Don’t you just love a good post-apocalyptic story? I know I do. There’s something about watching a civilization rebuild itself from the ashes that always catches my attention. Maybe I have a bit of a nihilistic streak in me that makes me feel like we need to get rid of everything and start over fresh. Maybe I am fascinated with how different authors imagine our rebuilt world will function. Maybe I just want to live in a world where wearing a cloak is considered acceptable? Who knows?
(It’s definitely the last one though).
What I do know is that the real value in a post-apocalyptic story comes from what it shows about our current values, and where some think that we as a society are headed. George Miller saw humanity headed towards a toxic wasteland, where we were so driven by our insatiable lust for fossil fuels, we would descend into barbarians in order to possess them. James Cameron felt our relentless drive to create new technology to protect and defend us would eventually turn on us and destroy us. And Terry Gilliam though that a virus would force everyone to go into hiding underground, only emerging periodically in protective gear to scrounge up what we needed before rushing back into our homes. Obviously, he was the furthest off of the lot.
So it is with a joyful, possible nihilist heart that I once again dip my toes into the beautiful world of apocalyptic destruction with Engineward from Vault comics. Here’s the blurb:
Earth is an ancient myth, long forgotten. Now, the word of the god-like Celestials is absolute, and they rule with brutal efficiency. When Joss, an Engineward, discovers and reactivates the head of an ancient ghoulem, she finds all is not as intended. Her destiny—and that of her world—lies somewhere far beyond the borders of her shantytown.
Engineward is a book that has both gotten a lot of hype and has also somehow managed to stay off my radar. That’s unusual because not only am I a huge fan of Vault comics (seriously, I think I read more from them than I do Boom or Image) but also because I am a big fan of author George Mann (although in fairness I know him mainly through his work on Doctor Who comics). Joe Eisma is also a familiar name to me, having seen him bounce around a few indie titles and enjoyed his cover work for many of them.
(Editor’s note: Eisma’s work on Morning Glories is outstanding; go read that book right now, but don’t ask Joe when it’s coming back 🙂 )
Yet despite all this, I only just heard about Engineward a week ago and was thrilled to actually manage to snag a copy from my local shop. This first issue is a fairly solid start. We’re introduced to a number of our primary players and get a sense of what life is like for them. Most of humanity has been reduced to a kind of religiously indoctrinated slave labour, ruled by a religious elite that models themselves after figures from the zodiac. Earth, now referred to as Eort, is little more than a legend to the people, but a legend that they still believe to be the source of their original colony. Earth as a myth is another popular trope in post-apocalyptic fiction (as can be seen in works like Firefly and Earth 2) and I am eager to see how humanity’s flight from their home planet is dealt with in this story. Already we have hints that what they believe as myths might not be telling the whole tale.
Not that Engineward is perfect. As I said at the start, good post-apocalyptic work is really a mirror held up to society. When done correctly, they can raise serious questions about the important issues of the day that might not be getting the attention they deserve. When done poorly they become little more than a shoddy premise for cheap action. Engineward is only a single issue in, so it’s unfair to try to judge how well it will do this moving forward, but so far there have only been hints about what its larger social message will be. Hopefully moving forward this will be discussed in more detail, and Mann’s intentions will become clearer. I enjoyed the first issue enough that I’m willing to go on the ride of this book and see where it takes me. Hopefully, future issues will also take the time to flesh out the characters, and really delve into how this society functions, and what it is trying to say about humanity.
End of the world stories are great because they have so much potential. I personally can’t wait to see where Engineward goes, and what Mann has in store for us. If you didn’t pick this title up, I recommend seeing if you can still find a copy.