Port of Earth #1,
Zack Kaplan, Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov, Troy Peteri,
First contact – are we alone in an unbelievably vast cosmos, or are there other intelligent lifeforms out there? Will we ever meet them, and if we do how will a usually divided humanity respond to the encountering non-human intelligent lifeforms? It’s one of the great questions of the modern era, even more so than the “do they come in peace” question, it’s why would they come, and how would we react, how would it change our views on our own species, our world, our place in the universe? Given how philosophically challenging even the notion of a heliocentric solar system was just a few hundred years ago, these are not idle speculations, this kind of knowledge can change humanity quite remarkably.
But what if we were contacted and visited by an alien intelligence, one which represents other worlds and asks us to join? But not in a happy, inclusive, for the knowledge and betterment manner of the Federation from Star Trek. Nope, what Kaplan and Mutti give us here is just business. The Consortium create ports on numerous worlds which are water-rich – the old H2O is useful stuff for fuelling spaceships after all, and two thirds of our planet is covered in oceans… So a business deal is signed, hands and other appendages are shaken, and in turn for some limited access to alien technology (such as greener energy sources) the Earth agrees to establish a spaceport, off the coast of California, with strict rules – visiting ships and aliens may stay and use the port facilities, but they are not allowed to leave it to visit the rest of Earth or interact with humans. The port, impressive though it may look, is basically an intergalactic truck stop on a highway, well outside of town – you see them go by but only from a distance.
Of course as traffic begins to build up over the years following the establishment of the port, incursions begin to happen, sometimes with fatalities, and those fatalities are usually far higher among the human civilian population, leading to growing anti-alien anger (also fueled by the fact some of the new alien tech had displaced traditional trades and left many previously skilled workers out of work).
It doesn’t help that the Consortium are more concerned with any aliens killed in these illegal incursions than they are the far larger numbers of humans killed. It leads to the establishment of a new security force to police the port and deal with any illegal aliens making it to shore. Granted more access to offworld tech to deal with them, but strictly ordere to use only non-lethal force unless specially authorised, this new force isn’t really raising confidence among humans, leading to an investigative journalist pursuing an in-depth examination of just how they handle the problem.
It’s an intriguing notion for a first contact scenario – it’s not conquest by fleets of flying saucers with deay rays, it’s not the immigration of Alien Nation, it’s not an invite to join an intergalactic federation, it’s purely a business deal. And like any deal involving lots of money and resources, the concerns and welfare of most ordinary folks are pretty secondary to those at the top, that’s one aspect human and aliens have in common, sadly.
This was a very intriguing first issue – I like the concept, and while the quarantined alien zone policed by a special Earth force reminded me a bit of 2000 AD’s Grey Area, it’s still pretty interesting, while the journalistic examination of their day to day dealings is a good way to let the reader see what’s happening without resorting to info dump explanations. It’s a good, very efficient set-up for a first issue, laying out the main ideas and introducing how this world works, all within a first issue and leading into the main story that will spool out in the following issues. The anti-alien feelings being stirred up and the anger of those disenfranchised by the new offworld technology also tap into a lot of hot-button current socio-political issues.
While much of the narrative here is more mundane and Earth-bound, Mutti still gets to indulge in some very fine sci-fi art (mostly using a very subdued, almost monochromatic colour palette by Popov), and I get the impression he’s enjoying himself in those moments. An opening splash page of the glowing galaxy, the first enormous starship, hovering by the Golden Gate Bridge (handy for giving a perspective on its size). It also allows him to indulge in some homages – a port requires many ships, so unsurprisingly some designs are reminiscent of other science fiction series (an assymetrical ship is reminiscent of the classic ship from Alien, another looks like the “Angel Fish” style of the Mibari from Babylon 5 and so on). An interesting read for my fellow SF geeks, I look forward to seeing where this goes.
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