‘Invisible Kingdom’ from Dark Horse — Space Opera Fantasy from Wilson and Ward

Invisible Kingdom #1 cover

Writer: G. Willow Wilson / Artist: Christian Ward / Dark Horse/Berger Books

Berger Books, the Dark Horse imprint directed by editor Karen Berger, has been producing some fascinating, utterly unique comics for a while now — LaGuardia and Incognegro: Renaissance come to mind. Their latest is Invisible Kingdom, written by G. Willow Wilson in her second comic post-Ms. Marvel with art by Black Bolt‘s Christian Ward.

Let’s talk Ward first. He has a style that is perfect for surreal future fantasy, with plenty of swirling colors and pops of pinks and neon greens. His people aren’t always very distinct, but their emotions always are, with the colors of the backgrounds giving you what their faces may be missing. In this case, where one of the main characters — Vess — has their face veiled, those backgrounds and supporting images at the edges of the frames will be very important. His action panels are wondrous, with a gooey flexibility to both letters and shapes to indicate motion. His illustration of a ship crashing into a moon is a case in point.

Panel from Invisible Kingdom #1

Fitted to this extravagant color-explosion art style, we have Wilson’s restrained introduction. But that restraint does a line-drawing of the world we’ve found ourselves in, a line drawing ripe to be filled in by all the characters we’re sure to meet along the way. The other main character Wilson gives us — Grix — is as exuberant as Vess is sparse. Grix takes risks and gives orders with an expected space captain style. I can’t wait for Wilson to complicate this initial introduction.

Neither Grix nor Vess is gendered or even strongly human as a species. Grix seems to be a parent, or at least primary caregiver to a child. Vess is a “down” from a species that has 4 or more sexes. I’m curious to see if these facets of identities come up in future issues, or if they simply are signposts that this universe is fundamentally different from our own.

Separately, Grix and Vess spend Invisible Kingdom #1 discovering the first clues of a massive conspiracy involving a mega-conglomerate that pressures consumerism in all things and a religion that preaches celibacy and a rejection of worldly goods. Grix finds clues while trying to salvage their cargo from a crash landing. Vess finds clues while maintaining the accounts of the head Mother of her monastery. The two couldn’t be further apart, in space, time, or interest. But all the pieces are there for them to find each other. From there? This promises to be a cerebral adventure.

If you liked Black Bolt, I can totally recommend Invisible Kingdom. It also strongly reminds me of many of Vault Comics’ latest releases like Wasted Space. The opening is slow and steady, but this is space adventure and intrigue with a familiar beginning and unlimited possible endings. And the art, atmospheric and immersive, is the perfect visual vehicle.

8 Collisions (literal and figurative) out of 10

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