Issue #4 of Matt Kindt and David Rubín’s Ether focuses on the harrowing story of Hazel, the female character we’ve thus far only seen in flashbacks and only briefly. Hazel’s story is a fairy tale gone bad. We see how, as a child, she found her way to the Ether, and we see how the Ether revealed its darker nature. One that isn’t so fun. One that’s more Grimm’s Fairy Tales for HBO than Adventure Time.
This issue belongs to David Rubín as both artist and colorist. The images he creates at Hazel’s grandma’s house glow with a golden sunlight. The interiors have an aged, but safe, quality like you’d imagine in the house in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The colors of the Ether begin like they always have – like a cotton candy and lemonade bizarre – but as young Hazel enters the darker corners of the Ether (and, interestingly, the darker elements of science), the world becomes ominous. Over a series of panels, Rubín’s images take on an ominous tone until we’re treated to a violent image right out of one of those terrible, classical paintings of hell.
While the story itself is depicted through the space they travel and the actions the characters take, the emotional wallop is seen in Hazel’s young face. Her transformation from innocent, to helpless and afraid for her life, to shattered gives this issue a sincere weight that I was not expecting. I was admittedly side swiped.
The issue then leads back to how Hazel met Boone Diaz, and we get a brief glimpse, again through Rubín’s exquisite capturing of a character’s expressions, that Boone wasn’t always the hero we see him as now. The fact that we only see Hazel in flashbacks leads me to believe there are tragic elements to this story we have yet to explore, and with this introduction to Hazel, I can already feel my heart breaking.
What Kindt has done here hasn’t just set up an interdimensional adventure, but a puzzle box of character revelations. I both dread and yearn for the next issue.