The Osiris Path Searches for the History of Humanity — in Space?

The Osiris Path #1; Ladder of the Gods, page 1, Behemoth Comics, 2020

The Osiris Path is a brand new comic series from Behemoth, having launched with a first chapter entitled Ladder of the Gods. If you like space, if you like archaeology, and if you like alternative history, then you should definitely check out The Osiris Path, given that these all play central roles in the story line.

The Osiris Path; Chapter 1: Ladder of the Gods

Christian Moran (Creator), Christian Moran, Corey Kalmam, Brockton McKinney (Writers), Walt Barna (Interior Art & Colour), DAM (Lettering), Justine Greenwood (Cover Art, Interior Breakdowns), Brad Simpson (Cover Colour), Esther Gabriel (Editor)
Behemoth Comics
May 1, 2020

Cover for Osiris Path #1; Ladder of the Gods

The Osiris Path follows the story of Dr. Alexander Hancock, a terrestrial archaeologist in 1980 who has found himself on a mysterious, classified trip to the moon. Hancock has no idea why he’s headed to the moon, only that it was at the request of his father’s friend Admiral Jackson. Upon arriving at Parson’s Crater, Hancock quickly finds out about the existence of a top secret American military base called Lunex-Horizon. He learns that, in addition to Admiral Jackson, he’s joining teammates Commander West, Admiral Hall, Dr. Yamato, and Dr. Schoch on the ultra high-speed spaceship Orion, which is set to travel to Mars. Hancock isn’t told why they’re travelling to Mars, but before they leave he’s taken to another region of the moon where he is startled to find himself looking at a large, proto-Egyptian stone building complete with hieroglyphs, obelisks, and giant sculptures. Hancock and his team aren’t the only ones interested in the building, however, and they quickly find themselves in a fire-fight with the Set Group. Hancock eventually finds himself enroute to Mars with more questions than answers.

One example of the multitude of colours used in The Osiris Path (The Osiris Path #1: 2)

I have to say that I really enjoyed this new story and I’m looking forward to following it as it goes! The artwork and color from Walter Barna was great; I loved the realism of it. It reminded me of 1980’s sci-fi films and books, which is perfectly in line with the 1980’s setting of the storyline. And it’s so colourful! The very first thing I noticed when opening the first few pages were all the bold reds and yellows and purples and blues. When the setting is the grey moon in dark space, the bright palette of colours across the pages was really appreciated!

In addition to the colourful artwork, I also liked the storyline. It’s adventurous and original and holds just enough mystery and intrigue to get a reader hooked. I empathize with Hancock (not just because I’m also an archaeologist) — I too had more questions than answers by the end of the chapter, but not in a frustrating way. In a genuine want-to-learn-more kind of way. Why is there a secret military research base on the moon? Why is this proto-Egyptian building on the moon? What is the ‘Osiris Path’ mentioned in the hieroglyphs? Who is the Set Group? And everyone keeps hinting that there’s something even more spectacular on Mars — what the heck is on Mars? I loved the fact that this story had me asking questions right alongside the characters!

I really appreciated the attention to detail in the book’s depiction of archaeology. As an archaeologist, I can assure you the writers have definitely done some research. A lot of what I read really was applicable to my world. For starters, yes, space archaeology is a real thing. In fact, I happen to know a couple of space archaeologists who run the International Space Station Archaeology Project. And some archaeologists use satellites in their work, which is archaeology from space. Space archaeology examines human presence in space through the human-made material culture (i.e. robots, satellites) and landscapes (i.e. lunar landing sites) in space. 

A second archaeology detail that jumped out was the use of LIDAR. In the story, Yamato is working on creating a handheld version of a LIDAR unit. In reality, LIDAR came into existence in the 1960’s and an early version was already being used to map the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. Today, LIDAR is an incredibly useful tool in archaeology as it allows us to identify new sites and features without having to excavate first. Just like Admiral Jackson explains to Hancock, LIDAR works by illuminating a target area with a laser light and using a sensor to measure the light reflecting back to create a 3D map.

LIDAR scan revealing a city covered by vegetation in Guatemala
An example of how LIDAR is used in archaeology to reveal structures covered by thick vegetation, in this case the Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala (National Geographic, 2018)

The third detail immediately jumped out at me because of my research interests in pseudoarchaeology, which keeps me involved in the world of alternative history. As I’ve written about before when I discussed the use of the Atlantis myth in the Lost City Explorers comics, pseudoarchaeology has a long history of racism and colonialism associated with it. The continued popularity of these theories and myths today continue to perpetuate their harms. When it comes to pop culture, current societal beliefs carry a big influence. And in return, pop culture can reinforce those beliefs. So when I come across pseudoarchaeological references in pop culture, I always pause for a moment and really look at what I’m reading. 

In The Osiris Path, these pseudoarchaeological references are not subtle. The writers have clearly read a lot of alternative history, as everything in this story is inspired by popular alternative historians, especially British writer Graham Hancock, and the incredibly popular theory of an ancient, highly technologically advanced civilization from which [almost] all of the world’s cultures are descended. For example, all of the characters have been either named directly after alternative historians or indirectly named after their theories. A second example is the proto-Egyptian structure the characters investigate on the moon and everything they find within it (i.e. the sculpture of Thoth, an obelisk acting as a tuning fork to a particular frequency, proto-Egyptian writing); these and the general idea of proto-Egyptian structures on planets other than Earth are all part of those ancient, high-tech civilization theories. Even the title of the chapter, Ladder of the Gods, pays homage to two very popular alternative history books written by the above-mentioned Graham Hancock — Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) and Magicians of the Gods (2015). 

The Osiris Path #1; Ladder of the Gods page 12, Behemoth Comics, 2020
A proto-Egyptian structure in space might seem like a strange thought, but there are a surprising number of people who believe this really exists (The Osiris Path #1: 12)

All in all, this is an exciting new adventurous comic that I think will find a large audience, given today’s popularity of both archaeology and alternative history. I’m admittedly a little bit cautious about the overwhelming influence of alternative history in the storyline for the concerns I mentioned earlier about pseudoarchaeology’s history, but I have to read more of this series before I really decide if my caution is founded or not. It truly is a fun read and I would love to see the creators find a way to continue this storyline without repeating the harms caused by the theories that have influenced it. In the meantime, I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter and hopefully finding out what’s on Mars!

Stephanie Halmhofer

Stephanie Halmhofer

I'm an archaeologist in Canada! I'm currently working on my PhD, focused on how cults use archaeology and pseudoarchaeology to build and support their mythical and mystical origins, and if pop culture has any influence over that. I'm also a big pop culture nerd - I love movies, books, video games, and comics, especially those involving archaeology, cults, the occult, sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure. She/her.
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