In 1937, Aviator Amelia Earhart disappeared. It’s been 80 years since she and her navigator, Fred Noon, attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a Purdue-funded Lockhead Model 10-E Electra airplane. Somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island, communication errors led to Earhart and Noonan losing contact with their destination. Theories abound on what may have happened, but none are quite so interesting as the one explored in Elsewhere.
It’s not uncommon for creators to put fantastical or science fiction twists on historical events. In Elsewhere, writer Jay Faerber and artist Sumeyye Kesgin put forth a new thesis on what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan: they disappeared into a space-time vortex. Naturally, they landed years apart in a mythical location occupied by non-humans and flying steeds, and though they parachuted out of their plane just seconds apart, Noonan has been on this fantastical island for years while Earhart is only just arriving.Theories abound on what may have happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, but none are quite so interesting as the one explored in Elsewhere (Vol. 1 out January 3 from @imagecomics). - @theverbalthing Click To Tweet
The concept of Elsewhere is really cool. It’s historical fiction meets How to Train Your Dragon with a bit of espionage, bribery, and regicide mixed in. Likewise, the way the series plays with the space-time continuum is fascinating. Earhart is already a historical figure by the time she lands her parachute, and one of the characters she encounters comes from the year 1971.
Despite a great concept, Elsewhere fails in key ways. Faerber’s story jumps from point A to point B without enough supporting information to make those jumps work. Kesgin’s art is solid enough to make up for some of those gaps, but not all of them. Ron Riley’s super vivid colors and the Thomas Mauer’s incredibly clear letters are so stunning that I thought I missed plot points by getting too caught up in the spectacle. Upon a second read, I realized that wasn’t the case.
Elsewhere follows a linear plotline, but it suffers in an attempt to do too much. The characters move from place to place with few establishing panels to show us how they got there. Secondary characters have whole plot lines that are seemingly unrelated to the A-story with Amelia, though we get very little explanation for them. (I hope the latter will be resolved in later issues. Elsewhere Vol. 1 only collects issues #1-#4.) Key moments are left to hang for so long that when they reappear, the connection feels hazy.
Conversations between Amelia and some secondary characters also lack context, which makes the reader feel out of the loop. Admittedly, Amelia is also out of the loop, but more introduction wouldn’t go amiss. Jumping into Elsewhere in media res is great… but exposition is still important for making major plot points work.
The other area where Elsewhere struggles is that it pinions Amelia between problematic men while also undermining her independence. Her parachute gets stuck in a tree, which frames her as a “damsel in distress.” She’s revered, but mostly reviled by both her navigator and another male pilot. Plus, she’s accused of wanting to find her navigator because she’s sleeping with him, as if there could be no other reason. Gross.Amelia spends the majority of Elsewhere chasing after a man, which reads like a bizarre interpretation of care ethics. - @theverbalthing Click To Tweet
Amelia spends the majority of Elsewhere chasing after a man, which reads like a bizarre interpretation of care ethics. She’s arguably the most capable character in the story; she clearly doesn’t need men to do what she wants to do.
However, Amelia is singularly obsessed with finding Fred Noonan. She continuously puts her own life in danger for him; she also puts herself and other women on the line to rescue another man she barely knows. The characters who are most helpful to Amelia are also women, though they don’t get nearly enough page time or credit.
That makes a lot of Elsewhere — which could be so much more focused on women and their accomplishments — fall flat.
The most pervasive theme of Elsewhere is that men are trash (what a mood for 2017). Frankly, I don’t care how Fred Noonan feels about being a footnote in history. Male tears are boring. Give me something new. I think this comic has a lot of really great potential, even though the first four issues are somewhat lackluster. I hope that the next part of the arc is more focused on Amelia as a person, rather than her relationships with men who don’t care about her.
Elsewhere Vol. 1 Rating: ★★★☆☆
Elsewhere, Vol. 1 collects issues #1-#4; it hits stores January 3. In Full Bleed received an advanced copy PDF of the book from Image Comics for review purposes.