There’s an interesting story sitting somewhere in Lost Planet: First Colony, and we start to see glimpses of it by the end of the second issue, but overall it struggles to see the light of day. These comics are based on a video game series from Capcom, and these may be the kind of stories that would be more enjoyable if the reader came to them with some familiarity with the universe. For the rest of us, however, some patience is required before the backstory begins to fill in.
Lost Planet: First Colony is set in a future where “Earth has become a dumping ground on a global scale – its air toxic, its lands and seas blighted by pollution. Purifying stations have been created to scrub the air and stave off the destruction of humanity, but their energy requirements are immense, and the resources required to power them become increasingly scarce.” In response to this need for energy, the NEVEC (Neo Venus Construction) corporation funds interstellar expeditions to locate resources on different planets. Right away there are some plausibility issues here: exactly how concentrated would an energy source need to be to exceed the cost of hauling it out of a planet’s gravity well and halfway across the galaxy to power a gigantic air purifier? And it’s kind of a disappointing future if we’ve figured out how to send ships across the galaxy and still haven’t caught up to Doc Brown and his garbage powered fusion reactor.
Science fiction fans are willing to overlook a lot of science when the story is good, but Lost Planet takes a while to get going, so these inconsistencies pile up to the point of distraction. The opening scene is lifted straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a tough-as-nails Marion Ravenswood-type, June, drinking some goon under the table and then shooting him in the head. Right away, the manga-influenced art by Massimo Dall’Oglio is attractive and appealing. So far, so good! But then June and her gang of pirates briefly take over a ship with seemingly thousands of burly workers armed only with that pistol. They make their getaway on an escape ship and land on a planet where they think they can salvage and sell some abandoned NEVEC equipment. Upon landing the ship is engulfed in an “Emperor-class” storm, to which June remarks “this galaxy has never seen such a storm.” Let’s bracket off the question of how storms are classified across different planets and what massive futuristic Weather Channel is keeping track of all them, and focus on the fact that the storm tears apart the ship—a ship that has just survived an atmospheric entry burn—yet leaves its passengers alive.
There many of these haphazardly constructed plot devices, but finally the story does begin to pick up in a series of expository panels in the middle of the second issue. The answer to why energy scarcity was introduced as the main driver of the economy is revealed when we are introduced to this planet’s indigenous species of organic life: beings that produce massive amounts of thermal energy. Indeed, the planet itself might be a giant, energy-producing life form. These life forms are, of course, insectoid and hostile, but on the plus side there are elements of the Dune sandworms here, and though that, small glimpses of that novel’s incredibly intricate and interesting ecosystem. Unfortunately, running counter to that more cerebral storyline are multiple instances Starship Troopers-type bug battles, done without Verhoeven’s self-aware, fun manipulation of clichéd genre conventions. This series could succeed by either highlighting the ecological aspects or by simply letting loose and having fun in true Starship Troopers-style, so let’s hope these glimpses of promise we see emerging begin to take center stage in forthcoming issues.[subscribe2]