Tim from Last Week reviews A Distant Soil vol. 1 (Remastered)!

A Distant Soil vol. 1, “The Gathering” (Remastered Edition) – Colleen Doran

I have been meaning to read A Distant Soil for several years, and when I heard that Colleen Doran (creator, writer, and artist) was remastering the series, I decided this was the time to make it happen. Since I have never seen the originals, all of my observations are of the remastered edition, alone.

I was only slightly aware of A Distant Soil’s premise, which I believed to be focused around galactic characters and fantastical situations, but different than the regular “capes” that were on the shelves, at the time. When the series opens in a mental institution, I was really worried that I had been badly misinformed. As it turns out, The Gathering is the starting point for A Distant Soil, but not the characters.

The bulk of the book is, indeed, a gathering of the key characters, and stands as a fairly good introduction to the series. Liana and Jason, brother and sister, were in the institution against their will, without any real knowledge of where they came from and what their strange powers meant. Slowly, they are introduced to both humans and aliens that will make up their new universe. We are also introduced to the different species that make up Ovanan society, which is ruled by the Hierarchy.

I’m a fan of Doran’s art, and I think of it as a softer style, with a lot of “pretty” and “beauty”. And, while I find that it works best for certain kinds of stories, you will find her art all over the comic book universe and beyond. I’ve read Reign of the Zodiac (co-created with Keith Giffen), The Book of Lost Souls (with J. Michael Straczynski), and Orbiter (with Warren Ellis), and I enjoyed them all (Reign of the Zodiac, specifically, seemed to end way too soon). She has also had 1-issue credits or pin-up credits in so many comics that we’ve all very likely seen her art many times over. The three examples, above, were all published after Doran had been making comics for years, and had truly established herself as a talented artist. A Distant Soil was not. You can definitely see that some of this art is that of a not-quite-there-yet, up-and-coming talent. Not unexpected for a young artist. What is fascinating, though, is how her style changes between chapters, and sometimes between pages, and even panels. There are pinups that fit into the story, and seemingly involved more work and effort than standard pages, but there are even panels that are gorgeous, almost pin-up worthy all by themselves. I read each page once, for the story, then once more for the pictures. It meant it took me a while to finish reading, but I think it was worth it. One of my pet peeves in comic art relates to eyes. You know: the actual eyeball. I am normally turned off when artists draw in a complete eye, because they never seem to do it right. Doran has a unique style for her eyes, in most shots, which give her characters a sense of power. Up close, her eyes look like eyes. Sclera, iris, pupil. Crazy, I know, but I like it.

As far as I remember, this is the first writing of Doran’s that I have read. And, while I feel that it was sort of stuck in the ‘80s (not surprising), I found it to be rich and interesting, right from the start. I do love stories that create universes (Star Wars, Narnia, Tolkien, Asimov, etc.). However, I also find that this strength could be a weakness. There is so much information to absorb in this first volume (many characters, several races, political groups, societal strata, history, powers, relationships, ‘80s fashion), that it makes it difficult to keep up. Since I read each page twice, I believe I retained more than I would have with a single reading, but I know I am missing some stuff that I should know. I do look forward to a more story-driven second volume, and a little less of the “Encyclopedia Distant Soilica.”

I’m glad that Shadowline has decided to support the remaster of this series, just for the chance to put this series in another set of hands. As mentioned above, I have no idea what the art looked like in the previous printings, but it’s worth noting the work of Allan Harvey who has spearheaded the remaster. I plan to follow through on the whole thing. I want to see how Doran grows as both an artist and writer throughout the series, and I do want to know what happens next for these characters.


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1 Comment to “Tim from Last Week reviews A Distant Soil vol. 1 (Remastered)!”

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  1. Grim_Noir says:

    “A Distant Soil” has been on my “I-should-probably-read-this” list for several years. Thanks for the review, Tim. I may have to move this up my backlist…

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