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Distant Soil, Vol. 1 The Gathering (v. 1) Paperback – June 27, 1999
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- Grade level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1887279512
- ISBN-13 : 978-1887279512
- Dimensions : 6.8 x 0.7 x 10.1 inches
- Publisher : Image Comics; Gph edition (June 27, 1999)
- Reading level : 16 and up
- Language: : English
Best Sellers Rank:
#2,785,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #2,212 in Image Comics & Graphic Novels
- #11,326 in Science Fiction Graphic Novels (Books)
- #13,594 in Teen & Young Adult Comics & Graphic Novels (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I chose this book for the #readproud June challenge Wild Card category because I know that most of the people I know aren't familiar with it, and I wanted to bring it to a larger audience. Having last read it in my teenage years I was looking forward to revisiting it!
Teen siblings Liana and Jason are psychics, being experimented on by a terrible government agency; when they finally break out, they imagine they'll finally be free—but their powers came from their alien heritage, and two warring alien factions take advantage of their being out in the open to snap them up, one each, to try to use in their political striving. Jason is captured by the evil Hierarchy; Liana, the protagonist, ends up being rescued by a pair of alien rebels (and lovers, both male) who are hoping to overthrow the Hierarchy. Since Liana seems to be the next Avatar—in other words, super-powered psychic—of their people, she seems like the best place to start a rebellion. If you liked "Jupiter Ascending", I imagine you'll love this early take on a similar idea!
A Distant Soil is notable for a lot of things—it's one of the first US graphic novels created solely by a female writer/artist, and also one of the earliest comics to feature openly gay characters (Rieken and D'mer, the pair of aliens who are trying to overthrow the Hierarchy), as well as presenting them as the romantic leads. The art is lovely (and improves drastically across the series as well, which one would expect as the artist ages and gains more practice; she actually redid the first 300 pages a few years after starting) and the characters are treated with sensitivity and love. The cast includes quite a few poc, as well (including D'mer, and three of the major secondary characters). In general it's a book with a lot of inclusion in it.
It's also just a lot of fun. The characters are entertaining, the storyline is wide-sweeping and epic, and the villains are genuinely threatening. With a intense and quick-developing story, it still takes time to develop its leads. You pick up bits of their tastes throughout, and see a lot of their personalities—rather than focusing solely on the plot, you get plenty of scenes of, for example, Rieken getting distracted by new disguises to pass as human, and see D'mer's relentless teasing of him. It wants to tell its story, but not without making us come to love the cast first.
The problem with this volume is primarily in its subtitle, "the gathering". The main story of the Ovanian Hierarchy, the Avatar and the Resistance, and the confused half-alien children is compelling and strong. However, this volume also includes a large amount of Rieken and D'mer trying to find people willing to help them, and this large number of wacky secondary characters occasionally feels like a distraction from the main story. It even includes an Arthurian mythological character, Sir Galahad, who falls through a space-time rip. I assume they all will have skills that will come into play later, but it does read very much like a Getting The Team Together arc. Regardless, I'd say it's well worth getting through the actual gathering part of the Gathering for the rest of the content within.
I haven't reread the rest of the volumes yet, but previously I owned vols 1-3 and I see now there's a volume four out now—that's something I'm going to have to grab, because now that I've come this far in my rereading, I don't want to stop!
The story is a little ambitious. As Neil Gaiman discusses in his introduction, sometimes a writer will come up with a story and attempt to incorporate everything. Doran begins her series with a story about two teenagers with psychic powers who are escaping an experimental institute. You discover that these kids are descended from a powerful alien entity. The alien race makes contact with the pair and attempts to connect them with others in an intergalactic rebellion. In addition to recruiting powerful people on Earth, there is also much action out in space. Additionally, Doran throws in an entire section about Arthurian characters, and she pulls in a knight from the past into the rebellion in the present. Any of these stories would be interesting on its own, and since there are so many scene changes and complications, it is occasionally difficult to follow the story (discerning the connection with the Arthurian time is the most difficult). Perhaps many questions are answered in later volumes.
However, all the situations, though incredible, are interesting and well-written. You develop empathy for each of the characters and want to find out more about this epic.
Oh, did I mention the artwork is fantastic?!
I should preface this by saying that Colleen Doran's A Distant Soil is the first graphic novel I've read since The Watchmen, some thirteen years ago, and so I may be missing some of the subtleties involved. If so, mea culpa.
I've just finished the first volumes of the A Distant Soil trilogy (at least, it's a trilogy as of this writing), and I've been trying to decide whether I want to continue on with the other two books in the series. Still haven't decided one way or the other. Doran seems to be trying (as Neil Gaiman says in his introduction to the book) to cram just a little too much into the space provided.
The story centers on a brother and sister who have grown up in a mental institution-cum-research facility. Both have psychic powers, but are unaware of the extent of those powers, as are their keepers. The two of them, after a crisis situation, escape and are separated. They find themselves aiding two different (and possibly conflicting; it's impossible to tell) branches of an alien resistance force, along with an odd assortment of characters both alien and human, including Galahad (yes, THAT Galahad).
There is, without doubt, a lot going on here. And once you've got a handle on things, you can probably keep track of it all, but it takes much longer to get a handle on things than it should. Again, Gaiman's introduction rings true here; Doran's work got better as she got older. If you're willing to get through the earlier parts in order to get to the later stuff, you'll find much to enjoy here.
The problem, though, is that some of the failings persist until the end of the novel. Cuts in location and time aren't indicated in any way, and the segues remain jarring throughout. The atmosphere is minimal; a good thing in some cases when telling a story, but generally not so good when one is working in the graphic realm. (One of the things that made The Watchmen so excellent was Moore's constant use of atmospheric detail, which is lacking here.)
Hard to really say. I liked it, but I still haven't figured out whether I'm going on to volume II. ** ½