Event Horizon by Liam Sharp
(2005-11-27) Despite the dramatic and excessive way that Hollywood has taken to comic book movies, comics have, for some time, been on a downward spiral. With the multitude of options both legal and illegal opened through the internet, comics in general have struggled to adapt to a marketplace that is now far more varied, aggressive and competitive. DC and Marvel continue with their large franchises and icons, yet there is a distinct familiarity to these titles that, whilst remaining a key selling point, is also contributing to the downturn. Outside of the big two only those titles that scream 'Unmissable' loud enough can be seen to be reaching a large audience. Familiarity has bred contempt and contempt is killing the industry. In this state the industry has been ripe for something different and more importantly innovative. That was Liam Sharp's idea when he came up with Event Horizon.
It is inaccurate to define Event Horizon as merely a 'comic' because despite it's outward appearance, Event Horizon's content is a caleidoscopic chameleon that is very hard to pin down. Certainly there are pieces in the collection that can be called 'comics' but those are only one facet of a gem that will, hopefully, breathe new life into a stagnant industry crying out for variety.
Event Horizon Book 1, Volume 1 is a hybrid creation of the written word and art that draws together a plethora of talent both recognisable and new, who attempt to challenge the assumptions and expectations around which the whole industry is based. Firstly despite being a combination of writing and artwork, the balance of the two is not weighted in favour of either - instead there are varying degrees to which each form imposes itself on each individual piece. No deference was given to the queue of 'names' who were eager to work on Event Horizon over the new talent that emerges through the pages, giving the collection a communal emphasis far removed from the distinct separation of artist and writer so prevalent of late. There are also no barriers to the nature of the content, allowing for violent, expletive-ridden material that deservedly comes with a 'Mature Themes' rating. Such a tag is a dual-edged sword, on the one hand breaking down the barriers of convention and crushing any lasting thoughts that this form of media 'is for kids'. On the other hand, it means that Event Horizon's market is diminished along with it's hopes of becoming a larger force with a much-needed voice in the industry. This potential negative having been noted, it is however fair to say that Event Horizon's impact would be greatly blunted by playing to the guidelines that have lead the industry into trouble and also remove the core essence of what Event Horizon stands for - freedom of expression.
Hyperbole about it's aspirations aside, the question remains: is Event Horizon any good?
To be brief, Yes. Given that this is the participants first attempt at such a format there is a feeling of alien worlds and ideas that veritably seeps through the pages. This is not a read-once-and-throw-away collection but a work that encourages, often even demanding, multiple readings in order to satisfy your curiousity. The first two pieces in the collection, fucking savages and Vanishing Herd, are well-drawn yet typical, straight forward fantasy-fodder that verge on the adolescent and to mind are by far the weakest of the ensemble. To be fair to those involved, this is their first shot at the characters and storylines so hopefully continuation will allow for a progression in-line with the rest of the title. Machivarius Point is a prose only piece with a brilliant idea that both surprises and amazes the reader, dragging you from a state of confusion into a world and concepts that are as intriguing as they are fantastic, definitely the standout piece in the whole collection and one I look forward to reading much more of. Other notables include; the too-brief Chase Variant, a clever idea about the influential powers in life that is backed up by high class visuals; The Cure, a lushly coloured take on future medical science that is classic science fiction with a twist; Heinrich Manoeuvre's H.E.A.D Trip! a comically obscene piece that is part satire, part mad-scientist invention; The Wormcast is an intelligent message-in-a-bottle short with a very alien feel that in conjunction with Oneironaut and The True Adventures of Jed Lightsear Space Pirate!, prove a very smart, well-thought out science fiction backbone to Event Horizon. Indeed it is the science fiction pieces that set the bar in terms of quality for Event Horizon, smudging the line between prose and art such that it becomes irrelevant, especially when the ideas and concepts involved are so cleverly orchestrated and executed.
Event Horizon isn't all positives though, several of the pieces are too short and at times the 'Mature Themes' tag seems to run away with the contributors, expletives are all well and good in context but for the sheer sake of themselves become worthless. These are detractions that can of course easily be fixed and hopefully will be for the next volume, which is on sale now and will be reviewed here at sffworld shortly.
In conclusion Event Horizon has all the potential to be something very special, this first volume goes some way to fulfilling the ideals set forth at it's inception. It will be a learning process for both creators and readers but with time and experience I fully expect Event Horizon to have a sizable impact, both on the way the medium is approached and also the industry.
Sffworld's Interview with Liam Sharp can be found here.
Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005