There’s plenty of science fiction in comics, particularly if you lump many of the superheroes in that genre, but it’s rare to find science fiction (in any medium) that deals with religion, particularly one that does it well (as opposed to using it as a cliche). Invisible Kingdom, written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Christian Ward not only does this, but it does so gorgeously.
It’s clear that the world we’re shown here has been well-thought-through, with the sense that there’s more than we’re viewing. A freighter pilot is bothered by the Lux company representative traveling on her ship, someone more interested in protecting the cargo and delivering it on time than keeping them alive. Another woman has just become a religious initiate, joining a veiled convent, at great personal and cultural sacrifice. The two wind up together, fleeing a conspiracy among the great forces of their civilization.
The voices are impressive, with great amounts of characterization conveyed through dialogue and the various tones capturing different classes and cultures. The cast, although in a very different setting from the reader, have very similar challenges, particularly the crew trying to get a simple job done in spite of the many rules and strictures placed in their way.
Some narration, meant to represent scripture, gets the sound right without wandering into sarcasm. I feel for Vess, joining the monastery and finding that the inspiring spiritual leader she relies upon may not be what she seems. Wilson captures in terrific fashion both the struggles of working for bureaucracy and the confusion of separating a religion from its flawed representatives.
The other thing that sets Invisible Kingdom apart is the stunning visuals. Beautifully illustrated planetscapes are usually found in European comics, which have a long tradition of impressively illustrated SF. Ward’s art complements the world-building with diverse creations, grounded in the detail of a junky spaceship or tradition-bound religious order. The color, particular, is luminous, rich and unnatural in its neon shades. There are no human flesh tones, a simple choice that works surprisingly well to establish a futuristic feel.
The collected edition of the first five issues of Invisible Kingdom is due out the first week of November. It can be pre-ordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code JUN19 0306. (The publisher provided digital review copies of the issues out so far.)