Jay Faerber gets into his groove and writes a pretty great female character. The art and conflict rocket this comic into a must-read!
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ELSEWHERE, one of Image’s newest titles, should excite comics lovers and history buffs alike. Coming out August 2, ELSEWHERE #1 tells the story of Amelia Earhart after she famously disappeared. Written by Jay Faerber, with art by Sumeyye Kesgin, the first issue of ELSEWHERE proves to be a great start to the series!

Image Courtesy of Image Comics

Readers hit the ground running on page 1 when we see Cort and Tavel escape from a prison and steal into the forest for cover. Four steps beyond the tree line,  who should they run into but Amelia Earhart herself, stuck in a tree after parachuting from her plane! With the guards still hot on their tail, Amelia and her new friends get out of there. However, that’s not before we learn that Amelia is stuck in a world called Korvath where the tyrant Lord Kragen rules with an iron fist. In fact, it was his prison from which Cort and Tavel escaped! Amelia convinces them to go back because she believes the tyrant is holding Fred, her navigator pre-crash. The issue ends just after Amelia manages to get herself into Kragen’s fortress and leaves the reader with a great cliffhanger!

The Protagonist: A Female!

Faerber creates fascinating worlds and conflicts, but from the get-go ELSEWHERE #1 really hooked me with the main character. The premise is thrilling, but also sends up some red flags: Amelia Earhart is, for all intents and purposes, a hero in the eyes of feminism. She did a major thing (flew solo across the Atlantic) in 1932, an era when men largely discouraged women from doing major things (like flying solo across the Atlantic). How will male author in 2017 write her into a sci-fi comic book?

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Luckily, my fears were mostly unfounded. Jay Faerber knows what he’s doing when it comes to women (see: COPPERHEAD) and writes Amelia as a well-rounded character. Faerber gives sufficient attention to her strength as a pilot and, therefore, her contributions to the team, while still making space to portray her as emotionally vulnerable. He allows her to be both powerful and scared, and the presence of one characteristic doesn’t overshadow or diminish the importance of the other.

Image Courtesy of Image Comics

How ELSEWHERE #1 Avoids the Trap of Mansplaining

What interests me most about Amelia is her position as a human protagonist in a science fiction story. Just like her audience, she’s a newcomer to this world. She would have been a perfect vehicle to explain the setting to the reader. Of course, this would have been mansplaining. While “mansplaining” mostly refers to that cute thing when a man explains a concept to a female professional in that field (check out this fun example!), it’s also an easy way around a complex exposition. Authors (particularly screenwriters) tend to fall back on having a male character explain the situation to a woman and the audience by extension. Since Amelia is the stranger in a strange land, it would have been easy for Faerber to mansplain his setting by showing other characters explain Korvath to her.

However, he avoids this trap through his presentation of Amelia as entirely badass. She asks a few questions, but she doesn’t have time for lengthy explanations, she’s too busy wowing Cort and Tavel with her flight skills. As a matter of fact, Amelia is almost entirely absent from the exposition. Faerber leaves it to Cort and Tavel to get us up to speed. The three full pages we spend with them before Amelia falls onto the scene are enough to give the reader the gist the of the environment. It’s invisible, but the lack of mansplaining is worth noting. It makes Amelia much stronger in the eyes of the reader.

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Mystery Surrounds the Other Characters

As the main character, Amelia Earhart is pretty damn great, but the other characters are interesting as well. Her two friends, Cort and Tavel, have an admittedly typical dynamic where one is clearly in charge. Despite this, they remain interesting because of the mystery surrounding their past crimes and involvement in the rebellion. As a reader, I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about them. Although we don’t see much of the tyrannical Lord Kragen, the way others talk about him is enough to give us an idea of his power. As readers, we understand how afraid of him we should be. Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing more of everyone in the next issue.

The Art: Amelia’s Mental State

Image Courtesy of Image Comics

ELSEWHERE #1’s art brings the reader into the same headspace as the main character. Artist Sumeyye Kesgin and colorist Ron Riley use primarily blues and purples in the settings surrounding Amelia and her friends. This color scheme gives the reader a sense of the weird but not necessarily the uncomfortable. Amelia finds this new world strange and awesome in the literal sense but not everything is wholly unfamiliar. There are forests, clouds, patches of sky, even a beast she can ride like a plane. All of those are in comfortable, cool colors. Of course, she’s not completely calm all the time. Blacks, reds, greens, and browns dominate moments where she feels scared or confused, and for that realistic touch, Kesgin blends her own renderings of Amelia with black and white photos. The results are wonderful.

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Get Excited, Guys!

For a comic with a premise as awesome as “Amelia Earhart vs Despotic Ruler,” ELSEWHERE #1 doesn’t disappoint. The good characters are likable and the evil characters are menacing, and everyone’s pretty mysterious on the whole. Korvath is fascinating; I can’t wait for Faerber and Kesgin to reveal more about this weird setting. The cherry on top is a badass female protagonist who also has realistic emotions. ELSEWHERE is a definite read for anyone who likes comics, history, both, or neither. Seriously.

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