I’m usually not a fan of the term “graphic novel”. I think it’s not only used way too often it’s often misapplied. In my opinion a “graphic novel” is a self-contained story, of not too few (or too many) pages that in at least some ways adheres to the rules of a novel. What we too often get is a reprinted collection of a past story arc labeled “graphic novel”.
This isn’t the case with Ark. It’s truly a sci-fi novel told in comic book format. I was at first concerned that it would be a rehash of an old trope, people on a long trip dealing with the realities that kind of environment can cause. But Peter Dabbene (the author) goes deeper than that. He creates a multi-layered story full of intrigue, mystery, romance, and action.
The story centers around the crew and passengers of the ship “Explorer”, 13 years into their journey from Earth and just nearing the edge of our galaxy. News from Earth turns a simple search for a planet to colonize into a story of murder and political intrigue. The crew and passengers must come to grips with changes to the mission and themselves.
Peter uses his mix of human crew and non-human passengers to address many of the inequities present in race and class and does so without being heavy-handed. I think his characters are well-developed and often surprising in their reactions to the twists of the plot. And while the characters range from humans to non-humans, and every race creed and color, he avoided the common stereotypes nicely. And Ryan, with more than 10 different non-human types, really gives us a nice broad range of visuals without falling back on the usual alien types.
Here are some pages to give you a feel for Ryan’s style:
By the close of Ark we’ve been brought to the logical end of this story and all the loose ends well handled. That being said I do think there’s more here to explore. Here’s hoping Ark isn’t a done in one graphic novel, I for one would love to see where this crew ends up.
And now here’s a short Q&A with the Peter Dabbene (author) and Ryan Bayliss (artist) on this thought-provoking new graphic novel.
WR: First and foremost, tell me why you chose to go with a graphic novel instead of a series? Looks to me like you had at least 5 or 6 issues worth of material here?
PD: I definitely saw ARK as a potential series… but as much as I like the idea of publishing a comic every month, I’ve read too many accounts of sudden cancellations, with incomplete stories that will probably never be finished. As a reader, I like a complete story, and I did my best to deliver that while also paving the way for the next volume.
WR: Are there other chapters to this story?
PD: Yes. How quickly they get translated to the page will depend on reader response and sales, but I told Arcana that I saw ARK as a three-volume graphic novel series, and they agreed to publish it that way. So barring any major unforeseen events, those volumes will see the light of day at some point.
WR: So Peter, where’d this story come from? Was it conceived as a novel, a short story?
PD: Actually, Ryan and I are working now on a different graphic novel, The Adventures of SpamFram, that evolved from a short story I wrote way back in 1997. But ARK was conceived as a graphic novel from the beginning—it was a story that I knew was suited to visuals. Having said that, I would love to do a novelization one day. Maybe after Hollywood buys the TV/movie rights and hires me to do the screenplay (J/K).
WR: Ryan you have a unique style, who are your influences?
RB: I have always read a lot of the superhero comics so a lot of my art has been influenced by the “Marvel and DC Comics Style” but if I had to pick out specific artists I would say Jim Lee, Adam Hughes and Josh Middleton are some of the artists I aspired to be like. But, it was while I was reading Michael Turner’s Soulfire that I realized that I want to be a comic book artist. Something about his work inspired me.
WR: How did you two (Peter and Ryan) come to work together on Ark?
PD: I had been looking for an artist on and off for a while, and came across Ryan’s web page. I liked his style, and we got along and communicated well via e-mail–vitally important since as of this writing, we’ve never actually met in person! The rest is history.
WR: What other projects are you working on?
PD: The above-mentioned Adventures of SpamFram book, which Ryan and I are pretty excited about. I don’t want to say too much about it just yet, but it’s a big, bold sci-fi story, and so far it’s coming along very nicely.
Well we’ll be looking forward to it! Here’s the info on getting your hands on Ark. This Arcana Comics digital first graphic novel is available at Comixology on March 27, 2013, with a print release scheduled for later in the year. Price $4.99 for digital.
Looking for more cool stuff, check out Ark’s facebook page!