won’t hate it.
-Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics