Thanks to titles like Brethren Born and Late Knights, Jon Laight has become a firm fixture of the UK small press comics scene. But for this latest, most ambitious title, Laight has joined up with Markosia Comics and the artistic talents of Grant Richards, Darren Stephens and Rob Jones to produce Away, a sci-fi story about a man who spends his dreams training to be the Earth’s ultimate saviour.
Publisher: Markosia Comics
Writer: Jon Laight
Artist: Grant Richards (Art), Darren Stephens (Colours), Rob Jones (Letters)
Away tells the story of Jason, a firefighter, a husband and a father. These are the roles of his life and what he devotes every waking moment to. However, his world turns upside down when he is knocked unconscious and discovers a whole new world and life awaiting him. In his dreams, Jason is approached by a human freedom fighter from another dimension who warns that an alien threat approaches Jason’s world and he is the only one who can stop them, as he is the Alpha. So now, with the waking world unaware of this drastic change, Jason must spend every dreaming moment preparing to meet this new threat. But can he become powerful enough to be victorious and, more importantly, can he trust those who are teaching him?
Jon Laight has produced a really enjoyable story in Away which, despite beginning with something of a sluggish start, develops into a really ambitious and well paced read. After a slightly nasty opening chapter featuring some torture, once Jason’s special ‘skills’ are revealed to him, the pace really picks up and the plot really starts to flow. Laight treats us to a varying array of locales which offer some brief alternative locales, such as a Robin Hood-like Medieval battle or the far reaches of outer space. It’s because of this range of locations that Away feels incredibly epic in its storytelling, with the idea of an ordinary man discovering and/or being thrust into the role of galaxy saviour. As such, Away carries with it a rather vintage adventure vibe akin to Flash Gordon, but mixed with the time travel elements of Quantum Leap.
The lead character also helps sell this as Laight (himself a firefighter and family man) helps to convince readers of the impact and emotions of Jason’s new status quite perfectly, making him a grounded and likeable protagonist. Despite being 84 pages long, Away has a lot of ideas to pack in to this opening chapter and so the heightened pacing is both a gift and a curse as it can affect the tales various transitions and sometimes doesn’t offer enough time for readers to reflect on what they’ve read before moving forward.
Meanwhile, the artwork by Grant Richards allows the visuals to match the epic-ness of the story. Richards offers tremendous pencils throughout, with little in the way of flaws, and a fantastic level of detail in even the most insignificant of panels. He also manages to produce artwork which displays a variety of styles, each one seemingly fitting the setting/genre of the respective ‘modulus.’ (the name Laight gives each chapter/adventure) This is most prominently displayed within the battle pages of modulus 6, where the Medieval vibe is perfectly matched and looks terrific, and is helped by Darren Stephens equally fitting and beautiful colour palette. This is a great collection of visuals topped off by Away’s absolutely breathtaking cover (and chapter openers), making Richards an artist to look out for in future (if he wasn’t already).
In conclusion, Away is a fantastic comic, one which seems to meet the high expectations it sets itself based solely on its cover. All involved have really levelled up and taken their work to new heights to match the scale and ambition of the concept. Away feels both massive in scope and also highly personal at the same time, and so if you are a fan of sci-fi or epic adventures that challenge you as much as they entertain you, then Away is definitely the comic for you.