Every now and then we find a comic which just ticks all the boxes and you can tell it is going to something rather special from the very first page you see of it. The latest to get this weighty accolade is Matt Emmons’ Gardener, which is currently funding on Kickstarter, but what makes this book worth digging up?
Publisher: Second At Best
Writer: Matt Emmons
Artist: Matt Emmons
Price: Currently funding on Kickstarter
Strictly speaking we’re a bit late to the party on this one, as Matt is currently funding for a collection of the issues he has been working on since 2016, but it was the cover of the 3rd chapter which really caught our eye. The surreal almost medical main character dissolving, with the enigmatic hero in front was really eye catching, as was the muted colour scheme and stylish logo. But when we actually got into reading this wonderful series, we were absolutely blown away!
Set on a mysterious planet in a non specific galaxy, in a post-corporate future, the story starts off with a Star Wars/Mandalorian vibe with a group of hunters on giant lizards getting ambushed in the Desert (all very Sand People/Tusken Raiders). One of the group, Lars, is shot and left for dead, only to be rescued by a mysterious creature called Bug who has tentacle tongues that emerge from a metal suit and is hunting for meat.
Lars is taken to meet ‘Motherwall’ (a kind of omnipresent robotic wallah is revealed to be part of a giant spaceship/trading hub) and we learn more about her past as a ‘junker’ and that she is the only one to survive the helmet removal process. Motherwall recruits Lars and sends her off on a mission with Bug and the enigmatic Disciple to discover the source of a plague like infection, and on their way encounter all sorts of creature, including the mysterious creature who first drew our attention on the cover of chapter #3.
From the very first pages of Gardener, you are drawn in to Emmon’s world of intergalactic misadventure. Initially it feels very Star Wars like (especially for fans of the Mandalorian) and the aesthetic is very Tatooine/Mos Eisley. However it feels much more than that. The characters feel more unique and diverse that that. Bug especially feels like something out of a Mike Mignola book, while the Sentinel reminded us of Cal from Ken Reynold’s Cognition books with his bucket like head. It even reminded us of the brilliant Sentient from Jeff Lemire and TKO Studios (especially the mysterious computer, Motherwall) and also a bit of Dune – but that may just be the sandy backdrops!
Visually Emmons has created an incredible world, which feels both high tech and otherworldly (another mention for the wonderful Motherwall), but also gritty and very organic – with lots of rusted metal, worn leather straps and sand blasted clothing. His art style has a slightly John Arcudi feel to it, with the slightly squashed faces of BPRD, and the tentacled monstrous nature of Bug. But it also has a really strong sense of style of it as well and reminded us a lot fo Chris Baldie’s Space Captain series at the same time.
With Emmons creating the whole thing himself it has a very coherent sense of design and concept and hangs together brilliantly. Because we were lucky enough to read these 3 issues on one go, we got a really great understanding of where everything was going, but reading just the fruit issue might have left quite a lot of unanswered questions about what was going on, however with the strong visuals and intriguing characters there definitely would have been enough to keep you interested, and so for anyone reading this in it’s full form they are in for a real treat!
After devouring these 3 chapter we cannot wait to see how this story progresses in the final thing. So if you are looking for that next great indie sci-fi series, then Gardener is the one for you. So be sure to check it out and watch as this sumptuous series bursts into bloom!