Magic and science usually don’t mesh well. But in the Ether, they complement one another. Dark Horse’s ETHER VOL. 1: DEATH OF THE LAST GOLDEN BLAZE by Matt Kindt and David Rubin follows Boone Dias, a scientist and interdimensional detective. Through his excellent analytical skills, he solves some of the Ether’s gravest crimes. However, a job in a mystical land isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though Boone is extremely interested in the Ether, his obsession destroys everything around him: his relationships, career, and even body. So when the Ether’s greatest defender, the Golden Blaze, is found assassinated in her bedroom, Boone must find the killer before things get messier.

Back and Forth

ETHER VOL. 1 jumps right into the world of the Ether, but switches between the current story and Boone’s past. We see the crime right off the bat before we know how Boone got involved in the first place. But gradually the story unfolds through flashbacks and the present narrative. Don’t worry. The flashbacks aren’t meandering. They stay relevant to the main plot, which involves Boone’s introduction to the Ether as well as the fishy stuff that goes on down there. The difference between the Ether and the Boone’s world is stark, so it’s easy to tell where you are in time and space.

While the Ether is vibrant with green skies and pink clouds, the “real” world is dull and dark. The Ether may look inviting and beautiful, but Boone quickly figures out how ruthless this world can be. It seems that cruelty isn’t a human-made concept.

ether
Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

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The coloring also helps to separate the past from the present. For flashbacks, the colors are muted but warm. The panels look like old photographs with a sepia-tone haze. The way the characters look and the setting also help to differentiate eras, but the colors remove any confusion. The overall style stays consistent though, which means these transitions aren’t jarring at all. Things like visible sound effects and parallel events keep ETHER VOL. 1 cohesive.

Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

How Art Creates Character in ETHER VOL. 1

David Rubin’s art direction in ETHER is nothing short of fantastic. From character design to modes of transportation, he makes such a surreal world feel feasible. Sure, they’re traveling via snail, but it gets the job done. And the gradual world-building emulates how it must feel to discover the Ether for the first time.

Even though it’s not the main location, Boone’s world is important as well. The Ether doesn’t completely overshadow the grimy streets of Italy or Boone’s old home. These scenes are just as narratively interesting because they juxtapose fantastical adventure with the reality of throwing one’s life away for the sake of adventure. I don’t want to say it’s “gritty realism,” but it is realistic in that there are real consequences to Boone’s callousness and morbid curiosity.

Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

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A Treasure Trove of Characters

There’s never a dull moment in the Ether. And much of this excitement comes from an array of characters. We see some classic fantasy beings like fairies, but most of the characters are pretty unique to their world. For example, one of the main fairies speaks like a street-wise New Yorker. Clearly, Rubin and Kindt put a lot of thought into every character, whether we see them for the whole comic or just one panel.

ether vol. 1
Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

One (or perhaps the only) of Boone’s most trusted allies in the Ether is Glum, a gorilla-like being who guards the Ether’s gates. Glum is a great sidekick because he’s more than a furry comrade. Being a citizen of the Ether, Glum picks up on details that would be insignificant to Boone. He literally and figuratively bridges the gap between two worlds.

And, of course, Boone himself is a strong protagonist. Because he’s so logical and science-driven, it’s interesting to see him interact with such a strange world. He can explain “magical” elements so they don’t seem too far-fetched at all. But being so analytical, he tends to forget about the big picture. This myopic view causes him to lose loved ones and miss essential information. But these flaws are exactly what make him such a great main character. Even though we like to see the hero win, it gets boring when they never lose.

I highly recommend ETHER VOL. 1 to anyone interested in science fiction with fantasy elements. Kindt’s writing pulls at your heartstrings without overdoing it, and Rubin’s art ramps up the feelings. I can’t wait to see how this series continues to twist and turn.

Preorder ETHER VOL.1 through Dark Horse Comics, or pick up a copy on July 19th!

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ETHER VOL. 1: DEATH OF THE LAST GOLDEN BLAZE by Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
ETHER VOL. 1 is a beautiful mix of magic and crime thriller. Matt Kindt's expert storytelling and David Rubin's amazing illustrations create a mysterious and visually pleasing world that will immediately reel you in.
97 %
Beautiful yet deadly

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