‘Earth Dream: The Indie Illustrated Anthology’ - Graphic Novel Review

Earth Dream is an ambitious, new indie anthology published by artist Miguel Guerra and writer and editor Suzy Dias’ 7 Robots and is available as a free download on Earth Day and afterwards at www.7robots.com/earthdream.  Dias lays out the idea for the project in a wonderful introduction, relaying her and Guerra’s belief in the importance of social awareness and in exposing indie comics writers and artists to a wider audience.  This first volume contains eleven stories, some shorter than others and all very different from one another, but all dealing with the specific theme of the environment.

My absolute favorite story, and to me the one with the most depth, plot, and character development, is the first one, "Earth Dream: The Seventh Generation," written and drawn by none other than Dias and Guerra.  Their story has a beginning, middle, and end and is written linearly, but still with an engaging amount of ambiguity and mystery.  There are obvious Native American influences in Guerra’s art, as the main character passes into a type of spirit world, where he encounters the long-forgotten spirits of nature.  The colors here are bright and celebratory and the imagery is creative, and though there is not much action, the story never feels static.  It hums with an excited energy, and I gladly would have read an entire issue solely about these characters and their dying world.  Hopefully, Dias and Guerra will revisit these characters in future volumes and maybe even use "Earth Dream" stories as a staple in the anthology.

The remaining ten stories are all intriguing, but more hit or miss on making any kind of lasting impact, and a few have trouble relaying a coherent story, but, this being an anthology, not all the stories have to, or even should, follow the same format or structure.  Stories such as "Effect" by Jerome Walford are more abstract, working with an unconventional paneling style to relay the impact our decisions, even small ones, can have on the environment and, eventually, on ourselves. There is a quiet, lyrical beauty that flows through this short, wordless piece, and it succeeds in its simplicity, working in a color scheme that speaks volumes.  While the art and lettering of Rey Mono "Gráfico’s Click" is not as much up my alley, the theme of personal responsibility is a powerful and complex one, and there is a comment made by the father character near the end that is instantly recognizable as one of the most endemic and destructive excuses of humanity.  The ending is ambiguous, which allows you to project your own beliefs onto what happens next, almost making you a part of the story, or the next chapter of the story.

Many of the stories forgo individual characters for overarching tableaus accompanied by third-person narration, and some of these have sumptuous art, such as Johny Tay and Kelvin Lim’s "Shangri-La," which deals with a difficult topic in a strange, slightly uncomfortable way.  Their message escaped or confounded me, or maybe it just made me feel uneasy, but, nonetheless, it did make me think.  The final story in the anthology, "The Guardians" by Recóndita Rick, presents a magical fantasy, wherein supreme beings awaken to renew a ravaged earth, possibly at the cost of humanity.  The final panel provides a glimpse at potential hope, but the question is if individual understanding will be enough to overcome mass irresponsibility and destruction.  The art is elegant, to me reminiscent of the work of the Brothers Hildebrandt mixed tastefully with digital resources, and it displays a mythic scope that breathes eons of life into its small number of pages.

Earth Dream collects many bold, unique ideas into one place and under one theme, and while not every story works on the same level or is as successful in conveying its ideas, that is what makes the anthology ambitious.  As publishers, Guerra and Dias are not afraid to take risks and to present unconventional art and storytelling that may not connect with everyone but may resonate in various ways with many.  I believe the future of Earth Dream holds vast potential and believe that, as the anthology grows, it will plant more and more original and important thoughts, ideas, and dreams into the hearts and minds of writers, artists, and readers, creating and nurturing a lush forest of creativity and social consciousness.

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