Charles Soule and Ryan Browne are both some of the most unique thinkers in the world of comics. From Browne’s I Hate Astronauts to Undiscovered Country (Soule’s collaboration with Scott Snyder) to their last combined series, Curse Words, it’s been a long and wild ride for two creators from Detroit who like making comics. This is extremely evident in the collected edition of their latest series, Eight Billion Genies, which is both a bit self-explanatory and also not even close to encapsulating what this story entails.
This series follows a group of people who all happen to be in the Lampwick, a bar in the lakeside Michigan town of St. Clair Shores, when the unthinkable happens: Every person on Earth is suddenly given a genie who will grant them one wish. That’s it. That’s the concept. It’s the consequences of that gift to the world that makes this book interesting.
Following our main cast in intervals of eight (to coincide with the eight billion people in the world), we catch up with the moments after what is referred to as G-Day. At a time frame that varies from eight seconds after the event to eight centuries, we see the world change as both the genie and human populations dwindle as a result of the wishes of others. It’s a brilliant concept that also factors in some very realistic ideas: overpopulation, ego and selfishness, climate change, interpersonal struggles, death, and so much more. Genies being a conduit to spotlight the best and worst of humanity is a marvelous way to really show the depth of variance in the species and what would happen in the era of instant gratification.
Also being from Michigan, it’s really interesting to have the state be the location for this very strange book. Detroit and the surrounding cities in Southeast Michigan are as weird and as varied as anywhere, but it’s really cool to see that kind of diversity shown in a major series from two of the industry’s top names.
As for the book itself . . . Well, it’s really good. Brilliant in concept and execution, with a story that has heart and frivolity, reverence and just some of the most ridiculous things you could see, the story takes shape in ways that are hard to even describe. It goes from a weird idea that could go in any direction to a story that maintains a path of realism and reverence. It has so much heart and such a grounded story about something so unrealistic that it blends the real and the absurd brilliantly.
It also doesn’t hurt that Ryan Browne is one of the funniest and most talented artists of this generation, blending the absolute silliest things ever put to page (I mean it as a compliment!) and the most beautiful. Vibrant, colorful, and a ton of fun, Browne uses all of his trademarks and combines them into one gorgeous visual story, using his own skills and the unmatched storytelling talent of Soule to make this a book that no one should miss.
All of this is to say that this is an incredible book. It’s got laughs, emotion, and is visually stunning. If Curse Words was an impressive opening hit from the team of Browne and Soule, this was that long home-run shot that you know from the second it connects will go all the way, and that it’ll be beautiful to watch as it goes. Everyone should read this book. Eight Billion Genies deserves all my praise and more.
Creative Team: Charles Soule (story), Ryan Browne (story and art), Chr!s Crank (letters), Kevin Knipstein (additional colors)
Publisher: Image Comics
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