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Exclusive: the first look at Afar, a new psychedelic sci-fi fantasy comic from Image

Image comics
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Image Comics is one of the most impressive and exciting comic book publishers in the business. Saga, Monstress, The Wicked + The Divine, East of West, Bitch Planet, Descender, Paper Girls, Deadly Class, Chew — the company's deep and impressive catalog is like an all-star roster of the best writers and artists in the game. And on Wednesday, at the Image Expo in Seattle, it announced its next wave of projects and collaborations to look out for in the coming year.

One of those is Afar, written by Leila del Duca and drawn by Kit Seaton.

Image, del Duca, and Seaton gave Vox an exclusive look at the comic — a psychedelic sci-fi fantasy about a special young woman named Boetema. Boetema can astrally project herself to other worlds, a nifty gift that comes in handy when her younger brother, Inotu, finds himself in a hairy situation involving a cyborg and some shady tycoons. It's as much a story about sibling love as it is about dazzling sci-fi adventure.

"Afar begins in the middle of a post-industrial desert and ends in a bustling metropolis, with many other worlds and people thrown into the mix," del Duca told me. "The two siblings must navigate Boetema's new skills while finding a way to survive on their own."

Del Duca explained that the world she and Seaton are building combines pre-colonial Central Africa with the dusty tech that Moebius (the pseudonym for artist Jean Giraud) played around with in his designs. It's a mix of art and imagery that isn't regularly seen in mainstream comic books.

"I wanted to write a story I knew I'd love as a young adult," del Duca said. "I really wanted there to be an otherworldly aspect to our book. Astral projection seemed like an interesting thing to explore: a great way for Boetema to escape her reality, whether she wants to or not, and allows Inotu to bond with his older sister, who ends up relying on him immensely when things get rough."

Afar. (Image Comics)

Based on the panels I've seen, Seaton's art has a dreamy, trippy quality to it. In Afar's preview art, there's one sequence in particular that feels like The Jungle Book on Molly (in the best way possible). It's folky and fable-esque, but then it surprises you with tiny hints (which I assume will expand into bigger, swirling pieces) of industrial space adventure.

"Psychedelic is a good word; it relates to some of the themes we're addressing," Seaton said. "The palette of [Boetema's] home world was inspired by the watercolor sketches of John Singer Sargent. Many of his travel sketches were done with a single warm color and a cool color."

Del Duca adds, "Every time she [Seaton] turns in art, I get so excited to see more, which inspires me to write faster and to the best of my ability. Being new to writing longer-form comics, I've learned a lot about storytelling just from seeing Kit illustrate my scripts."

Here's an exclusive look at Afar:

(Image Comics)
(Image Comics)
(Image Comics)

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