Written by Tini Howard
Art by Nick Robles
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Published by IDW Publishing
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Ambitiously constructed and beautifully illustrated, Euthanauts is not your typical first issue - it’s mysterious and obscure and refuses to hold your hand, the sort of trippy and challenging read that evokes comparisons with both the movie Flatliners and Neil Gaiman’s opening issues of Sandman. For some readers, that might make Tini Howard and Nick Robles’ debut to be a little hard to fully embrace - even if you’re read interviews or the solicit copy for this book, you’re still going to get thrown into the deep end and be expected to swim by yourself. Still, the high concept and the gorgeous artwork make Euthanauts a book that brims with potential - if the creative team can quickly seal the deal.
But that may be a tougher sell than you might expect. From the PR salvo that Black Crown had launched when they announced this book, the idea of explorers of the afterlife is kind of a rad premise - but this first issue takes awhile to get there. Tini Howard’s protagonist, a funeral home employee named Thalia, is obsessed with death - but we never really get an answer as to why, before she’s whisked away on a journey that’s equal parts violent and metaphysical.
It’s here, where Howard is able to really dig into her concept, that Euthanauts starts to show some life - because just like the great great, we’re learning what death actually entails along with Thalia. The rules for being a Euthanaut are only just getting sketched out, but building this world proves to be Howard’s strong suit - particularly the idea of a “tether” to keep the voyager connected to our world, as well as the focus on ego and willpower to make it out of this journey intact. But beyond that, so much of this first issue is based on implication rather than outright statement - even the two Euthanaut techs raise more questions than answers, before we’re whisked away to yet another scene.
Thankfully, to that end, Euthanauts is extremely easy on the eyes - doing his own pencils, inks, and colors, artist Nick Robles is a revelation here, with a style that seems to mix Lee Weeks, Emily Pearson, and Bryan Hitch with a steadiness of color that reminds me a lot of Jordie Bellaire and Elizabeth Breitweiser. Robles’ artwork goes a long way towards keeping people invested in Euthanauts as a reading experience, particularly the way he draws flourishes like Thalia’s consciousness evaporating into a cloud of fireflies, or when Thalia drops into the void of death and conjures up a glowing helmet to breathe within.
Admittedly, like some of the other titles in the Black Crown line, Euthanauts is a bit of a slow burn - although out of the entire line-up, I do feel most confident that this is the series that will bring everything together nicely in a collected format. There’s a lot of places a book like this can go, and that sense of discovery and possibility makes Euthanauts an easy book to enjoy, even if the various moving parts of the series hasn’t quite come together yet. That said, what’s indisputable is how beautiful this book looks - with production values this high, it’s easy to recommend sticking around, to see if Euthanauts can make this ambitious narrative journey unscathed.