Eleven year old Cleo is a typical tween but she has a great relationship with her dad, which helps her get through the difficult days. Her dad keeps her grounded and centred. Until aliens attack earth without warning, and Cleo becomes orphaned. It’s a lot for Cleo to take in! Why are aliens attacking earth? Why do some of the aliens appear friendly? What happens to Dad? Ah, it’s a lifetime of questions, and like Cleo, we are on the hunt to find answers!
Writer Matt Mair Lowery gives us a tale with heart. It is head and shoulders above the typical ‘alien invasion’ story, simply because every scene and situation is tightly written and emotionally connected. The dialogue between Cleo and her dad is both charming and disarming. Their back story is nicely embedded in the dialogue, so we get to know our characters as they interact. For instance, there’s a scene where the dad reassured Cleo after a hard day, managing to cheer her up from her doldrums; it’s during genuinely touching moments like these when we start to feel for the characters. And when danger strikes, we’re already in their corner, rooting for them.
Meanwhile another aspect of the story is taking shape. Lowery takes us into the alien testing centre, where an experiment is underway. It’s our first glimpse of these creatures, and it’s handled well. The formality of the dialogue, the syntax and method of expression leads us to understand just how different from humans the aliens truly are.
The art (including colouring and letters) by co-creator Cassie Anderson has an organic, hand hewn look. She illustrates using a thin line weight, with very little shading, and very few areas of solid black. The characters’ expressions and gestures make them relatable to us. The physical environments are detailed and malleable. They are indie-related in look, imbued with dust and grit. It’s not gleaming high realism; more like a friendly sci-fi Moebius experiment. Cleo’s expressions and body language are priceless. There’s the school room with its bored students in full slouch. There’s the aliens having a blue colour palette, with featureless faces, Kliban-cartoon jackets and ties; which makes them look truly alien, with the muted colours creating a serious undertone to the antics.
Overall, Lifeforms #1 is well orchestrated book that allows for fun reading. It is touching, cosmic, timeless, and deeply rooted in a thoughtful sci-fi adventure.