I’ve been a fan of Vault Comics for a while now, continually impressed by how the rising publisher manages to put out some of the best pure science fiction and fantasy stories in the graphic medium. I’ve written about this before, but along with Lion Forge and Aftershock Comics, Vault is slowly remaking perceptions of what indie publishers can be, exercising incredible judgement at the talent and books they promote.
Vault’s latest sci-fi book, Wasted Space—by writer Michael Moreci, artist Hayden Sherman, and colorist Jason Wordie—is yet another in a growing collection of titles that are as entertaining as they are complex. Wasted Space is set in a dystopian future where most facets of life have evolved toward their logical extremes, including technology, religion and—most importantly for our plot—drugs. I was impressed here from the first page, wherein a blip of a human form floats tethered to a ship deep in the cosmos. The narration begins: The galaxy is totally f*%#&@.
I’m an easy mark for stories about futures wherein things have gone massively awry, and I’m also prone to liking protagonists who start their hero’s journey feeling distant and defeated. Wasted Space delivers both those elements, and it delivers it well. This book’s marketing describes it as Preacher + Phillip K. Dick + Star Wars, and, to be sure, there are shades of all those properties, but Space also addresses modern concerns, as most good science fiction tends to do.
The social commentary, however, never becomes too overt, and Moreci’s script here is careful to focus on characterization. The galaxy has gotten bleak, sure, and it’s clearly due to some combination of religious extremism, greed, group think, and charismatic-yet-devious leadership, thereby forcing much of the populous to seek chemical-fueled escape. To me, this world seems more than a little familiar, and I’d wager that’s the point.
It’s also worth noting that Hayden Sherman is fast-becoming indie comics go-to artist for frenetic dystopian futures. I first noted this earlier in the year after reading Cold War #1 from Aftershock. That book, drawn by Sherman as well, is a breakneck story of a world in which cryogenic promises have been broken. Once-frozen citizens awake and are plunged by some shadowy control agent into violence. In Cold War, Sherman accomplishes some incredible world building as well as clear action in his panels.
Sherman’s work in Wasted Space again creates a set of sci-fi cityscapes that enhance the script rather than distract, and while there isn’t as much kinetic energy as there was in Cold War (I struggle to think of any recent book with as much kinetic energy as Cold War) Sherman does a pitch-perfect job of using panel perspectives to convey the tension, desperation, yearnings to escape, and loneliness that drives our characters.
Overall: Wasted Space #1 is a super solid debut issue with an incredible amount of promise. Being a vocal proponent of Vault, I’m often asked for a good title to start with, and for the sci-fi set my answer moving forward will likely be Wasted Space. Basically, Wasted Space is a sci-fi allegory for our tumultuous times, one that raises questions about demagogues, escapism, and the dual businesses of selling religion and drugs. This debut issue does a great job of setting the stage and piquing interest for future installments. Count me in. 8.5/10.
Spare Thoughts: Moreci is a graduate of DC’s New Talent program, and his work first caught my attention in the publisher’s New Talent Showcase, which featured a story of his about the White Lantern at the time. It’s also worth noting that Cold War, which we mention here, was by Christopher Sebela, another graduate of that program. Along with Moreci and Sebela, that class of creators also featured Vita Ayala, who has been co-writing Supergirl with Steve Orlando and also had a recent notable indie book of her own in the form of The Wilds. In other words, how badly would you like to participate in DC’s new talent program? Look at the careers it’s helping to launch!
Wasted Space #1 is available for pre-order now at your local comic shop, and it will be out April 18.
Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.