Guest Writer: Ernie Laurence
“They came not in peace or in violence but in business with a proposition.”
Port of Earth takes place entirely on an Earth in the not distant future. A consortium of extraterrestrials come to our world and offer us water-based fuel in exchange for use of a spot fifty miles off the coast of California to build what is essentially a refueling station for alien traffic. We are treated to a somewhat distant view of these visitors and their ships both visually and within the story. Humans in the story are not given access to much in the way of new alien technology other than the water fuel cells. It is an effective hook for readers who will want to know more about the aliens and their tech in coming issues.
The reader is also treated to a small dossier on various aliens mentioned in the story. Their case files are brief, but engaging as they contain a ‘Threat Level’ for each alien the humans have encountered. A small galaxy map is also provided with a few points of interest in proximity to Earth.
I have been an amateur connoisseur (an oxymoron, I know!) of art for a long time. I am particularly picky about my anime styles.
The art of Port of Earth is my least favorite aspect of the comic. The characters are drawn well enough and the few ships we see up close are unique and stir curiosity in the reader. However, the coloring is extraordinarily bland, washed out. It distances the reader from the story like its being viewed in a dream through a fog and when you wake up, you won’t remember what you saw. This style seems to be on purpose though, for now, to create a kind of melancholy at the start. The aliens did not come with enlightenment and wonder so the colors aren’t vivid and bright. They did not come to conquer or wipe out humanity and so we do not see he harsh colors of war and death. Instead, they came because of money, which for the characters and initially for the readers is rather underwhelming.
My hope is that the art is meant to be understated for now akin to a plot device and that more vivid color will come into play as the conflict rises.
In the introductory issue of Port of Earth, the characters presented are few and distinct. However, only one stands out at the moment. Mac is trouble waiting to happen, a force of chaos in a carefully regimented and delicate system created between the alien Consortium and the humans of Earth. His partner, George Rice, doesn’t stand out as much, but I resonated more with him as the good guy in the story. He truly wants to do right by the humans and aliens and keep the peace. He is also the only one so far with a love interest. There is a news reporter who gets more screen time than anyone else and the director of the Earth Security Agency (ESA), but at this point they were not memorable enough to hold on to their names for this review.
Though we are shown aliens from time to time and they are certainly central to the plot, they are less characters and more plot device for now. Again, I believe this distancing is on purpose at the moment to draw the reader in rather than unload all the goods up front. I predict that at least one if not two major alien characters will be introduces as the ESA gets further and further in over their heads.
In terms of draw for readers, the characters definitely need more time to develop, but the story is strong enough that I believe they will be given that chance.
Story, for me, is second only to world building in terms of importance as a reader. I prefer video games with good stories over the most insane graphics. I love cutscenes in games like Final Fantasy and the Lunar series. If the world is interesting and the story is good, I can be patient with slow character development.
Port of Earth has a strong story. It’s a unique premise that I’ve not seen before. The closest I can relate to it would be Meetpoint Station in the Chanur Saga by C. J. Cherryh. First contact for humans is presented as a hum-drum anti-climactic event as bait for a switch to the real conflict that comes after. Unauthorized alien visitors outside the port to the human populated areas of Earth. These aliens are just that, alien, and violent for reasons not revealed yet. To add to the conflict, the Consortium views them as customers and cares little for the loss of human life. The humans are told to see to their own security, not to kill any aliens no matter what they do without the Consortium’s express permission, and all this under an implied threat from the Consortium itself.
Presented this way, the conflict generates a stronger amount of interest as it comes from a different direction than reader expectations. I was surprised and disappointed when I realized I’d reached the end of the issue because the story had drawn me in so effectively.
For those who like space drama, alien encounters, first contact stories and the like, I believe you will enjoy this unique take.