The New World #1
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Tradd Moore, Heather Moore and Yesflat
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Who’d have thought a dystopian world could feel so alive?
But that’s the magic of The New World, a dazzling debut from writer Ales Kot and artist Tradd Moore, a post-nuclear remix bringing together all the best parts of Calexit, Cowboy Bebop, Judge Dredd, and Romeo and Juliet. Despite the series opening with five nuclear weapons detonating over the soon-to-be divided states of America, there’s an undeniable sense of passion and energy that permeates this book, a sense of worldbuilding that makes this post-apocalypse somehow more vibrant than you’d ever come to expect.
Welcome to the New California, where violence isn’t just a tool for survival - it’s political, it’s entertainment, it’s the newest form of celebrity endorsement and the last-ditch attempt for civil disobedience. Kot’s savviest move for this new series is that he splits the narrative among two star-crossed lovers: burned-out reality star murder-cop Stella Maris and devil-may-care straight-edge hipster terrorist Kirby Miyazaki. Watching the way that Kot and Moore build up these two wildly divergent worlds through the same panel compositions is a deliberate, confident move - in no small part because despite Stella and Kirby’s vastly different circumstances, they’re both squaring their shoulders to stare down the strictness of their world.
But while it would be easy for Kot to fall into the tropes of rebels relentlessly fighting against an evil empire, where The New World zigs instead of zags is when we actually see our characters off the job - whether that job be arresting gun-toting criminals or hacking into a national television feed. For Kirby, there’s a sense of tension underneath his breezy demeanor - he may have a smile on his face when he’s telling people to smash the police state, but he knows he’s just an inch away from having a boot across this neck. Stella, meanwhile, has an even more interesting internal dynamic going on, as she grapples with boredom and ambivalence over her own celebrity, self-medicating with wine and drugs and sneaking off to whatever rave she can find her next hookup in. Sometimes seeing characters exist is just as potent as watching them resist - particularly with all the details Kot uses to build up their world.
Yet when you’ve got an artist like Tradd Moore behind the wheel, it’s easy to fall in love. In many ways, The New World feels like promise fulfilled - every since his breakout work in The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Moore has felt like he’s had enormous amounts of creativity just waiting to explode, and The New World allows him to show off with every new setting, costume, and psychedelic dance party. (That last part being particularly dynamic, as Moore choreographs Stella and Kirby’s dance moves almost as a pre-battle pose from a fighting game.) Moore’s world-building is immaculate here, from the slums of Echo Park to the eye-popping grandeur of the Griffith Park Presidential Palace - but it’s Heather Moore’s coloring which might be the most important part of this book, because she never lets this series look dire or washed-out. Instead, there’s a brightness on every page, an almost anti-apocalyptic vibe that celebrates all the diversity and culture of California, while simultaneously skewering the aggressive and decadent traits exhibited by the greater United States.
The New World is one of those books that feels so distinct and fully realized that it’s impossible to ignore -it’s a world full of danger and intrigue, but it’s one that’s also undeniably beautiful, with so many details that you can’t help but want to explore. It is certainly a triumph for this entire creative team, which seems to be enjoying pushing themselves to the absolute limit to see what they can come up with next. Combining themes of love, culture, politics and violence, The New World is one of the best debuts of the year, and one that should not be ignored.