Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Prism Stalker′ TPB, out now from Image Comics

Prism Stalker

Cover to ‘Prism Stalker’ TPB. Art by Sloane Leong/Image Comics

by Arpad Okay. The art in Prism Stalker cannot be found anywhere else. A denial of the typical visions of a brutalist utopia, Sloane Leong paints a galaxy with organic textures and lush colors. Not concrete and steel, oil in water. The smooth lattice that grows inside bones. A room is a tumorous node, a bed is a pepper split open, banana-pod on the outside and bubble carpet to sleep in, and it changes colors whether or not you are sleeping in it.

Layers and layers of jelly, like a croissant or an onion, a funnel to pass your body through a bisected eyeball that looks like a reproductive system. A cowl that looks like wilting sea anemones or chewing gum, melted, powder pink. Alien bipeds, quadrupeds, millipedes, glop. Everything shifting, writhing, all curves. Leong paints lines like Paul Pope, setting the rulebook on fire.

And the colors. A symphony of cerise. The environment, the hallucinations, the people and the creatures, the lettering (the line between Leong’s work on the art and Ariana Maher’s letters is impossibly, delightfully obfuscated), the contour lines, all of it rendered in gradients from hot to cool. All of it unnatural and glowing. A psychedelic nightmare of candy colors, comparable only to Tamra Bonvillain’s vivid whimsy of Moon Girl done with unhinged fervor. Dragon fruit, pastel rainbows, star dusted. Sometimes the void, too, yields deep indigo vibrations.

Behold Vep. Refugee. Exile. Messy hair and trainers where everyone else is a jumbo shrimp has jumped off the plate and grown insectile horse legs. When they speak, it isn’t words inside the speech bubble, it’s a lick of flame. Vep is our anchor in worlds beyond human experience. And yet she becomes squiggles, knotted roots of trees instead of limbs, a Celtic calligraphy of nerve clusters inside a needle-walled incredible gobstopper, body dissolving into space.

Vep remains rigid. Prism Stalker is her struggling in isolation. The system is trying to turn her into a weapon. She’s shit at turning thoughts into swords or making people melt like everyone else in her class does, but she is a survivor. Her constant defeat and reflection-cum-reverie allows for remembering things past; the awesome sights recall legends, which recall the loved ones who told you those stories.

Imagine the culture shock of being torn away from your home, a person of the great wide open, and being made to live and work and die inside a building for the rest of your life. The people who saved you from a dying planet put you here so you could pay off the expenses of your rescue. Families separated. Language destroyed. Tyranny is order. Kindness is chaos.

Are you upset? Confused? Have you lost hope?

You are on your way to the heart of Prism Stalker.

In a sense, it’s a slow comic. Very little time passes in the first few issues. This unusual pacing allows us to be with Vep. Perfect. Don’t give me an origin story, make me care about someone, live with them, and then hint at their past. I will want to learn who they were when I have stakes in who they are. A slow build to explosive growth is the track the story, mirroring the development of Vep herself. From fuck-up to combat queen. A worthy investment for warmongers.

The plot is slow, yes, and murky. We are dropped into the deep end on a world largely unrecognizable compared to our own. But navigating environments that have nothing to do with our biology, it tantalizes the armchair anthropologist. A lot of information, very little information, a slow move forward with lots of stuff happening/happened/implied.

On the surface, Prism Stalker is a visually poetic book. Dig a little deeper and it’s plain to see that the poetry is motivated by politics. Prism Stalker is science fiction for philosophers. A cautionary tale about what we could become, based on what happened in our past. Social science people who don’t care about tights comics, this is right up your alley and might trick you into liking tights comics. Leong tells the rare story—particularly in a war comic—where violence is distasteful instead of exalted. It is a beautiful, turbulent vision, a rare thing captured and pinned, penned, to the page.

Image Comics/$14.99

Written by Sloane Leong.

Illustrated by Sloane Leong.

Colored by Sloane Leong.

Lettered by Ariana Maher.


Check out this four-page preview of ‘Prism Stalker’ TPB, courtesy of Image Comics!

More Required Reading…

Humor and happiness inform ‘About Betty’s Boob’, a story of strength in the face of defeat

‘Cold War’ an awesome study of avant-garde megaviolence

‘Why Art?’ a hypnotic Möbius strip of beauty, calamity, detachment, observation, and creation