Zeb Larson reviews Broken World…
If you read my reviews, you can tell that I like to dig into big concepts and ideas. I’m not necessarily as interested in the action as the themes that are present in the story. How do they build upon what’s been done before? Do they subvert tropes, or carry them out well? Unfortunately, execution also counts for something, and big ideas have to be given enough time to develop in order for the story to work. If not, you’ve just got half-developed concepts that didn’t get enough time or writing to really work. Broken World is one of those books. The idea is solid, but there isn’t enough time to develop all of the themes they want to use in here. As a result, virtually nothing is fully developed.
At some point in the near-but-not-too-near future, an extinction-level comet is on course to collide with earth. The Pax Corporation has been tasked with building “arcs” that would carry most of the human race, leaving only about 25% of the population behind to die. Through some complications, a professor named Elena Marlowe is separated from her husband and son and misses the last ship off-world. That might be the end of the story, except that the comet misses earth. Now trapped on a world with no semblance of order, she has to try and find a way back to her loved ones.
If there’s one word I would use to describe this series, it would be rushed. The first issue is basically exposition and introduction. There are only another three issues after that to tell the entirety of the story, and there are more characters than just Elena. There’s one of her former students, an army officer named Griffon, a former cult leader named Thomas Holmes, and a few others besides. They have to share the stage with Elena’s search for a way to find her family, the fight between the military and the cult leader, Elena’s students, and the world around them. This is on top of the legitimately interesting themes here, such as the struggle to go back to living when you thought you were going to die.
This means that the dialogue and the exposition needs to work twice as hard just to establish the scenery. With the haste it works under, the dialogue and exposition become clunky in parts. There are implicit questions being raised about whether governments have the right to do what they do with people…but rather than letting it speak for itself, the main characters have to just come out and say that (and then never revisit it). It becomes obvious that the government and Pax had their own ulterior agenda, but because it comes at the end, it’s never fully explored. Likewise, what happens in the months after the apocalypse is explored in just a few panels.
Broadly speaking, you could say this is a book about the need to move on from loss and not let it consume you (which is also basically said out loud…). Unfortunately, the exploration is kind of shallow. The bad guys can’t move on, and the good guys do move on; how they do, beyond that they do, isn’t really established. We would need more characters to make it feel more real. To Barbiere’s credit, we see bits of all of the different stages of grief in everybody: anger in Griffon, sadness in Elena, acceptance for Holmes. But we spend so little time with them that there’s not enough to be really invested in anybody apart from Elena.
There was a good story here, and if you really like post-apocalyptic literature, this could still be fun. It’s just not what it could have been.
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