Over its run, Dark Horse's ETHER has been stunning. This five issue limited series ends soon and it's been one of the best sci-fi comics on the shelf. Written by Matt Kindt — one of the finest writers in comics today — and drawn by rising star David Rubin, ETHER feels like a sci-fi Sherlock Holmes. However, it also challenges that inspiration. The supernatural and the rational conflict in a thought-provoking way. If you're not reading ETHER, you need to be.

ETHER

The comic follows Boone, a scientist, detective, and explorer of the world Ether. The first issue starts several years after he first comes to Ether, so the story is told very much in medias res. Kindt and Rubin introduce us to many characters with whom Boone has a long history, seen through dialogue referencing unseen events. Therefore, we understand Boone as an established part of the comic's strange world.

The plot centers around Boone's investigation of a murder. Someone (or something) has killed a divine protector known as the Blaze. The investigation is high-profile: the people hold Boone in high-esteem. Despite his fame in Ether, Boone is homeless in the real world, having destroyed his life in pursuit of Ether's secrets. The story moves back and forth between Boone's experiences in Ether, the real world, and flashbacks showing what led him to his current life.

READ: Last week's “Why Aren't You Reading” explored JONESY, one of Boom's best new ongoing series.

Rubin's mesmerizing art captures what makes the series great: its duality. The art is visually striking, but also thoughtful. Depending on the location of the scene, Rubin employs two distinct styles. He renders Ether in a cartoonish fashion — embracing vibrant colors and otherworldly aesthetics — to make it feel foreign and unreal. When ETHER moves into the real world, the colors fade, making the drawings look more realistic. This contrast highlights the stark differences between the two worlds.

ETHERThe synergy between Rubin's art and Kindt's writing makes ETHER fantastic. Boone is a character always investigating and attempting to rationalize what he sees. The people of Ether admire Boone for his intelligence. Yet people in the real world scorn him for being homeless. Kindt and Rubin are setting up a duality that stretches to the very core of their character. Despite Boone's devout adherence to intellectual ideals, the idea that observation and logic can potentially yield incorrect conclusions pervades the text.

One of the more fascinating facets of ETHER's duality is how it interrogates classist power structures. Boone appears unheroic in the real world, but when he goes to a land beyond the real world's imagination, he's a hero. Our society often treats the homeless like they're of lesser value. Many see homelessness as a sign of deficient character, but we know that Boone is hyper-capable. Boone's interdimensional travel undermines the notion of homeless people as lacking value. In Ether, Boone is valuable and capable. There's no indication as to how Boone became homeless, but ETHER challenges the notion that people who are homeless deserve their destitution.

READ: Matt Kindt has been doing great work with Valiant, too! Find out why NINJAK made it onto our list of the best Valiant comics from 2016!

Boone's flaw is that he's too logical and scientifically minded. This leads to an exploration of how to balance humanity with science and reason. While Boone is the protagonist, the final issues question whether he's actually heroic. Ether native Ubel serves as a foil to Boone. Ubel experiments on children and acts without regard to ethics. There are indications, communicated through sinister exchanges, that Boone has also carried out terrible deeds in the name of science. This element leads readers to question Boone's humanity and the lengths anyone should go for the sake of science.

ETHERKindt and Rubin's intelligent design has made every issue of ETHER a treat. I love where they're taking the plot and I'm impressed with the depth they've managed to explore in so few issues. Gorgeous art and smart, snappy writing make the philosophical quandaries all the more delectable. Keep your eyes peeled for the first trade, but until then, you can pick up the single issues online or in a comic store. ETHER is going to be remembered fondly: don't miss out.

Why Aren’t You Reading is a weekly column dedicated to recommending excellent series that didn’t break the top 100 in sales last month.

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