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Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean

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13.99

Page 45 Review by Jonathan

Back in the mists of time, in an altogether unremarkable part of the Universe, two epic forces collided with such spectacular results that nothing would ever be the same again...

Yes, as the two-page introduction details, back in 2010 Matt and Malachi decided to make comics together...

"Matt drew a whole page that Malachi inked. We liked it enough to try a whole story.
"The first page of Expansion was only the second page we ever drew together."

As Malachi then hugely understates in the next panel, "Not too bad."

So, nearly eight billion years ago, in an extremely unusual bit of the Universe, two, well in fact, three elements of temporally very distinct cultures clash, in a pocket-sized science fiction epic that devotees of Arthur C. Clarke in particular will love.

Agents Turner and Briggs, sole survivors of an overwhelming attack on their tiny spacecraft by a huge battlecruiser in the wilds of deep space, only manage to escape by desperately plunging their doomed ship into a strange, black, spherical anomaly. To their surprise they find an ancient, huge arc-like vessel lurking monolithically within. Its peace-loving inhabitants, having sequestered themselves there until such time as the Universe is ripe for repopulating with their non-violent credo, welcome the new arrivals with open arms. Even if that means waiting until everyone else is extinct...

What's aiding the cult in their peculiar mission is that the black sphere is a temporal distortion, where time is moving at a velocity at many orders of magnitude greater than real space outside. As it gradually begins to dawn on Turner and Briggs that allowing a bunch of religious nutjobs - as banal and well-meaning as they seem to be - a blank canvas to repopulate the entire Universe might not be the best idea for the future of mankind, the agents hatch a plot to foil the fundamentalists. Which takes us up to about the first third of this work, plot-wise. It only gets wonderfully weirder as matters spiral out of anyone's control on an epic scale.

Fervent fans of Matt and Malachi's similarly universe-level apocalyptic ANCESTOR, their spectacular alternative history of the space-race collaboration in NOW #1 and Malachi's equally time-bending FROM NOW ON will find this punches all the right buttons like a bequiffed star-ship Captain frantically trying to fire off a salvo of photon torpedoes to stave off total destruction... or something... As will acolytes of Brandon Graham's exceptional PROPHET series, to which they both contributed their prodigious artistic talents and story-mashing chops. The art here is amazing too, with some incredibly delicate linework and substantially black and grey inking, quite different from their other works to my mind. In fact, if I wasn't aware of who had drawn it, I might have been tempted to guess Chester Brown, oddly enough! It would have been a wild guess, I'll grant you, but there are some similarities in style here.

For a 'first work' this is mind-warpingly brilliant. Also, spoiling nothing, but ending a speculative fiction work satisfactorily is a notoriously tricky task, and one not even the greats get it right every time. Here, however, just as they did with so skilfully in ANCESTOR, the boys let the dystopian dream burn itself out to an extremely satisfying conclusion...
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