Prism Stalker #1
Sloane Leong (words, illustration, colors)
March 7, 2018
Let me tell you something: Prism Stalker #1 is visually unlike any comic book I have ever read. It is rich, fresh, intriguing, mysterious, and vibrant. Artist, writer, and colorist Sloane Leong introduces us to a rainbow universe where the daily grind is like nothing we know on our own planet in her debut comic book. Leong has created an iridescent story that is immediately fascinating. The personal tale of Vep, a young woman of color enslaved to alien creatures in a mining colony, moves right along at the outset.
The color must be mentioned first, for it is magnificent. Scenes and sequences have their own color schemes. Black and white are seldom seen; instead they are replaced with deep, dark purples and light, airy greens in just the right places. Leong has taken care with what she has created.
The swirl of polychromatic tones is brilliant; this world we are introduced to is wrapped in a warm, sticky, alien landscape without a sky. It feels tropical, which makes sense when you consider some of Leong’s goals for Prism Stalker. In her Book Riot interview, Leong says, “I feel like sci-fi has had a dominant aesthetic for so long—clean, white, angular—which reflects a sort of Anglo/Western ideal. I wanted to embrace my cultures visually in these alien landscapes and pieces of architecture: warm, neons of flowers, forests, and fish in Hawaii and the bright vivid colors of Mexican folk art. I’m also really fascinated with biology and I think the potential of organic components on a grander scale is overlooked a lot in the genre.” In the same interview, she describes Prism Stalker as a “loud, sci-fi kaleidoscope” and it is exactly that.
Another visually stunning part of Prism Stalker #1 is the nature of the biological and organic landscapes that surround Vep and her small family. There is heavy use of plants, sacs, things that resemble the insides of a giant organism, prism creatures, and more. Unique aliens tread the paths of Vep’s world, a world unique to the sci-fi genre. This is part of what makes Prism Stalker #1 so special. There is no semblance of Earth at all, nothing familiar but the humanoid people of Imana, the planet where Vep comes from. Yet it still feels believable. This strange world is so visually appealing and yet repulsive at the same time, a biological dungeon. Vep’s universe feels claustrophobic to the reader; though beautiful, it is still terrifying.
The story itself reflects the mesmerizing art: it draws the reader in while offering a dose of fear along with curiosity. What kind of world is this, where human beings simply obey their captors without resistance? Part of the skillful way in which Prism Stalker is written lies in Leong’s ability to give readers little bites of understanding as the story progresses. We only receive information through Vep’s lens, including her back story and her relationship to the world and events happening around her. It reminded me of Alien, which I recently saw for the first time; everything is seen through the characters’ perspectives. No more information is given to you than to them. Too often a comic book is over-explained by a narrator in order to save time or expound on the tale. Prism Stalker #1 is the very definition of “Show, Don’t Tell” in a skilled and artful way. Though I was confused, I was driven by the little knowledge I was given piecemeal to read more of the story, and read it more than once.
Weak science fiction has a common problem: the setup is too obvious, and the audience is given far too much information to make the story interesting. When a comic’s background can be explained away in a matter of a couple of panels, it will likely be weak in other places as well. These are not the wonderful sci-fi tales that stand the test of time, because they do not encourage the reader to pick up on the subtleties of an excellent story. If Frank Herbert had revealed how the world of Dune worked in one fell swoop, there would be no revelations, no discovery for the reader. But here Leong does the excellent, difficult work of really good science fiction: she gives the reader a little at a time, often without explanation. This is something that makes Vep’s experience believable. It makes it tangible, because not everything in our day to day is explained by a narrator either.
Prism Stalker #1 is a beautiful, dark comic book that not only addresses colonization and slavery, but explores a whole new world that no one else could have imagined and executed with such pristine skill. Sloane Leong is bringing something fresh to the world of sci-fi comics, something that stands out on the shelf with its rainbow cover: Vep at the center of a blurry, radiant world. It continues to distinguish itself when the cover is opened, and the story begins.
Here are two other accompaniments for Prism Stalker #1 you won’t want to miss:
The eerie, bright trailer from Image Comics.
This special musical piece written just for Prism Stalker #1 by neotenomie. It was made specifically to be played during your Prism Stalker #1 reading.