Review: Harsh Prospect (Will Tempest)

Another discovery that came to use for our #DiscoverIndieComicsDay events, every Friday. Will Tempest’s Harsh Prospect is a thoughtful and stylish piece of dystopian near future sci-fi, that poses more questions than it answers. But does this make for a a harsh read, or something much more palatable?

Publisher: Will Tempest
Writer: Will Tempest
Artist: Will Tempest
Price: £0 from Gumroad

Harsh Prospect starts with images of a mountain range and rocky outcrops. We aren’t sure if this is earth or another planet, but it sets the scene for a very harsh and unforgiving world that we are about to explore. In one of the caves is a scientist, who discovers a mysterious red blob. Taking it back to the camp we discover it may have something to do with a recent batch of sicknesses at another camp and may be the solution to the problems which are affecting this troubled world.

Summing up the plot to Harsh Prospect is difficult as not a lot really happens. It hints at elements of a larger story with mentions of disease ravaged camps and a scene involving flora and fauna which we presume has been ravaged by this outbreak, but it is never explicitly mentioned. The tone of the story is very bleak and dystopian, and the arrival of a mysterious blob evokes thoughts of John Carpenter’s The Thing and instantly puts the reader on edge. Meanwhile, the tech on show suggests it is near future, with drones and tablets instead of high concept future tech or alien gadgetry.

The action, what little there is, is slow and deliberate, with no huge set piece moments, and in a way it feels more like a mood piece or perhaps a prequel to a larger work with the way the story is told. At just 34 pages it never really get out of first gear, which is not a bad thing if we get more plot development in future issues, but for now you are left feeling a bit unsure about what you have just read.

A Harsh Prospect in a harsh world

Visually it looks incredible though. The cover is slightly misleading as it looks more like a small press arthouse book, but the internal pages have a slickness and fine level of detail that are something else. The rockscapes have an almost Bryan Hitch level of detail to them, while there are also hints of Frank Quiteley in the intricacy of the tech. The panel design removes gutters in between panels, and there is a real orderliness and rigidity to the way they are compiled which makes the whole thing feel very contemporary.

The colouring is earthy and metallic mixing browns and greys to create this cold and harsh reality and the red blob works as a strong blast of colour that feels alien and other worldly, presenting a mysterious mcguffin for the characters to discuss.

With a lot of the book told in almost complete silence, the artwork has to do a lot of the heavy lighting, and unfortunately the lettering is a real weak link in this book. It’s hand drawn and has a few spelling mistakes in, and just doesn’t match up to the quality of the rest of the book.

The ending is also a little flat, and you don’t entirely know what is being set up for future issues. Indeed, is it even setting up the story for future issues, it’s difficult to tell. A hint of where the story is going (a flash of red in the rocks for example) would really help to elevate this from ‘intriguing’ to ‘must-read’.

But these are relatively minor critiques, which could be easily fixed. Harsh Prospect is a real diamond in the rough with the potential to be exceptional. The artwork and design is very strong, and concept really interesting. It just need a bit of a polish on the lettering and a bit more focus with the story telling and we could be looking at Harsh Prospect as a future great.