INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 offers the best of its influences: intrigue, interesting characters, and a well-realized world. Ward's art alone makes it a must-read for sci-fi lovers. Berger Books has another hit that will surely be talked about for months to come.
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Back in 2018, just before San Diego Comic Con, Dark Horse Comics announced the sci-fi series INVISIBLE KINGDOM under their Berger Books imprint. Fast forward eight months later, INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 reunites G. Willow Wilson (MS. MARVEL) with editor Karen Berger. Under DC Comics’ old Vertigo imprint, Berger previously edited Wilson’s last creator-owned series, AIR. Together with artist Christian Ward (BLACK BOLT, ODY-C), INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 is a sci-fi tale about Grix and Vess — two women with a common destiny. What will they uncover that ties them together?

Two Women, One Conspiracy

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 follows two main characters. First, there’s the headstrong hotshot captain Grix, the pilot of the Sundog. Grix delivers cargo for Lux — an Amazon-like corporation that controls society — to customers on different planets. As such, we meet Grix and her crew as they have to make an emergency landing on one of the moons of the planet Qari. While Grix successfully crash lands the Sundog, it severely delays the delivery of the cargo due to important ship repairs. Thus, this creates tension between Grix and the crew as all their jobs on the line. However, Grix discovers a conspiracy between an insider at Lux and an outside person.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books

Then there’s Vess, a Down — the rarest of four Roolian sexes — who makes a pilgrimage to the religious order known as the Siblings of Severity. The plot jumps to planet Duni where we find Vess blindly in search of the titular Invisible Kingdom. Along the way, Vess experiences some discrimination. But thanks to a kind citizen who points Vess in the direction, she eventually finds it. There, Vess joins the Siblings of Severity and becomes a none (a play on nun). We learn about the way the monastery works and that everyone has a job. When Vess is given the task of a bookkeeper, she discovers something that should have remained a secret.

Part of what makes INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1’s plot successful is Wilson gives an equal amount of time to Grix and Vess. While Grix’s plot has some light humor, Vess’ subplot has a mystical element to it. I quite enjoyed how the Vess’ actions mirrored Grix’s actions. It reminded me very much of Brian K. Vaughan’s and Marcos Martin’s work on BARRIER.

Grix and Vess: Well-Thought-Out Heroines With a Good Supporting Cast

Although INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 focuses on the present, we get a clear sense of who Grix and Vess are. Indeed, this is thanks to the supporting characters in each subplot. For starters, the crew aboard the Sundog very much reminds me of COWBOY BEBOP. The Sundog’s crew members are: Rath, Grix’s little brother; Eline, Grix’s corporate liason; and Xether, the flight engineer. Rounding out the rest of the crew is Krov, the mechanic who’s a bit of a brute. Rath acts as the comic relief as he delivers a few of this issue’s chuckles. All in all, they play quite well off Grix, who calls the shots.

In contrast, Vess is pretty much all alone until she reaches the monastery. However, she gets help from a compassionate citizen who mentions that her cousin, Lissa, joined the order. Eventually we meet Lissa, but unlike her cousin, she turns out to be a bully who pokes fun at Vess. Thus, we can’t help but feel sorry for Vess who endures some hardships. However, the most interesting supporting character in Vess’ subplot is Mother Proxima, the Siblings of Severity’s leader. In fact, Mother Proxima knows a lot about Vess’ culture and has an air of suspicion about her. I suspect her true colors will come out in later issues, so I look forward to seeing more of her.

Ward Illustrates Gorgeous Worlds in INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1

While he’s best known for his work on the critically-acclaimed BLACK BOLT series, Christian Ward crafts beautiful art in INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1. Namely, Ward’s art straddles the line between digital painting and comic book. From the moment we meet Grix, we get some gorgeous, eye-popping colors (more on this shortly) and get pulled into the world. In addition, I think Ward knows how to show emotion quite well. For instance, When Grix prepares to crash onto the moon, we see a close up of Grix gritting her teeth. While it’s subtle, it helps to convey the gravity of the situation.

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books

As for Ward’s color work? It’s quite a treat for readers! I found myself in awe with how Ward captured realism and futurism with the colors. Specifically, when we meet Vess on planet Duni, she stands out with her violet skin and red outfit. This further shows how much of an outsider Vess is in comparison to Duni’s citizens. Later, we see more earthy colors as Vess joins the Siblings of Severity. At times, the colors reminded me of BLADE RUNNER and ODY-C, Ward’s other sci-fi series with Matt Fraction. Overall, it amazes me that Ward both draws and colors the series. He remains one of the best artists in the industry.

Closing Comments on INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1

While the sci-fi comics genre is a crowded field, INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 separates itself from the pack thanks to its two protagonists. Certainly, I think this series requires multiple readings — not because of the plot, but because the art is amazing to look at. Did you enjoy Wilson’s and Ward’s previous works? If so, you owe it to yourself to check out INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1, and get hyped for issue two.

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