Big Water, Slow Burn in Port of Earth #1: Review
Story: Zach Kaplan
Art: Andrea Mutti
Colors: Vladimir Popov
Letters: Troy Peteri
Editor: Elena Salcedo
Publisher: Top Cow Productions
And they’re here to do business.
Port of Earth #1 introduces us to an economic slant on what lot of our fine citizens believe is inevitable: alien contact with Earth. Corporate greed amongst the stars isn’t a new concept in science fiction, but it’s one I haven’t seen in a while, so I’m along for the ride.
What trips me up, however, is the pace. Kaplan puts together an interesting enough concept, but the high notes could use a little help. Slow is fine, and a careful build to some serious action works very well in comics, but I look for a big moment in each issue of an action or sci-fi comic – especially in the first – to hook me in for a monthly jaunt. Unfortunately, it’s not here.
What it’s supposed to be is the alien massacre – er, misunderstanding – that leads to the formation of the Earth Security Agency. Mutti’s art generally does the big booms justice, but there’s not enough either narratively or visually to differentiate from the rest of the non-action. The pace of the backstory/history lesson remains the same throughout, there’s no particularly interesting panel or page styling, and it feels like the creators are just ticking the boxes of what you usually see in a story like this. A nice series of shots, but nothing innovative that delivers a jolt to the system.
The narrative “voice-over” dominates the first half of the issue, while the other half introduces us to our somewhat typical (at least for now) present-day protagonists. The buddy cop duo of Rice & Mac is a little bland from the get-go; maybe it’s my weariness with hotshot cops and their more considerate sidekicks, but the premise feels a little worn after a lackluster start. The issue ends with Rice and Mac descending into a mysterious pipe after an alien interloper, which should have you on the edge of your seat.
Except, well. It doesn’t.
My main problem with this issue is that it’s too even. I could’ve used something as simple as a splash here and there to break up the standard layouts and to drive home the conflict Kaplan’s trying to construct. As the story progresses it becomes a more generalized problem. Popov and Peteri provide consistent colors and letters throughout, Mutti’s art is consistent, and Kaplan’s story pacing is consistent. There’s nothing wrong here, but there’s not much that’s extraordinary, either.
If the overall goal is to establish a humdrum reality that’s about to get turned on its head in issue two, that’s fine, but as a first issue, what we’ve got is a one-note palate and storyline. Port of Earth might be one you’ll go back to once the series is complete with new eyes, but as a standalone, it’s a bit of a miss.