Emily: Emergence Cover

Emily: Emergence – Review

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Emily: Emergence is the very first comic publiched by San Francisco-based FutureBound Comics. It has been tagged by their own creators as a “Psy-Fi Thriller”, a term coined by them that stands for psycholgical science-fiction. Despite being the new kids on the publishing block, this particular comic book of theirs was the subject of a successful IndieGogo campaign last year.

It finally hit digital stores back in August 15 and we had a chance to look at it. So, how was it?

The Issue With Being Too Out There…

Emily: Emergence – Review 1

A few years back, one of my screenwriting teachers kept getting annoyed with the way I structured my stories, and for good reason. She kept complaining about how, despite coming up with great ideas for short films, I would always focus on the wrong part of the story. I’d either focus too much on what happened before the main event or focus entirely on the aftermath of it. At the time I couldn’t really understand what was so wrong about choosing odd places to start and end the story as long as the character’s journey was completed onscreen. I was trying what I considered new things and different approaches to storytelling, I thought, what was so wrong about it?

I read Emily: Emergence this week. That’s a masterclass on how frustrating it is when a story is nothing but a build up that forgets to add up to a climax.

I love weird ideas. I enjoy filling every conceivable fold left untouched by education inside my brain with things that are so far out there that they’re almost impossible to see with the naked eye. Ideas that are geographically so remote from any sort of box they live in a universe where cubes aren’t even a real geometric shape. Weird is good, always has been and always will be.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, most of humanity enjoys playing it safe when it comes to choosing their desired entertainment. It’s easier to follow the plot of something that is tried and true than to try and apply a little bit of mental gymnastics to grasp the message being conveyed to us by a narrative twister. It’s simpler, less tiring; sort of like comfort food.

Like how, even if she knows from the get-go both main characters will end up together and resolve their differences, your mom will watch all romantic comedies as if they were a religion. Or how, even if we know all princesses will eventually reach the objectives stated in their opening songs, Disney movies rake in all the money in the world with each new iteration. Or how the MCU has become the behemoth that it is. Humanity is a species that treasures the feeling of safety. We abide by the rule that the more predictable and formulaic something is, the better.

This, in turn, tends to create a very bland ecosystem of entertainment to be hyped about. Sure, once every quarter or so we get a TENET or something similar, but for every TENET there are six hundred The Snowman or Nine Lives.

Review: 'Nine Lives' Is Not Quite A Catastrophe
Not only does this exist, I paid money to see it at the cinema…

However, and, as all the reviews on the internet point out about Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic endeavor, being weird and different does not a good movie make. I’d love to put this to the test but a) cinemas haven’t reopened in my area and, b) I don’t really feel like putting my life on the line to confirm a single line of text I wrote. You cannot hinge the entire success of your idea on how weird it is, you need something else to back it up.

The same principles apply to the comic book realm. And this is precisely the part that I segue into my review of the first comic book offering by FutureBound Comics.

In short, it isn’t very good.

Death By Emotion

Look, as soon as I saw that Emily: Emergence’s tagline featured the key question “what if you could weaponize emotions?”, they had me in the palm of their hands. The opportunities were endless. This could be an alien invasion story were anxiety saves the day, a dark medieval romp were the tears of an old man would resurrect the good king from centuries ago, a romantic comedy where everyone was roped into relationships through energized beams of rage and lust. The possibilities seemed endless.

And which one did FutureBound Comics go with? “A sleazy university professor that likes to sleep around with his students has created a way to make human desire into the ultimate superintelligence.” You know what? I could’ve never come up with such a premise on my own. This, right here, although it didn’t rock my world from the get-go, made me feel all intrigued and in need of reading this comic.

As if I could actually talk to the creative staff behind this, I started asking out loud while downloading the file: “So, what will it be? Are we following a couple of police detectives pursuing the most intelligent human on Earth due to the fear he’d become a supervillain? Is this from the POV of the professor, watching him become all Bradley Cooper in Limitless but, you know, well executed? Maybe he’s a legend and a student on the brink of getting kicked out of school is looking for his magical drug in order to keep his scholarship? What will it be? How are you resolving this story, FutureBound?”

Emily: Emergence – Review 2

“Not very well”, was the answer I got after plowing through all 50 pages of this… issue? volume? tankobon? one-shot?

The Plot Doesn’t Thicken

It all starts with a bunch of dead leaves falling down to the ground, where they transform into small anthropomorphic creatures that begin to orchestrate an orgy. There they are, literal dead leaves, representing couples copulating in plain sight, when a pair of blue sneakers crunches them into oblivion. They belong to the titular Emily, a 1968 woman that is busy being all angry at her aunt for deciding to die a day before her mid-terms, preventing Emily from studying enough to ace a test.

While she mumbles about how a university grade is far more important than a human life, a random student in the background sees a poster saying that the sleazy professor in the premise is being hunted down by police, “if you have any information contact so-and-so.” After reading the piece of paper on a post, his face suddenly morphs into the copy/pasted and pixelated cutout of an anime-like character that screams “copyright infringement” louder than “LAUGH AT THIS FUNNY REFERENCE (that wasn’t even funny in the first place)!”

Emily: Emergence – Review 3
Swear to all available gods that I did NOT tamper or edit this…

“What is this?”, I asked my computer screen, implying I believed it could answer me. “What the hell am I reading?” In response, my computer opened a pop up before the images on screen about a sale regarding my antivirus software. It could’ve been a complete coincidence but I’d like to believe the ol’ PC was looking out for me.

Fast forward to a situation no one has ever seen during a story set inside a university campus: “a character is trying to study but their roommate is having sex in their shared bedroom at the same time. Hijinks ensue.”

The hijinks in this case end up being that, in order to shut her up and enjoy the aforementioned sexual activity, the roommate in question decides to drug Emily. He uses what he calls an energy juice, a substance created by the sleazy professor to “cause ideas to happen”. The drug transforms Emily into a mathematical genius that can come up with complicated formulas that haven’t even been thought of before that very moment. So how does Emily react to becoming a genius through drugs? She starts destroying furniture and people with her bare hands!

It is here, almost a third of the book in, that the pacing and plot suddenly show their faces, ready to get into high gear. Now there are stakes, characters have convictions and objectives, THINGS ARE HAPPENING! And then we fall down a well of around five pages of straight up exposition dump that screeches everything achieved so far to a halt.

“This was made by an 18-year old, right?”, I asked, adopting the classical pose of an annoyed teacher that rubs both his eyes in an effort to escape the visual realm of a world that stopped making sense. “It just has to. The forced dialogue, the oddly paced story that seemes to go somewhere but gets derailed by unfunny jokes… It has to be, right?”

I tried to corroborate this, but the name of the writer is literally Chazk and all Google results understood my query as “Czech”, leading me to Instagram profiles of several ONGs from that Republic.

Emily: Emergence – Review 4
And this… Whatever this is.

The story goes on, more things happen, including a deformed dog that got his new look via drugs, a blackboard exposition scene wherein a university professor writes and draws as a seven-year-old, typos included, amidst a torrent of surreal images that are supposed to mirror the era this is happening in. There’s also a The Doors song tucked in there just for ambience purposes. And a bucketload of exploded human remains. Literally. All in a vain effort to reclaim the interest of the audience.

You had it, Emily: Emergence, I was intrigued enough to continue reading. But you lost me on the way. It doesn’t matter that you go full throttle for the final four pages, that just cannot undone the damage of your ELI5 gag did both inside and outside your own universe.

“I can’t”, I said as soon as I arrived to the ending. “I just can’t.”

What A Groovy Uneventful Day.

Not only was the whole 50 pages nothing but an introduction to a series that seems will never exist, it wasn’t even interesting to get there. I mean, yes, sure, there are a bunch of really cool ideas along the way, but they are being drowned by a story that promises so so much but forgets how to deliver anything. The staff could’ve dwelled into the what’s, the why’s, and, most of all, the consequences of what is transpiring in each panel, but they didn’t. How could they if they had to reserve so much comic book real estate for all the unfunny visual gags they just felt needed to be plastered onto their “hellaciously groovy” story.

“And why did it need to be set in the late 60’s, anyway?”, I asked myself in the middle of a shower, hours before concluding my journey into Emily: Emergence. “This could’ve happened in any other decade where cell phones weren’t still a thing and nothing would’ve changed. Even cell phones wouldn’t have added anything to it, now that I think about it! It’s not like teachers sleeping with students is something that has ceased to happen or people experimenting with drugs for intellectual purposes was a passing fancy of the last century. Why did it have to be the late 60’s? It wasn’t even that groovy visually to begin with!

THERE WASN’T ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT THE DECADE!

WHY. WAS. THIS. SET. ON. THE. 60’S?!”

“We thought it’d be cool”, would probably be the staff’s answer to that question. “I also like that era’s music! It’s the best!”, someone would interject at this point reminding us how silent comic books tend to be in the soundtrack department.

Should you read this comic? I’m gonna go with a YES. A whole-hearted, bold capital letters YES.

How can I recommend it if it didn’t even look like I was enjoying it to begin with? As much as I didn’t like it very much, it was still made by a group of independent creators trying to make a name for themselves. They’re experimenting, doing something new, creating comic books that only they could’ve done. I don’t think they achieved whatever they were trying to achieve, but I do feel that we owe them the chance of having a sophomore effort.

The ideas are there. the art is solid, the coloring is amazing – definitely the best part of the book. They even created their own comic book imprint, fueled by a successful Indiegogo campaign to boot, so we know they’re definitely going all out for this. They believe in themselves and so should we.

So, this is my proposal. If, for whatever reason, this story sounds like something you’d be into or at least want to see it for yourself, go and read it for free online. No, I am not asking you to pirate this or something, just go FutureBound’s official Webtoon profile and read the webcomic version of Emily: Emergence. It’s pretty much the same experience, albeit a bit more visually interesting to look at, what with the format and paneling a made-for-cell-phone website demands.

And, once you get a feel for it, go and support the creators buying Emily: Emergence from them and giving them funds. They might have the talent for it, we just need to give them a bit more time to get there.

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Engage with the Creators:

Ken Bastard – Facebook | Instagram

Nathan Lumm – Twitter

Buy The Digital Edition On FutureBound’s Shop!

Emily: Emergence Comic Book PDF  Digital Edition image 0