The Seeds #1
Ann Nocenti and David Aja (creators)
Out August 1, 2018
I get push notifications from three different news outlets: the BBC, the Associated Press, and the Guardian. I actually didn’t read the news at all for years: between twelve years of primary school warnings against bias in media and seven years of Twitter sapping my ability to read two sentences in sequence, I was paralyzed. I don’t have time to read five of the same story to get an idea of what really happened, and I certainly don’t have the attention span. Push notifications are easier to compare.
The Seeds #1, the last of new Dark Horse imprint Berger Books’ four debut comics, tells me I’m right to not trust any one outlet with the truth.
The air is worse in the future—or at least, it is in the grubby, post-punk future that Ann Nocenti and David Aja have built—and people have chunkier phone cases. Other than that, the world feels remarkably similar to our own: folks gather on street corners to talk shit about people who have left them, twenty-somethings meet intermittently over lunch or at seedy clubs, and the newspapers treat truth as a commodity instead of an obligation. There are computers piled into dumpsters, graffiti all over everything, and too many screens.
There’s also a wall. A wall that people can cross, into a world with no rules and no internet, but don’t cross back. “You can’t go backwards into the future,” says a woman on a corner.
Issue #1’s 28 page story is carved into six chapters, most of which are told from the perspective of a journalist named Astra. Astra has ambition, and wants to write important investigative stories and “smartass” essays. Astra also has a job, which means that often she’s sent to get scoops and write clickbait stories that will make her boss any money at all. It’s through Astra that The Seeds explores its themes: truth, death, and the inevitable intersection of the two.
Elsewhere, a girl—in her twenties, probably—named Lola gets dressed after spending the night with a masked figure who we later learn is called Race. Lola is barely clothed in her first scene, but Aja doesn’t linger on her chest or ass, instead cutting between her and Race as they banter at each other and she goes to the bathroom. Race, in turn, is covered from head to toe.
The idea of death is pervasive in Lola and Astra’s world, and it’s not subtle. There’s a club called Death, where people can get a drug that lets them experience—you guessed it—death. But that’s not all: people who cross the wall “cross over,” leaving their friends and family behind. The planet is dying, too, and pretty much everybody wears gas masks. “We killed the earth,” Astra writes facetiously, planning out a sensationalist article for her boss, “but was it murder or suicide?”
All of this is told through David Aja’s incredible artwork. Every bit of visual design in The Seeds belongs to Aja: the pencils, the inks, the shading, even the “letters, logo, and design,” are credited to him. The story is monochrome, shaded in a sick olive green that emphasizes the pollution that must hang in the air.
There aren’t quite as many beats in The Seeds as there were in Aja’s Hawkeye run, but that’s not surprising in a story that’s less about the moments between moments and more about the details in the nooks and crannies. Aja frequently uses pairs or even sequences of panels with minimal differences, but never simply repeats his artwork between the panels. Aja’s metaphorical camera zooms in and out, but time passes between the frames, just like it would if someone were really filming the scenes. The result feels cinematic, like the documentaries whose bias I’ve been warned about time after time.
The Seeds #1 looks at mainstream news culture with an unforgiving eye (and most likely an informed one, given Nocenti’s own experience as a journalist). Even Astra, who sneers at scoop culture, is complicit in it in order to give herself room to pursue her larger goals. Nocenti and Aja tell a story about balancing responsibility and desire, truth and fiction, and potentially life and death. Issue #1 strung me along happily, introducing question after question and answering just enough of them to leave me reaching for more.
Oh, also, there are aliens. It introduces those too.