Planetoid Praxis #6 (Image Comics)
There might be a more vicious look at colonial capitalism dystopia sci-fi out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find it.
A group of people – human and otherwise – were enslaved by a corporation through debt, and then enslaved again to a species of aliens that took their inspiration from the American South as much as from Nazi Germany. They conquered and enslaved people, wiped out whole solar systems, took the corpses and still-living captives to make art, all that horrible stuff. A small group of their victims rebelled and took advantage of a random planet’s radiation field to get away from everything and build their own isolationist civilization, only to be found and explored by the corporation that had enslaved them way back when, a corporation that has since made peace with the aliens that were doing so much damage to everyone else.
There’s a lot to unpack here – a generation that remembers the horror of being enslaved not once, but twice. The sheer conditions they’ve had to live with and the sacrifices they’ve made to get there, followed by a younger generation that knows nothing of that horror and only sees the cool technological advances that the corporate incursion has brought with them. Never mind that the corporation is doing what colonialists do – engaging in sabotage to destroy indigenous life and trying to take advantage of the supposed naivete of that life to better themselves.
As proof of concept, look no further than when the corporation starts charging the survivors for use of the sun, and then uses their technology to block it off.
“Sign our contract,” they say, “we need you to sign this thing you don’t understand to protect you.” Ask any of the unjustly imprisoned people in the far east how well that works, or any of the First Nation tribes of North America. Thing is, our heroes are plucky and savvy and they know their shit, though they are sometimes working at cross-purposes because they are all people and they are all dealing with their trauma as best they can. There’s a lot of survivor’s guilt here, a lot of complexity and a lot of characters coming from different experiences and education. This is a meaty, meaty comic.
It’s the child of a man named Ken Garing, who handles all the writing and art. This is his masterpiece, the narrative that he’s devoted his life to, and it shows. Every issue and page bleeds some new moment, either a quiet reflection or deep meditation or tragic aftermath. There are undercurrents here that will follow you long after you put the comic down and try to move on with your day, undercurrents that will find you picking up the comic to read it again and again and maybe one more time. Stakes get raised and the consequences are obvious, the cost insidious.
Highest possible recommendation.