All Is Fair In Love + Chaos In Strangelands Volume 1

by Rachel Bellwoar

Newton’s third law of physics states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same rule applies for superpowers (or it should). For every superpower, there is an equal and opposite weakness but there isn’t always much correlation between the two. While arguably one of the most famous superhero weaknesses of all time, Kryptonite’s pretty random, as far as green rocks go, but in Strangelands, the new comic series from Humanoids, the powers and weaknesses of the characters provide the launchpad for everything that follows.

Dan Panosian

It’s why you can’t blame writers, Mags Visaggio and Darcie Little Badger, for not starting their series with character profiles, since that would explain who Adam and Elakshi are and their abilities. It’s something you have to discover for yourself and the series takes its time letting information slip out naturally, instead of providing background details all at once.
In Strangelands it’s not just one person carrying the weight of these drawbacks. Adam and Elakshi share the responsibility. Unable to be a certain distance apart without setting off an explosion, the issue begins with them in immediate jeopardy of that happening. Elakshi is on a train. Adam is on a motorcycle, and if catching up to the train wasn’t a big enough concern, he’s also being followed by someone in a motorcycle helmet.
Guillermo Sanna is the artist on this series, while Bryan Valenza is credited as the color artist, and the layouts for this action sequence switch back and forth between vertical and horizontal panels. Initially the priority is the train and the horizontal panels emphasize the growing distance between Elakshi and Adam and their need to stick together. When the motorcyclist appears, he’s a distraction, so his panels are vertical, but when he can’t be shaken off Adam has to deal with him first, and Elakshi and Adam start appearing separately in vertical panels. It’s not an exact science but it’s a great way of tracking the changing needs of the scene and the fact that Valenza makes it such a beautiful day, with a crystal blue sky, makes it feel all the more wild that this is happening.
Elakshi and Adam have chemistry from the get-go but their forced proximity makes it seem even more likely that they’ll be romantically paired, which is when Visaggio and Badger throw in the other kicker: not only can they only be so-and-so meters apart (and you’re never told an exact number so you can’t anticipate when the situation will turn bad), but they can’t touch or the same result happens – there’ll be an explosion.
The antagonists in this series get powers and weaknesses that are just as well-matched and create all this interior drama within the larger mission. Elakshi and Adam want to find a cure (Elakshi is particularly dogged about this) and they have a mysterious benefactor named Kittyhawk who’s been advising them on where to go. She hasn’t exactly inspired confidence so far, but she’s also the one holding the purse strings.
Volume 1 of Strangelands contains issues one through four and issue #5 is already solicited for January. Strangelands is also part of Humanoids’ new H1 Ignition universe, though you don’t need any prior knowledge to read it. I do wish Humanoids had done a little more selling of the other books in this universe as part of the backmatter (I’d also be curious to know if there are any crossovers in the works) but the diversity of the characters enriches the storytelling and if Strangelands is representative of what the rest of the universe has to offer, than that’s something to get psyched about.
Strangelands Volume 1 goes on sale December 3rd from Humanoids.

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