88 #1 is an independent comic created, written, and illustrated by Vashperado. Set in the future, a huge colony ship carrying thousands of cryogenically frozen colonists soars amongst the stars, searching for a new home. Every suspended life on board is cared for by a lone crewmember who keeps the systems of the S.E.S. Venture up and running. Her name is 88. And her time in isolation tending the frozen colonists is causing her to ask some deep questions.
One of the pillars of science fiction has always been the use of fantastic environments and situations to ask age-old questions in a new light. The search for meaning in existence and the answers to questions like, “Why am I here?” can be delved into through the unique opportunities afforded to such out-of-this-world situations. The bulk of 88 #1 is devoted to the exploration of just such ideas.
When our story begins, the Venture has already traveled through space for an indeterminate amount of time. But from what we can deduce, it has been on its journey for quite some time. 88 is in the middle of doing some maintenance on the ship, and the story wastes no time establishing our main character’s personality, as well as that of her only companion, the ship’s A.I. Lem. Creator Vashperado does a great job of giving both characters strong, easily understandable personalities. Lem is exactly how I picture a corporate-developed A.I. He is always on task—he’s focused solely on getting the maximum productivity out of 88 while trying to make any little thing the sort of artificial “win” that could boost 88’s morale. And 88’s morale could undoubtedly use some boosting.
While the Venture may be on course to its ultimate destination, 88 seems genuinely lost among the stars. Through the inner musings of our protagonist, 88 #1 fluidly informs the reader of not only 88’s current struggles with her place in the universe but does an ample amount of soft worldbuilding. This approach by Vashperado allows the reader to learn about the world of 88 without much true exposition about it.
While the bulk of this introductory issue brings the reader up to speed on 88 through quiet musings and the protagonist’s daily routine, by the end of the issue, it’s clear that the tranquil existence of 88 will so be ending most unexpectedly.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet, contemplative nature of this introductory story’s writing, it is the art that takes center stage for me. Vashperado’s art captures everything from 88’s emotional struggles with her existence to the breathtaking beauty of the infinite vastness of space beautifully. In addition, the art displays an amazing awareness of how to frame and place subjects within images to get the maximum desired impact out of each panel.
The art in 88 #1 is further heightened thanks to the magnificent use of color. Many vibrant, eye-catching palettes are used throughout the book, and Vashperado does an excellent job of balancing when to have scenes take place in neutral lighting and when to bath a scene in a mood-enhancing colored light.
So, when all is said and done, 88 #1 gets its narrative off to an excellent start. It manages to establish its core characters quickly while hooking the reader with a sympathetic protagonist whose struggles with their place in life can feel all too familiar. With a big shift in the story landing as the final pages play out, I look forward to seeing where among the stars 88’s journey will go from here.
88 #1 gets its narrative off to an excellent start. It manages to establish its core characters quickly while hooking the reader with a sympathetic protagonist whose struggles with their place in life can feel all too familiar. With a big shift in the story landing as the final pages play out, I look forward to seeing where among the stars 88’s journey will go from here.