Two hundred years after the apocalypse that turned the air on the Earth’s surface into poison, a group of human survivors struggle for the first time from their subterranean caverns towards the outside world. Meanwhile, elsewhere, a new breed of humans are also venturing forward on a journey of self-discovery. ‘Saved’ from death by a mysterious child who transformed them into vampiric creatures from myth, they must determine their place in the new world.
Walter Koenig’s new post-apocalyptic vampire tale is about anticipation and uncertainty. You can feel it in the title and it pervades the lives of the characters the reader meets in this first installment. It is the tale of two peoples emerging from a global cataclysm and how their respective struggles are informed by the very different circumstances under which they survived.
Things to Come… incorporates a classic gothic aesthetic that immediately attracted me. The cover art shows a vampire against a black and white photo of what could be an early 20th Century European city. Beneath the story of two peoples emerging from post-apocalyptic horror, Koenig weaves a subtle commentary on early 20th Century politics. Allusions to the fascist and socialist regimes that rose to power during or after the World Wars can be seen throughout Things to Come… To begin with, the cover art could be read as a hint that the apocalypse happened at the end of World War II.
Koenig employs a number of pseudo-political references. In the human settlement the weak or elderly are put to death in order to preserve resources and protect the ‘common good’ in what would surely be an extreme interpretation of communism. The community is governed by a committee of quasi-intellectual leaders including one man whose small, round glasses lend him some resemblance to iconic images of Russia’s Bolsheviks.
In captions, Koenig says of the same human community, ‘Forever rising, the pyramid is freedom’ a phrase that echoes the Nazi slogan famously emblazoned over the entrance to concentration camps during WWII, ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work makes you free). The tragic irony of course (if you interpret the phrase in the literal sense) is that the inmates of Nazi concentration camps were never freed, regardless of how they worked, and this reality is reflected in Things to Come… a couple of captions later when Koenig compares the humans’ work to that of Sisyphus.
The underlying political discourse provides a fascinating counterpoint to the more basic, post-apocalyptic tale that unfolds within the pages of Things to Come… and raises many questions about where this story will lead in future issues and also what the events were that led to the apocalypse.
I found Juan Baez’s art initially a little ill-suited to vampire fiction, it’s so soft and gentle, but as I read I came to appreciate the way that he was able to capture the spirit of the story. The more I read the more I enjoyed the art style and the way that it contrasts with the narrative. I also enjoyed Baez’s page layouts, particularly how he arranged the splash page of the pyramid builders with close up panels of individual workers.
Verdict: An intriguing beginning to what could be a very interesting story. It gives so little away that I find myself uncertain what to expect in further installments and that made it somewhat difficult to fully engage with the story. However, this lack of predictability has also left me very curious! 6/10
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Written by: Walter Koenig
Art by: Juan Baez
Bluewater Comics, out now