Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em: Nocenti And Aja’s The Seeds #1 Lights Up

by Hannah Means Shannon

As a longtime fan of both Ann Nocenti’s work, and David Aja’s work, I knew I would probably get a big kick out of reading The Seeds, the first issue of which dropped last week from Berger Books at Dark Horse Comics. When I realized it was the first creator-owned book for both critically acclaimed professionals in the industry, I was pretty surprised. They are both creators known for their sense of individuality and personal instincts in storytelling. It’s definitely about time that we get to see what they put together when they are less bound by a mainstream schedule and can tell us a story in a more stream of consciousness way.

The book The Seeds is much braver and more direct than you might expect from two newbies to the creator-owned world. On the other hand, they are being accompanied through this process by the estimable editor Karen Berger whose presence along has probably been enough to encourage them to shoot for the stars. What we get in the first issue is a world that feels both mysterious and fully formed, expansive and specific. That’s a big achievement for a first issue. You feel like you’ve visited this place, inhaled a little bit of its atmosphere (like the cigarettes that keep popping up in the story), and are prepared to make another venture into this zone. Like the characters in the story, you feel like you’re building up the courage to go “over the wall” into the unknown with The Seeds.

The guiding lights of the story, as you enter this new world, are the characters and their relationships. We have journalist Astra, her boss Gabrielle, and we have a young woman, Lola, who is in a new relationship with a mysterious stranger. Then we have the supporting stories of relationships lost, broken, and on hold, as the wall that’s been built separates people and ways of life in this story.
On one side of the wall, we’ll recognize technological addiction and a despair at the fractured functioning of the natural world as being possibly “near future” as much as it is sci-fi. On the other side of the wall, people have given up technological amenities for a chance at something else. These “luddites” are looking for open spaces, and perhaps another way of being. But we’re let in on something else that the characters don’t know–that aliens are among them–mainly on the other side of the wall, it seems, gathering seeds from the earth in anticipation of the planet’s demise for some kind of pay-off in their value. We receive all this information in the way that comics do best, through the interactions and discussions between characters, as well as from background detail. There is not a trace of exposition in this first issue, which is a really solid accomplishment for the creators.

David Aja’s artwork toes the line between direct sequential storytelling and pop art. The details that he packs into the graffiti in street scenes is particularly thematically important, suggesting ominous undertones and things that people seem someone “blind” to. But as a reader, I’m particularly happy with his presentation of characters in this first issue, particularly female characters, who dominate the cast. They are presented with zero sentimentality aside from sentiment associated with their beleaguered humanity, and in terms of “gaze” they are handled with a kind of radical neutrality which is rare to see,  but thankfully becoming more common, in comics.
Astra is a reporter and a thinker. Lola is direct and confident, slow to trust others. Gabrielle needs a click-bait article and a win. Aja presents their personalities and body language in a way that suggests they are purpose-driven and worthy lead characters. It may sound strange to say all this given Aja’s technical expertise as an artist that I could well spend an article praising, from his use of gradation and design elements in this limited color palette comic onwards, but if great art starts with character, the sky’s the limit for a series.

By the end of the first issue, we have a pretty clear sense of the basic structures of the world of The Seeds and the underlying motivations of character. Plenty remains mysterious, but that’s part of the intrigue, the conspiracy of storytelling we’re being drawn into. The Seeds is a really exciting comic to be part of, as a reader, and one which gets under your skin pretty quickly and guides you into a world much like our own, but with surprises in store.
Like most people who have read this first issue, I highly recommend you pick it up and get started on this four issue series. It has a driving intensity that works really well in single-issue format, making it particularly worth picking up as it arrives in shops, too.
The Seeds #1 is currently available from Berger Books at Dark Horse Comics. It is created by Ann Nocenti and David Aja, with letters, logo, and design by Aja. Issue #2 arrives September 5th, 2018.

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