Electromagnate: The Book of Rebel Nations Vol. 1

Clarke’s third law states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Though some argue what is meant by this, many enjoy this paraphrase by Jane Foster from Marvel’s Thor movie:  “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.” Electromagnate is a series that explores this idea further than anything Disney’s ever been able to purchase as of yet.

Writer John Rap crowdfunded his efforts to have this story told, and it’s quite clear why there were so many willing participants. Electromagnate is a hyper-ambitious tale whose classic Sci-fi ‘concept-is-the-story’ approach should be adequately praised before any criticism. The idea of harnessing the electromagnetic field of the Earth through a global relay grid of manmade structures (towers, pyramids, etc.) built throughout time is an absolute blast to consider. This grid enables any who have the proper access to essentially become gods.

Naturally, our story’s conflict resides in the uses of this technology. While first attempts at unifying the souls of mankind don’t go according to plan, the species has managed to evolve to our modern age of understanding data manipulation, applications and Twitter; we find that mythological heroes can now depend on help from autonomous humans. The trouble with free will, as usual, is that it enables the path of abuse. There are infinite ways to use technology to enslave the human race, and there are unfortunately more than enough humans willing to help make that happen. While this review won’t attempt to go into the variety of villainous plots in Electromagnate, it will definitely say this much; beware the Shadowmares.

The only thing holding back this monolith of a story idea is (appropriately) the story itself. While Noetal attempted to unify human beings through the grid, he found that humanity could not handle the amplification of power that came with access to the grid. This graphic novel unfortunately suffers from the same problem. The ambitious scale of the story (as well as the ambitious ventures of the medium) ultimately comes across as overwhelming.

The art of this book varies both as a device to separate plot threads of multiple settings, but also as an inherent consequence of working with several artists. Some of these artists have a grip on the comic book medium while others provide comparatively lifeless images that would do better gracing a less narrative medium like the illustrations of a picture book. None of the art is bad, but the book as a whole is made inconsistent to an unforgivable degree. With too many to review, Michael Zigerlig stands out from the pack as the most balanced and appropriate artist for the aspects of the book he took part in. Zigerlig’s work managed to vary appropriately in the different settings, give a clear sense of the action and sequence that comic fans love, and most importantly make the book feel unique. If you wish to know which pages are his, my best advice is to watch the borders.

The writing is a real mixed bag. While characters like Gyrabol receive characterization on their own terms through action and intention, our protagonist John doesn’t seem to have anything particularly interesting about him. While reader-insert characters can help people feel like they’re a part of the action, it’s hard to tell if you have anything in common with John other than not being a god. Most of the writing is fine, minus some clunky dialog, characters who talk to themselves too much and some bad grammar. The worst offense this book has to offer is Marina. Marina is a character whose sole purpose in this book is to look good, sniff our protagonist’s crotch, and then nearly get raped. If this character makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Don’t stop reading though. Just trust that the characters (especially the women) do get better. I promise.

One of the most effective storytelling devices used is the forum threads of The Elite Agenda. At the beginning of each chapter, we find ourselves faced with an image of a realistic social media conversation held by various conspiracy theorists. The derailed conversations and exchange of insults are authentic. Rap has a much more firm grasp on this sort of interaction than most authors trying to integrate modern technology into comics.

Altogether, Annadale Comics’ Electromagnate is an idea that we may not be ready for yet. While John Rap’s story does an excellent job of gifting the reader with ideas and world-building that could fill novels, it just seems held back by the lackluster narrative.

Pros:
The role of technology at its zenith
The scale of settings, mythology, etc.
A love letter to Tesla

Cons:
Inconsistent art quality
Not many good characters
Haphazard storytelling
Marina.

Final Judgement: 6.5

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