Days Missing #1
Written by Phil Hester
Art by Frazer Irving
Published by Archaia
Release Date: August 19, 2009
Right off the bat, the first issue of Days Missing tricked me. Set during a horrific viral outbreak, it had all the makings of just another end-of-the-world adventure. But once I put down the modestly priced $.99 initial issue, I realized this series, actually, was something much more innovative, and cooler.
Days Missing is a series telling of a Watcher-like being whose sworn mission is not one of passive inaction, but to deliberately preserve life. An eternal creature, his story spans even beyond the age man, throughout the length of life on Earth. Though his task is a noble one, it is also a bleakly impossible, for as sure as there is life, there will be death.
This issue’s story tells of the outbreak of “Swazi Fever.” Set in November, 2004, our white-haired hero, here called “Dr. Steward,” is toiling fruitlessly towards a vaccine, or cure. I’m reluctant to embrace this as the specific nomenclature of this figure, because I suspect it is a pseudonym finely tailored to this particular mission. In a flashback, to his effect on the great Hammurabi, he is called something else. It’s my suspicion that he’s a being beyond petty names.
“Dr. Steward,” it seems, is something of a “steward,” of humanity, sworn to preserve life throughout time. He doesn’t seem super-powered per se, but he does seem somehow supernaturally empowered. The most remarkable ability he demonstrates is the capability to survive without end, and to subtly influence those whose paths he crosses. Without resorting to forceful coercion, he deftly manipulates players on the boards, pointing them in the direction of salvation from the Swazi Fever.
Time is a major aspect of Days Missing. We see the Steward mourning during conclusion to the age of dinosaurs, we see him in the days of Babylon, and we see him in our modern times. He exists throughout all of these eras, but there are hints that the time’s passage is experienced vastly different for him than for the rest of us. His curse is mysterious, but the weight of his burden is obvious.
While time-travel, or cursed immortals, or even epidemics are not new ground to tread in comic-fiction, Days Missing is a unique and novel story. As far as emo icons go, the mysterious and sullen Steward could give Sandman’s Death a run for her money, as his toils seem so wholly hopeless.
Hester and Irving bring their A games to this assignment. Hester’s words are heavy and moving, and Irving seems just as comfortable portraying dinosaurs, Babylon, and modern African nation-states. It’s a heavily moody piece, and that mood creates a specificity to this book that could carry it on as a successful series.
It’s worth noting that this book is a product of the Roddenberry/ Archaia alliance. There’s no Federation, or Klingons or anything, but the touch of parable that permeates this work evokes the best parts of Roddenberry’s penchant for speculative fiction. It’s a story about humanity from the outside, and of a reluctant hero tasked with saving us all, despite ourselves. Promising indeed.