As anyone who has looked at sales in recent years can tell you, dystopian stories are nothing new in the modern world of comics. Aftershock's latest original series, Join the Future, sets out to bring something fresh to the field and actually succeeds. The debut delivers an extreme approach related to the prevalence of technology in our lives, while also crafting a heartfelt and earnest story about family. The end result feels like you threw The Hunger Games, Mortal Engines, and Wynonna Earp in a blender, with a hopeful and ominous mystery to tie everything together.
Join the Future is set in a world where megacities have become the norm and nearly every imaginable convenience is taken care of by technology. The megacites call on people to "join" their new society, although it isn't made entirely clear what that process entails. Outside of one megacity is the small rural community of Franklin, whose inhabitants include Will, his teenage daughter Clementine, and his young son Owen. Through a series of events, Clementine's connection to the technology of the megacities grows closer and more complicated, culminating in a cliffhanger that shatters her reality.
Without getting into spoilers, Join the Future #1 uses a limited number of pages to tell an entertaining and complex story, one that will put readers in an interesting position as the series moves forward. It's easy to sympathize with the ideologies of both the megacity and the rural communities, as both present a version of life that's appealing in some capacities. At one point in the issue, a megacity boasts that it has universal basic income, free healthcare, and a slew of other benefits that are currently being debated in our very real campaign cycle. But at the same time, there's a feeling that something sinister is lurking underneath the societies of the megacities, depending on what exactly it means to "join." It's unclear if that will manifest as a generic sort of "technology is bad" statement, or something more nuanced.
The sequences set in Franklin bring a different, but not jarring, energy to the proceedings, especially once Clementine's role grows larger. Based solely on this issue, Clementine seems incredibly hesitant about the influence of technology in her world, but also headstrong and capable, which will make future installments of her story all the more interesting. While the supporting cast around her isn't as developed yet, there's definitely room for writer Zack Kaplan's story to evolve.
Artist Piotr Kowalski brings a lot of interesting visuals onto the page. Both the megacities and the rural areas are given a stunning amount of detail, with wildly different aesthetics informing each locale. The costumes and character design are simple, but intriguing, with Clementine's looking particularly attractive to cosplay. While some of the faces and postures can come across as odd, it doesn't take much away from the series. Brad Simpson's colors effortlessly differentiate the two worlds of Join the Future as well, with blues and browns being used in an intriguing capacity. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou's lettering is simple, but effective.
On the surface, Join the Future could just be an average dystopian fiction, but this debut sets up plenty to break the mold. Even with an ominous threat and a lot of world-building left to explore, there's a sense that Join the Future is going to be a thought-provoking and weirdly hopeful kind of saga. There's still a lot of meat on the bone when it comes to this first issue, but that makes it a more promising debut in some ways.
Published by Aftershock Comics
On March 4, 2020
Written by Zack Kaplan
Art by Piotr Kowalski0comments
Colors by Brad Simpson
Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou