The voyages of the IGS Discovery, the first Earth vessel capable of faster-than-light travel in a near-future world, continue in this second volume. Captain Forest and his crew have made successful contact with nearby alien civilizations, and the business of continuing to expand Earth’s knowledge of and presence in the interstellar community continues – all in preparation for a threat older than human civilization. But it quickly becomes apparent that Forest doesn’t just have to worry about the dangers they find out there in space, but those that come from within.
While I could happily praise Faster Than Light endlessly for its approach to the space exploration genre (and there’s plenty of that in my review for the series’s first volume), what struck me reading the second volume is how much Haberlin manages to have happen within the five issues the volume covers. Like the first volume, arcs tend to be one or two issues – all interconnected, certainly, and leading into each other – which gives the series the feel of the best sci-fi television. By the end of the second volume, the Discovery’s adventures have already encompassed a solid half dozen distinct incidents, whether they be exploring an alien world, becoming embroiled in extraterrestrial misunderstandings, or being trapped in the wake of a dangerous anomaly. As compared to many ongoing series of the last fifteen years, there’s such a sense of progress that it feels like we’ve been with these characters for longer than we have. While this much is a matter of taste, I prefer this approach to one that inflates every crisis into a four to six-issue arc, and it lets the universe grow much more quickly as they meet new species and visit new places at a greater rate. In only ten issues, Faster Than Light’s universe already feels very fleshed out, populated by diverse alien beings, some friend, some foe.
And, of course, no series with involvement from Anomaly Productions can be fully assessed without considering its AR features. As with the first volume, this volume is littered with extra content available through the free Faster Than Light companion app. On certain pages, you can point your device’s camera at the page in order to access extra stuff: largely cool 3D-animated models of ships and species from the book (along with a lengthy description of their biology, history, and technology), but also fully voiced captain’s logs and links to NASA videos and material relevant to whatever Discovery’s crew is exploring. It’s not necessary to access this stuff in order to enjoy Faster Than Light, but if you’re into this kind of extra content (similar to, for instance, the codex entries in video games like Mass Effect), there’s a lot to love about the AR element.
Faster Than Light takes us back to a style of sci-fi storytelling that has been out of vogue for a while, and I couldn’t be happier with the journey it’s taken me on so far. Though it isn’t as unique as some other Image offerings, Faster Than Light bleeds invention and is a tried and true idea aggressively well executed.