Guestwriter: Ernie Laurence
Writer – Zack Kaplan
Artist – Andrea Mutti
Colorist – Vladimir Popov
Letterer – Troy Peteri
Editor – Elena Salcedo
This article was possible due to the gift of a review copy, QWERTY, and rolling natural 20s.
“The Deal protects us all.”
The comic opens with the talk show we saw in the last one, an expository device for connecting us to the ‘Big Picture’ while two ESA agents give us the ground level view of what that means for individuals. Tom Rutgers explains that the deal with the Consortium is in the best interests of Earth. After bringing in the big corporate players who represent to many corporate greed and cronyism, he argues that these companies were needed to seal the deal. They would be effective because of their desire for economic power, but the implication he leaves the ‘viewer’ with – and us the readers with – is that the Deal is necessary to protect Earth from…something.
The story then shifts into the sewers where we left off at the end of issue #1 and the two ESA agents. Rice is the level headed one arguing caution and wanting to follow protocols. McIntyre, the hothead, chases off after the alien. All the while, the two are followed by new cameras showing the world what the ESA is all about. It is no doubt that someone chose McIntyre to be filmed for a reason. It comes across as someone on the inside of the ESA working to bring about its downfall. After Rice calls on him to follow protocol for the fifth time, McIntyre goes on a diatribe against the evil corporations and how the Deal ruined his family and destroyed his home. Then they encounter the alien and chase it out of the sewers into a residential area. We are left with the idea that this is what happens when ESA agents don’t follow protocol.
The last tidbit of feeling the writers give us, though, is that there is something deeper going on with both the alien specifically and the interaction with humans and aliens in general. One big question remains in my mind: why do aliens, knowing the problems they will encounter, and knowing that Earth is technologically primitive, keep trying to leave the port and ‘visit’/escape into Earth proper?
Although the story take place on Earth, the framing of the story in present day with the backdrop of recognizable organizations really allows the worldbuilding to arrive in this issue. We see a reference to the ACLU, which is then immediately dismissed as irrelevant to this Deal. Exxon, Halliburton, Boeing, and ironically Elon Musk’s Tesla Corporation were all brought in as major players in the Deal with the alien consortium.
Where the first issue explained What Port of Earth was. The second issue explains Who is involved and it does so by bringing in all the political and economical angst many in America feel towards the human players in the story. As each name save for perhaps Tesla passed before me, I felt a mounting dread at this Deal because of what those names are perceived to represent, are projected to represent by the comic story. Tesla, though, was an odd one. Introduced last like a shred of hope that not all is evil, like an injection of reason into a chaotic maelstrom of corporate greed.
Please don’t misunderstand. I do not personally view any of these corporations as either good or bad. What I am presenting to you is a general perception that is felt by many that the writers of the Port of Earth series are capitalizing on. And they have chosen powerfully.
The art continues to be my least favorite aspect of the Port of Earth series. There is a stylized abstractness to it that distances me, and possibly many others from the story visually.
The first portion is a clean talk show set with two crisply dressed individuals having a conversation. As they converse about the Deal with the Consortium, we are shown vague faces as if the humans are individually inconsequential compared to the political and more importantly economic forces at work here.
After the break, we follow the two ESA agents down into the sewers after an alien. Again, these men are visually forgettable. One has dark hair and the other light, and that’s all that is really important. Even the alien is visually nothing impressive; like some kind of tapeworm that grew a head and four limbs.
While the art provides little in the way of optical cues to remember characters by, the actual character building is stronger in this issue than last.
ESA Director Tom Rutgers is the face of the Deal. He is confident, enigmatic, and comes across as both dangerous and doing what he believes is the best thing to do to protect Earth.
George Rice, the dark haired ESA agent is younger and by the book. He wants to make all the right decisions, but allows himself to be dragged along into all the wrong ones by his senior partner. There is a compelling case to be made that he will be the ‘star’ of the series by the time it ends if he ever digs in and stands up for himself. As long as he remains a passive character, though, the story will go without a main character altogether.
Eric McIntyre, the blonde haired senior ESA agent in the ground level portion of the story is probably my least favorite character to date. He is something of a cliche. Because of obvious conflicts involving his family related to the Consortium Deal, Eric pursues his job with a vengeful streak that creates a large amount of unnecessary conflict. He comes across as a cheap plot device that should have been fired from the ESA long before it got to this point in the story.
The alien is more interesting. Through George’s mind we get a sense that not all is as it appears to be on the surface. The actions of the alien once the duo of agents meats up with it only reinforce this. The alien may not be a candidate for main character, and it may even end up dead if McIntyre has his way, but it will be the catalytic event for the primary conflict across the series arc.
Rating – PG
There is nothing visual or story-wise that is too disturbing for pre-teens. The art is abstract enough that we don’t see anything overtly scary and nothing dies or gets eaten. It will definitely be over the head of most those below young adult.
Overall, though, the story has definitely picked up and managed to provoke all the hook questions the first issue did not. I am glad I stuck around for this issue and I think others will be too. I am hoping at this point for good things to come and recommend that others stick around for more as well.