Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
N.K. Jemisin is one of the foremost fantasy writers of our time. Among other things, she won three straight Best Novel Hugos for her Broken Earth series. Up to this point, all of her novels have been fantasies (although the Broken Earth books, to me, had a strong SF undercurrent to them). This 12-issue limited comic series, however, is straight SF, and it is as vividly built and imagined as any of her fantasy worlds.
I'm not much for DC Comics (or Marvel either, for that matter--I mainly like Image Comics and Boom! Studios) so I'm not familiar with the superhero mythology of the Green Lantern. Jemisin's Green Lantern, Sojourner Mullein, isn't really a superhero: she's a young black woman given an unusual Green Lantern ring that can generate a protective shield and allow her to fly, but she's not a superhero in the sense of having superpowers herself. Quite the opposite: she comes from a modern Earth time, a former New York City police officer who froze at a crucial moment when her partner was brutalizing a black man, agreed to testify against him, and was fired. Then, at her lowest point, she meets a representative of the Green Lanterns in a bar, who offers her a job, gives her the ring, and assigns her to a "Dyson swarm" halfway across the galaxy--the City Enduring, population twenty billion, with three alien races (two biological, one cybernetic). Because of their complex, tangled, bitter history, the inhabitants of the City Enduring are neutered by an emotion-dampening drug known as the Emotion Exploit that has kept the peace for 500 years. But shortly after Sojourner arrives, someone is murdered--and she not only has to solve the murder, she has to keep the City Enduring's society from coming apart.
This limited series tackles Jemisin's familiar themes of power, oppression, discrimination, and revolution. The alien setting just proves to bring all these themes home, as the pursuit of power is the same no matter what beings are doing it. As Sojourner states during the powerful climax, as she is trying to persuade an alien fleet to stand down from destroying the City Enduring:
"Look, I was also taught to maintain order at all costs. Eliminate all resistance. If they look like a bad guy--whatever that means--treat them like one, whether they actually are or not. Shoot first, ask questions later.
But all of that was wrong, if the goal was actually to make the world safer. We made things worse. We thought of ourselves as heroes. But without justice, we were just hired thugs for the people in power."
Yeah, she's talking about this alien society...but she's also talking about us. Which is what the best SF does.
The art for this series, by Jamal Campbell, is terrific. It's a feast for the eyes. He does the art, coloring, and covers for all twelve issues, and proves to me again that any comic series I really like has to have the same artist throughout. As far as I know, this is the first time N.K. Jemisin has tackled the comics format, but the story is engrossing, well-constructed and flows naturally through the twelve issues. As I said, she is one of the best SFF writers of her generation, and this excellent collection only adds to her reputation.
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