‘Port of Earth’ uses allegory to cut to the heart of contemporary geopolitics
By Mickey Rivera. A quote came to mind when I was reading Port of Earth #1: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
Port of Earth is premised on the idea that highly advanced aliens chanced upon our water-rich planet on their way somewhere else. They call themselves the Consortium, and claim to be governmental representatives for thousands of planets in our galaxy. Interestingly enough, all of their highly advanced weapons and spaceships run on water. Also interesting: Our planet has tons of water. The Consortium asks Earth to build them a galactic fueling station in the Pacific Ocean, fifty miles off the coast of San Francisco, in exchange for limited use of their advanced energy technology.
Earth accepts. Taking into account the past and present wars fought over reliable access to energy, it’s the obvious decision. But the power imbalance between Earth and the advanced intelligent life just down the road from our solar system is the time bomb ticking at the center of Port of Earth’s engaging plot. Once the spaceships start flooding in to fuel up, the price of interstellar business becomes apparent. Unexplained “incursions” by armed alien visitors into San Francisco proper lead to death and explosions. Not long after, the world learns that the Consortium misrepresented themselves and the purpose of their port. It becomes necessary for humanity to create an Earth Security Agency to police all individuals, terrestrial or otherwise, in and around the Consortium’s now booming business. People around the globe begin wondering if planet Earth is on the “suffering what we must” end of the power equation.
Writer Zack Kaplan provides only a few precious glimpses at our galactic business partners and what they’re about. Access to them and the upper echelon humans that deal directly with them is as limited for the reader as it is for those in the book. The secrets and intrigue surrounding all aspects of this massive social undertaking, combined with the seemingly random acts of terrorism by aliens gone rogue, mirrors the myriad mysteries plaguing the geopolitics of our own world. It makes the plot, and the premise surrounding it, all the more engrossing. What kind of intergalactic political monster has the human race gotten in bed with for the sake of cheap, abundant energy?
If I could describe the style of Port of Earth in one word it would be cinematic. Artist Andrea Mutti and colorist Vladimir Popov have created beautiful splash pages that drive home the scale Kaplan is building. Popov’s concrete tones give the book an overcast moodiness that makes the environment seem heavy. He has a natural and clean coloring style that speaks mostly in greys and blues, rising into slightly more pronounced pinks and reds to highlight points of interest. In combination with Mutti’s sci-fi realism, these colors give the story a frigid skin.
The story starts only a decade or so after first contact but things are already leaning towards dystopia. Kaplan has arranged a scenario where things can only get worse for our planet. Sad as it is for Earth’s high hopes, it will make for a compelling read in issues to come.
Image Comics/Top Cow /$3.99
Written by Zack Kaplan.
Illustrated by Andrea Mutti.
Colors by Vladimir Popov.
Letters by Troy Peteri.
8.5 out of 10