Hedra. There are no sounds in space.
Is there no noise in space?
After a devastating nuclear war, Earth is now reduced to a barren shadow of its former self. The last hope for survival lies in a journey of space exploration, to find a new habitat for mankind or the resources needed to continue life on the (former) blue planet. To undertake the journey, a girl is chosen by lottery to embark on a solitary journey through the cosmos. During her journey, she will meet an alien being who, like her, is in search of something very important to her species. Can her journey be a hope of redemption for the ruined planet she has left behind?
Too short to be considered a Graphic Novel and too long (and expensive) to be a normal monthly comic, Hedra immediately proves to be different from the normal comic proposals (obviously we are talking about the US market).
The story is nothing particularly complex or new and mixes many of the most classic science fiction stereotypes, from the ultimate war that devastates the planet, to the astronaut who travels alone in the cosmos to bring hope to mankind, passing through the pulp adventure to the first contacts with unknown alien civilizations. This does not mean, however, that the story is trivial and uninteresting to follow, and the fact that it is completely devoid of any dialogue or captions forces the reader to concentrate on the images, to process them carefully, paying the utmost attention to every tiny detail illustrated in the marvellous plates that make up the comic and to its references to classics of cinema and literature.
Opposed to the simplicity of the plot, is instead the graphic part of Hedra, totally by the author Jesse Lonergan, which shows tables at first sight “simple”, with a design of the characters and the setting in general essential, almost elementary, but that at a closer look you realize that they influence the story much more marked than you might expect. For example, the more advanced and thoughtful creatures are depicted with cleaner lines, in almost surreal and relaxing settings, in contrast to those more primitive and violent beings, who are instead placed in more realistic settings and characterised by more 'coarse' and harsh drawings. These two distinct characters intertwine with each other, influencing the story that, in a few plates, manages to tell better than what we find elsewhere in dozens of pages. As well as the aliens, all visually different from each other, who through their actions show their inexorable similarity with the beings. But where Lonergan kicks it up a notch is in the construction of the panels, which reach a masterly level of involvement, a true masterpiece of technique and skill in the use of panel layouts and in drawing the reader's attention. The structure of the layouts strongly helps to tell the story. The intersection of the panels and the drawings within them, the use of gutters and the relationship of interaction with the illustrations, are all helpful in telling the story. By using a very thick grid of 35 panels on a single page, Lonergan restores an enchanting sense of the passage of time and movement, capturing the attention and making the eyes dance over the page, focused on processing the images. An integral part of this fresco is the colours, which define the progression of the story with the use of reds and oranges for the before and yellows for the after.
Hedra is a visual joy. It is something different from what you can read, a rare pearl in the comics landscape. Part of this wonder is that there is no reading in this comic, at least not in the traditional way of reading. Completely devoid of dialogue, in Hedra we are confronted with somewhat daringly constructed panels, composed of an intricate system of grids that inform us and act as a vector for the story. At times we are forced to slow down to better understand what is happening, but the reading is never weighed down in any way. Hedra is neither the first nor the only comic book to have no dialogue, but Lonergan's minimalist style and his impeccable construction of the panels put it at a decidedly high level, one that few have approached, making it certainly one of the best reads you can make, as well as one of the best comics made in recent years. Lonergan raises the bar of excellence in the comics medium, introducing it to a style and language that are in some ways new, managing to communicate a great deal of information without saying (writing) anything. Hedra by Jesse Lonergan is a magnificent comic book that will enchant you and make you read (and re-read) it over and over again.