The Lost City Explorers

Cover to ‘The Lost City Explorers’ #1. Art by Rafael La Torre and Marcelo Maiolo/AfterShock Comics

By Jami Jones. AfterShock Comics specializes in extremes. Black Eyed Kids, Animosity, Dark Ark, inSEXts and Alters are all books that have pushed past the boundaries of their respective genres and have legitimized the publisher as a true force in the industry. Its latest, The Lost City Explorers, fills a void in a genre that has seen a recent renewal of interest, “the coming-of-age quest.” Writer Zack Kaplan, artist Alvaro Sarraseca, colorist Chris Blythe and letterer Troy Peteri have joined together to create a book in which the world and its characters are on a path to growth. Part Explorers, part The Goonies, The Lost City Explorers should appeal to readers who like their fantasy more firmly grounded in reality.

The sunken city of Atlantis has fascinated humanity for centuries and theories regarding it, its location, and its destruction vary from the tame to the severe. The thread that binds all of the theories together is the idea that the Atlanteans were brilliantly advanced in feats beyond humanity’s understanding. As technology that once seemed magical has become commonplace and thus it’s difficult to discern innovation from imagination one asks the question: Are the myths of magic just stories of technologies long since past?

Helen (or “Hel”) Coates is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, older than she looks and younger than she feels. Worries about her future push Hel out of her home and into the city for distraction, with a friend to commiserate about their futures. Upon returning home, Hel’s brother Homer compounds her worries with the news that their father was in an accident at work, and following an encounter with one of their patriarch’s colleagues Hel, Homer, and their friends find themselves on a quest for an imaginary world.

Kaplan, who along with Sarraseca and Blythe has made his AfterShock debut here, captures the malaise of a generation and filters it through Hel, a confused girl who can’t find a good time with a friend even in a joyful crowd. Hel isn’t a bastion of righteous millennial youth, however — while at times she is written as petulant and spoiled that truth to character is what divides a trope from an individual. The supporting cast are established well and fit into the environment easily. The classic character archetypes are here but, like Hel, each character becomes more than their traditional defining characteristics.

Alvaro Sarraseca’s figures are expressive and vibrant. Fear, love, even the angst of disaffected youth move across his faces, allowing the reader’s empathy to fill in the blanks. His confident linework is bolstered by the coloring by Chris Blythe, which meshes well with the adventurous tone of the book. The colors pop where they’re supposed to; it allows the characters to stand out from the background, making them the true focus of the book.

There is an ebb and flow to The Lost City Explorers; the creators’ methods of storytelling demand a harmonic trust, an almost intrinsic understanding of how to best fortify each other’s strengths, and the book is a testament to the collaboration at work here. This team depends on each other to reach the end of the story which, it turns out, is a nice parallel to the protagonists on the page.

AfterShock Comics/$3.99

Written by Zack Kaplan.

Art by Alvaro Sarraseca.

Colors by Chris Blythe.

Letters by Troy Peteri.

7 out of 10

The Lost City Explorers

Variant cover to ‘The Lost City Explorers’ #1. Art by Alvaro Sarraseca/AfterShock Comics