January 21, 2009

A Distant Soil by Colleen Doran

--to be clear A Distant Soil has technically two series. The first, published by WaRP Graphics back in the mid to late 80's was magazine sized and lasted only 9 issues. The second series, the currently ongoing series originally began publication under Colleen's imprint--Aria--then became part of the fledgling comic publisher Image around issue 13. The origins of both stories are similar--Liana and her brother Jason are the half-breed children of an Ovanan exile and Liana is the Avatar etc etc, but many of the characters have different roles/personalities. I will be covering the current series.

Title: The Gathering (volume 1), The Ascendant (volume 2), The Aria (volume 3), Coda (volume 4)
Series: A Distant Soil
Creator: Colleen Doran
Genre: Science Fiction, romance, action, paranormal, fantasy
Publisher: Image Comics
Link:(vol 1) Amazon, (vol 2) Amazon (vol 3) Amazon (vol 4) Amazon

Synopsis: (from http://adistantsoil.com/about) Jason and Liana are the children of Aeren, a fugitive from the planet Ovanan, a world of powerful,beautiful and ageless psionics. Both children possess extraordinary powers. Jason, only 17 years old, is a disruptor, capable of short circuiting the energy systems in machines as well as in living beings. Liana, 15 years old, is the most powerful form of psionic in the known universe: she is an Avatar, a being who can draw on the life force of all the Ovanan people and wield that force as a weapon. Avatars are the religious leaders and protectors of Ovanan, but only one Avatar can exist at a time, and as long as Liana lives, she is a threat to Ovanan which has sent its massive warship the Siovansin to assassinate her.

Rieken, the leader of the Ovanan Resistance movement, and his bodyguard D’mer have also come to Earth in human guise to save her. They gather a brave team of human men and women to travel to the Siovansin to destroy the Hierarchy, the center of Ovanan’s corrupt government. Antonio Minetti, a policeman; Brent Donewitz, a teen gang member; Serezha Kirov, a Russian dissident; Corrine Brenegar, a clothing designer; Dunstan Achenlock, a magician whose powers are real; Christopher D’Errico, a medical student; Reynaldo Cabrera, a homeless boy; Bast, an Ovanan living in exile on Earth; and the legendary Sir Galahad from the other-dimensional world of Avalon, all join forces to protect Liana and Earth. Reserved Rieken, however, has a terrible secret he is hiding from his champions, a secret that will test the loyalties of his followers, and challenge everything they believe and, ultimately, the fate of the world will rest on the slender shoulders of the fledgling Avatar Liana. Warring factions within the Resistance threaten everything Rieken fights for and threaten the future of Earth and Ovanan alike.

Review: There isn't much I can say that won't ruin the story for you as you read onwards. Pretty much the synopsis you read up top is for the first HALF of the first volume. From there it only gets better and more complicated.

A Distant Soil (ADS) and I go a long ways back. Over a decade in fact when I was a young girl just beginning to find out what comics were and Miss Doran was doing a night signing at my local comic shop. I still remember the nervousness I felt when I approached her table and she warned me about the content. Unfortunately (or Fortunately for me) my dad was going through a tough time and if I asked for it he gave it to me.

I fell in love with the art first. The artwork on volume one's cover is gorgeous. It still manages to take my breath away whenever I look at it. From Rieken's robe to the multiple blue hues used for space...I just love it to death. And the inside illustrations, though in B&W, were no small cookies either!

If you've been reading the comic as long as I have you'll see the steady progress Doran makes from the initial issues to issue 38 (the last published issue) now. Admittedly the original issues came out in a time when big hair was the fashion and ripped jeans were cool, but her lines become sharper and cleaner and the action feels more real. More like a moment frozen.

As for the story itself--I'll warn you right now this takes no punches. I'd label this as 16 and older with the caveat that homosexuality, pedophilia, suicide, violent death, abuse, mental torture, rape...pretty much everything you can think of is either implied or shown. That being said it also is very well choreographed and awe-inspiring. Its definately an 'epic' work in scope--over-throwing an oppressive empire, ending centuries of slavery and genocide, saving millions...nothing is easy and nothing is done easy.

There is humor as well--moreso in the beginning then later on. Especially between Liana and Rieken, they are unfortunately psychicly bonded--what one feels/sees/hears the other does (especially stronger emotions/thoughts). The old saying 'two's a party, three's a crowd' is very apt. Both experience thoughts and feelings they never wanted or needed and watching them try to block these out is oftentimes hilarious. Later D'Mer also gets to poke fun at Bast and her ::ahem:: ample chest.

Despite the sporadic nature of its publishing (ADS is still an indy comic that Colleen funds out of pocket) I highly recommend this series. Recently Colleen has been posting pages up on her new blog A Distant Soil and plans to have the entire thing--over 1000 pages of it--up at some point. For now she's posting a page a day for a while, but you can always buy the trades if you really want to find out what is happening.

original post here


Beth F said...

First, I'm in love with the cover! Very nice and detailed review. I'll have to look into this one.

Lexie said...

XD it is one of my favorites (though I forget where its from exactly--I don't believe its an issue cover and its definately not a GN cover...). I forgot to mention that you any manga fan will clearly see how ADS is influenced by manga. later its less noticable, but the detail in the background and on the outfits is a sight to behold.