AfterShock’s compelling sci-fi series continues in Relay #2, with philosophical debates, a Wild West tour and a conversation with Christ. Well, near enough.
AfterShock’s new science-fiction series has a lot on its mind: monoculture, colonization, the nature of myths and legends. And whereas the two previous issues (one of which was an off-putting, deliberately obtuse free giveaway) have struggled to lay out those hefty ideas in a comprehensible way, Relay #2 delivers a much more straightforward slice of the story.
Relay’s world is bleak; a thriving, spacefaring future where humanity aggressively assimilates new worlds into the monolithic Galactic Relay. The most novel aspect of the story is that the protagonist, Jad, is a fervent believer in the messianic figure of Hank Donaldson, the blue-collar explorer who, as legend has it, introduced the Relay and its divine edicts. He’s surrounded by sceptics, but his zealotry is at the core of his character.
That zealotry is challenged in Relay #2, when Jad meets Donaldson himself, perfectly preserved, and finds him unwilling to offer his world for colonisation. The ideological clash between the two forms the majority of Relay #2, as they debate ideas of free will and governance to a stalemate.
Zac Thompson’s writing is heavy, but careful not to vilify one position; both men offer valid points and counter-points, and you never get the sense that either is unconvinced of their own view. Debates on meaty philosophical subjects can be insufferably pretentious, and Relay #2 does skirt that line now and again, but for the most part it manages to reach an effective depth without losing personality.
Andy Clarke’s artwork is detailed and diverse, and the tour through Donaldson’s planet – a mish-mash of Earth’s most visually-distinct historical periods – is a real pleasure. Visual details that suggest a darker undertone to Donaldson’s idealistic worldview are rife, and the juxtaposition between the book’s hard sci-fi elements and the issue’s salt-of-the-earth analogue setting make for an effective aesthetic echoing of the narrative’s ideological back-and-forth. And speaking of pretentiousness that might be the most insufferable sentence I’ve ever written.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.