The comic genre is often generalized as a place dominated by costumes, capes, and super powers, but comic books and graphic novels have a long history of embracing science fiction, as well. While plenty of popular science fiction franchises have licensed comics, there are also a number of exciting, intelligent, and mind-bending indie books playing in the sci-fi genre. The Machine Stops: Part 1, written by Michael Lent and illustrated by Marc Rene, is one such comic book, featuring a futuristic and cerebral story that manages to both honor classic science fiction and bring to life a new edgy, bizarre, and yet disturbingly familiar look into the future.
As Lent and Rene explain in their excellent introduction, The Machine Stops is based upon the only science fiction short story written by E.M. Forster, the famous English novelist who wrote such classics as A Room with a View and A Passage to India. As Lent explains, despite being written in 1909, the story foretells, “ . . . our modern way of information gathering and social interaction through cyberspace, while expressing concern for our dependence on technology at expense of personal experience,” and is remarkably relevant in the current day. A mesh of the cyberpunk cynicism of Blade Runner, the technological warning of The Matrix, and the stunning visuals of TRON: Legacy, Lent and Rene’s The Machine Stops is sure to engage those looking for more than laser guns and scantily-clad aliens in their science fiction. Lent (who is no stranger to comics, having written for Prey for Marvel, Brimstone for Zenescope, and much more) has much bigger ambitions for his (and Forster’s) story, and The Machine Stops: Part 1 previews a story filled with the intelligence and complexity that is often sacrificed these days by the sci-fi genre at the alter of “general appeal.”
Rene’s artwork is an excellent match for Lent’s thought-provoking script. Featuring a style that embraces strong contrasts between its black and white elements and unique panel layouts that parallel the complexity and paranoia of the story, Rene has a talent for depicting striking visuals and detailed machinery/tech that is perfect for The Machine Stops. Luckily, Lent is aware of Rene’s skill as an artist and is not afraid to allow his visuals to take the lead telling the story in several spots.
FINAL SCORE: 4 “Cogs” in The Machine out of 5
The Machine Stops is published by Alterna and hits stores in February 2014. Until then, you can find out more about The Machine Stops on Facebook or by visiting the official website at www.tmsthemachinestops.com.
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers! Beware those incredibly dangerous (one assumes) snow banks of the future.
‘Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer