Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tribes: The Dog Years

Tribes: The Dog Years

Written by Michael Geszel & Peter Spinetta, Art by Inaki Miranda

This thick wedge of a book (landscape-style orientation, that is, pages that are wider than they are tall) made an instant, eye-catching impression. The story is a somewhat familiar one, though given a few new twists and turns. I found it similar in some ways to the chapter of “John Redlantern” I read last year, which took place in the distant future. Humanity had moved on to other planets than Earth, and the tribalism—complete with new speech patterns and vocabulary to reflect the new planets—was youth-oriented. Tribes: Dog Years doesn't take place very far into the future—not much more than 20 years from now, which is rather depressing when you think about it—and posits and Earth that is recovering from environmental devastation. However, a nanovirus has infected the remaining people, making the lifespan no more than twenty-one years. One only has to think about the child-soldiers in Africa—or Lord of the Flies, which Tribes has the grace to reference—to imagine what might happen. “Children raising children” becomes manifest reality, and it gives an interesting, pre-Columbian civilizations meet post-apocalyptic steampunk. I did think after I finished the graphic novel that such a society would give food for thought, as many of the concepts we cling to would be rendered obsolete by such a relatively short lifespan. (This also allows for the artists to extend nature in making impossibly acrobatic and muscular teens and preteens its main characters.)

As in many post-apocalyptic fictions of the future, there is a group of cannibals of whom the other tribes live in terror (they are tiny, spiny-toothed Chucky doll-lookalikes here, the Headhunters). There is a tribe of technological-minded, sun-starved, armored geeks who excel at clockwork. The tribe of the Sky Shadows gives us our hero, Sundog and his girlfriend (purely platonic at this point, they can only be 12!) Fallingstar. Sundog is represented as compassionate, clever, open-minded, brave, and physically accomplished, which is presumably why, with a little luck, he and Fallingstar last out their tribe. Keesha, the last of her tribe, is motherlike and warlike at the same time, adopting a baby Headhunter. Along with Skunktail, the Keylock, and an “Ancient” (the only person over twenty-one in this story, having been isolated from the nanonvirus in an underwater city), they all have their role to play in this story.

The Dog Years is only the first part in what I imagine is an epic story. It seems likely that the Chief of the Headhunters, who was a Keylock for awhile, will be back as the new Omega Tribe goes on its quest to try to eliminate the nanonvirus from the world. However, looking at the Soulcraft Comics website, the sequel(s) have yet to appear, which is a shame.