The Forever War: Forever Free #3 - Review. You're So Classic
Forever War: Forever Free #3
Writer: Joe Haldeman
A couple of weeks ago, I read Marvel Rising Alpha #1 right after reading Titan Comics' Konungar #1 (a great comic; peep the review here). I commented then about how reading the 50+ pages of Konungar meant Rising Alpha, about 36-pages in its own right, really needed to be on-point to surmount my reader fatigue. This week, Ms Marvel #31 was 34 pages. Forever Free #3 is 46. The difference this time around is that, in its exquisite presentation and classic sci-fi execution, Forever Free #3 kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering about the fate of humanity, and firmly fixated on making it through to the end. No fatigue here.
I couldn't tell you who the cast is in this or what the setup was in its entirety. I didn't read the first two issues of this and there wasn't anything in the ad copy where I bought it from that told me this was a limited run or that this was the last issue. It's fine. I get it that that (comics publishers not stating that a thing is a limited series) prevails in the industry today. I'll just summarize the setup by saying that a group of humans who embarked on a journey in an effort to outwit some of the universe's conflicts finds themselves suddenly very alone. Criss-crossing multiple galaxies, there is a very The Chase-style framework (see Star Trek: the Next Generation) (without the multiple factions vying for what they think is a solution to a super-weapon) as the last beings in the galaxy attempt to solve the ultimate mystery.
The art here is top-notch professional. Where the art in Konungar is like something out of a painting, the art in Forever Free is appropriately sci-fi. Detailed and intrinsic in little details like antennae dangling off of a spaceship. But what really stands out here is how Marvano is equally skilled in rendering landscapes. Where you would think that an artist highly skilled at rendering a lot of space-age gadgetry might struggle in painting beautiful landscapes, there is no such problem here. Even at the pulled-out orbital view, Marvano’s planets look spectacular. But more than anything, I have to give big props for having the boldness to tell a large part of this story in landscape. It’s fitting; it is so damned well apropos. It reminds me of being a kid and flipping through big-page Star Wars and Star Trek art books. I also appreciate the change, going back and forth between landscape and portrait. At one point, I was like, “Is it going to be 46 pages of this? Of landscape? Well, that’s a choice”, but I wasn’t sure I was up for that. Having some dynamism between the presentation of the different aspects, while also not changing it every other page, worked out really well, and helped accentuate the often innovative panel layouts.
Man, I can talk about so many sci-fi books that this harkens to in its voice and writing style. Sometimes calling out familiarity and similarity to a style or a thing is a knock, but it’s not here. Let me say that there are many of us who complain that there is not enough GOOD sci-fi in comics, and this book is one of those things that seeks to correct that. It is stylistically reminiscent of various eras of sci-fi, but in all of its tiny, nuanced lilts and intonations, it is pure in its presentation and voice. Thematically, you could argue that the best sci-fi is that which wraps the science back around to converge with the very things it set out to oppose; religion and mysticism. There’s bits of I Robot in here, but also Dune, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and others. More than anything, I was left agasp, like feeling punched in the gut, with how Haldeman makes this feel so entirely lonely. And the resulting feeling of desperation that crept in. As much of my waking thinking time that I spend fearing other human beings, in some macabre sense that most of our planet is like the characters depicted on The Walking Dead (the bad ones), I did not realize how strongly we also cling to the comfort in the fact that the planet IS populous. That Haldeman can portray that affect on a galactic scale and still make it feel like the same loneliness you might feel on a boat at sea or even out in the wilderness, or, hell, in a locked room in an empty building is just amazing. Really well done.
SCORE: 8.5 / 10
It’s a really remarkable thing when a limited series that I have not been on is able to impress me from a drop—in read of the final issue. The fact that it IS possible is why I defend my stance that I should not have to have read the preceding issues of any comic to be able to tell whether a comic is good or not. Each issue is a work of craft that should also be able to stand on its own. People miss books. It’s the simple nature of an industry built on a weekly and monthly shipping paradigm. You cannot count on readers discovering your book at launch in every case. There are just too many things. How do you hook someone enough to get them to go back and read issues of your book that they’ve missed? Put on a show of craft that encourages a reader to go back and read through the entire story. And that’s what Haldeman and Marvano have done here. There’s a trade that comes out in October, I believe. I’m marking it on my calendar now.