Ei8ht #1 is a new creator-owned sci-fi comics miniseries written by Mike Johnson (Earth 2: World’s End) and Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire). Albuquerque also draws and colors the series. The premise is simple: a man travels back in time in order to save this wife. However, he doesn’t know what place he’s being sent to. The story jumps between past, present, and future as well as a special, mysterious place only known as the Meld. It’s all a bit of a mindscrew.
So what makes this time travel story any different from dimension hopping comics? Like Black Science, Marvel books written by Brian Michael Bendis or Jonathan Hickman, or an average episode of Doctor Who?
In short, it’s Rafael Albuquerque’s art with its different thickness of line strokes and “rough” take on both the future and some kind of past/present world called The Meld as well as a unique coloring scheme. In fact, the first page of the comic has a handy color coded guide to the past, present, future, and Meld. Albuquerque uses colors to keep timelines straight, but also uses it to create intrigue and mystery in Ei8ht #1. (This title is much more than a clever riff on David Fincher’s Se7en film.
How is the writing?
Well, Albuquerque collaborates with scripter Mike Johnson, who is known for his sci-fi comics like IDW’s Star Trek and Earth 2 World’s End. Johnson doesn’t over-rely on exposition in Ei8ht #1, but introduces the world by having the main character Joshua blitz from world to world without warning (aside from Albuquerque’s handy coloring).
However, Joshua isn’t just a cipher, and both Johnson and Albuquerque humanize their protagonist through dialogue and art. For example, he seems a little bit like a one dimensional merc on the first couple ages before asking the scientist who is sending him through time for one last night with his lover. Albuquerque also makes many of his panels close-up shots of Joshua’s face as he reacts to the crazy events around him. This technique allows readers to empathize with him.
What is the art like?
Rafael Albuquerque is a true jack of all trades when it comes to art. He has done superhero/sci-fi/mystical work on Blue Beetle with a thick line and used thinner line-work on the Eisner winning horror comic American Vampire. Ei8ht is a bit of both. Albuquerque’s figures are well-defined, but the environment is a topsy-turvy cocktail of black and white space with some greys and reds. This style makes Ei8ht end up becoming a bleaker take on time travel science fiction with glimpses of hope and wonder along the way as shown by his use of white and grey on characters and settings. Ei8ht looks like a black and white post-apocalyptic comic, but Albuquerque integrates enough color to show not only the shift in setting, but tone.
So is this a perfect comic?
It almost is, but being a time travel story, the plot can be a little hard to follow in a first reading, even with the color markers. Also, some might think the future visuals are too derivative of Blade Runner or Dark City. However, in response to this criticism, other than the usual “everything is a remix,” I would reply that Albuquerque makes the neo-noir aesthetic his own by adding in-panel graffiti and with his dark, heavy inks.
Aside from that, supporting characters seem like archetypes so far, but this is a first issue and Albuquerque and Johnson imbue them with a lot of mystery and ambiguity, which make me want to pick up the rest of the series.
Should I read this comic?
Yes, you should. In a time when everyone and their mom is doing a high concept sci-fi comic, Ei8ht #1 is a unique riff on the genre with its mysterious “Meld” setting, an incredibly likeable protagonist, and Albuquerque applying his thick pencil and ink work to futuristic sci-fi. Plus there’s a dinosaur.