We see plenty of comics influenced by the legendary 2000 AD, from modern anthologies like The 77 to fanzines like Futurequake and Zarjaz. While the latter were directly inspired by the Prog, for others it’s more of a tone or a style that lends itself to that lofty comparison. The latest to join this club is Matt Mair Lowery’s Thoughtscape, so is this book worth a second thought?
Thoughtscape Comics is set in a world where the 5th dimension of thought has been discovered by multi-planet conglomerate LifeTech. After years of research, thoughts can be recorded and even reconstructed so they can be used again for education, or entertainment purposes. It’s a really interesting concept, and ultimately works as over-arching concept/clever idea which brings the stories of Thoughtscape together in a way that a random sci-fi anthology cannot do. As well as 2000AD it reminded us a lot of what Pat Mills did with last year’s SpaceWarp – and we don’t need to go into that obvious connection do we?!
The stories are all written by Mair Lowery and are an eclectic and mixed bag, but all of a very high standard. Opener Parish The Thought, features art by Dave Law and is s dream like story about a thought collector visiting an old man. It is a quite thoughtful and slow paced opener, but reminded us of the wonderful Sentient in the way that it felt like a very intelligently conceived story with plenty of subtle things going on under the first impressions. Next up there is the surreal, but action-packed Spy With A Face with art by Tyrell Cannon, which feels very much like an all-action episode of Rogue Trooper or ABC Warriors and is told in black and white with plenty of gun toting violence. (It also has a nice twist as you only find out at the end why you don’t see the characters faces). It then rounds off with Ex Post Facto: A Dash Varrick Misadventure, with art by Karl Slominski. This has a real Liam Sharp meets early Vertigo anarchic tone to it, which we really enjoyed. However as a story we struggled to get into after having to digest everything else in this debut, but it does feel like a story with plenty of potential for interesting growth over time.
The stand out for us overall though was Orphan dolls with art Lisa Naffziger. This is a dark twist-in-the-tale story about a young girl, her ‘gramme’ and a special kind of doll. The story is a great piece of clever sci-fi and the artwork has a really soft, cartoony, kids book feel to it, which is a nice contrast to the dark tone of the story as well as the more macho art of Cannon and the crazy lines of Slominski. It also gives Thoughtscape the kind of jet black humour which we love in books like this – and is very much a key part of making a book like this not too over whelming.
As well as being packed full of great ideas, fascinating world building and enigmatic characters who we can’t wait to find out more about, Thoughtscape is also a beautifully designed book (something which we are always a big fan of!!) It’s cover feels like something from a high end art book like IDW’s Full Bleed, while the inside pages have a high tech approach feels like a mix between a Jonathan Hickman book like The Manhattan Projects, and an editorial based comic/magazine like the wonderful SKRAWL. There are dense editorial pages and spoof adverts galore, all of which make for a wonderful package to go with the great stories.
As you can no doubt tell, we thought Thoughtscape a really rather superb read. While we admit we cannot stop comparing it to 2000AD, that’s not damning it with faint praise. It is almost on a par with the Prog in terms of quality and ambition and is certainly up there with the very best comics inspired by the Prog that we have mentioned in this review so far. Our only negative on the book is that we didn’t quite feel the ‘thoughtscape’ concept came through in the stories as much as we expected. While it is there in subtle moments, it doesn’t feel as obvious as it perhaps should. We’re not actually sure if this is a negative, as we really enjoyed the links not being so forced, however for it to hand together as a whole it would perhaps be nice to have it tie together in a bit more of an obvious way?
However, this is only a minor point. If you are looking for that next great sci-fi anthology, then this is it. Lowery and co don’t need to have a company download my thoughts for analysis to know whether or not I loved this book – it should be obvious from this review. And we cannot wait for our return visit to the Thoughtscape in the very near future!