Curiosities From Another World – Review
Welcome to Curiosities From Another World. An impoverished boy afflicted by a curable disease, seeing life outside the city his dying wish. A girl who learns her entire world has been a lie discovers she’s actually been living in a “humane” concentration camp. A woman who has the opportunity to relive her entire life and game her future. Two detectives who suddenly need to quell an android rebellion.
Any of these storylines could become compelling series in themselves. But for Ryan Bis’ Curiosities From Another World, they’re the groundwork for a longer series. The graphic novel presents a series of seemingly unconnected stories of citizens of the same city, the Hive, living under the heel of the Administration. The Administration is easily recognized as a dystopian, tech-savvy late-capitalist fascist corporation. Social mobility is strictly limited — as is the use of magic. But the epilogue of this first volume makes it clear that all of these rule are about to change — and the disparate characters we’ve become acquainted with or important pieces to that puzzle.
These are my favorite kinds of stories — world-building plus random threads that become linked. Bis does a wonderful job of keeping these stories consistent. According to Curious Perspective Comics’ website, Bis wants these stories to “capture some important life lessons for my daughter when she’s older.”
They all get a little dark, but whatever the outcome at the end of the story, Bis emphasizes each character’s agency — as important a message for 2020 as any.
The one weak point in the volume “Endure,” where a police officer grapples with his sense of safety and the material needs of a person he apprehends. While he seems to have a change of heart, this moment isn’t shown. The story is more topical than ever, but without seeing that moment, it’s hard to understand how people can have their core worldviews changed by one person. However, I’m willing to bet this story will come up again — and I look forward to seeing how.
Bis assembled a diverse team of artists to breath life into these stories: Sabrina Deigert, Nathan Olson, and Crizam approach their pieces with intricate, photo-realistic art. Christian Suaret’s, meanwhile, is more stylized — appropriate for the stories centered on young people. Renan Balmonte, who handles the two detectives, has a cool noir-punk style that gives the book’s capstone some texture and attitude. The whole shebang is bound together by colorist Kathleen Brown and Iwana Yoko Triyono’s palette, an electrifying combination of gloomy blues and grays with neon purple highlights — suggesting a cyberpunk nightmare or an occult underbelly that undergirds the Administration’s networks.
Curiosities From Another World is awesome, plain and simple. It’s an exciting introduction to a story that introduces its many themes expertly and efficiently. The world feels fully realized, like Biz has spent years drawing maps of this world before generating story ideas. I can easily imagine Bis spent a year drawing up maps of The Hive — not to mention detailed family trees and historical documents.
With his very first graphic novel, Bis presents a master class in world-building. Curiosities From Another World‘s first installment lays the groundwork for an intriguing new world and poses as many questions as it answers. But its biggest questions resonate in our own world: how do you respond to oppression? What is the value of history? What keeps your spirit alive? And how do you push forward to a future beyond your wildest imagination?