Sunday, February 8, 2015

My review of 'The Infinite Horizon' by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto. An exceptional, powerfully told graphic release...

Cover art for the collection by Phil Noto.
The Infinite Horizon is a 184 page graphic collection published by Image Comics, which was released in April, 2012. It collects Gerry Duggan (story) and Phil Noto's (art) Eisner-nominated miniseries, in its entirety. The release is a modern retelling of the story of Odysseus, set in a world which has gone through a cataclysmic collapse. Stranded on the far side of the world, an unnamed soldier struggles to make his way back home to his waiting wife and son.

An unnamed soldier leads his men against enemy fighters in Syria. He has come to realize that he is doomed to always survive each encounter, win through each battle, but still lose everything, in the end. His men know this, but the brass and the politicos are deluded into thinking that the war can still be won. Heading back to base, his disgust with the entire situation overwhelms him, and he loses control, mercilessly beating a civilian contractor that accosts him. Given no choice by his actions, his superiors are forced to lock him in the brig. When he is finally released, the story truly begins...

Interior art by Phil Noto.

Human society has suffered a world wide collapse, and soldiers are being recalled from around the world. America is under martial law, and the unnamed soldier and his men are needed to deal with the unrest at home. They are firstly tasked with holding the airport while civilians are evacuated from the war zone. As the last transport leaves, the men realize that they are on their own, and will have to make their way back home by any means that they can. They begin to make their way across the desert, leaving behind the first of many dead companions, swallowed by the desert sands.

Thus begins the long journey home for the companions. Along the way, they will help those that they can, fight a cyclops, defeat the siren's call, and lose many of their number. Will they survive, and if they do, will there be anything left for them after their return to their homeland? It matters not, for in the end, they would rather die on the journey than never attempt it. And so they press forward, moving stolidly towards their goal, journeying forever onwards and seeking the end of the infinite horizon...

Interior art by Phil Noto.

The story by Gerry Duggan takes a classic tale, turns it about, and sets it on its feet in modern times, in a setting that feels close enough to touch. The unnamed protagonist has been used as a tool by others for too long, and has been burned to the quick by the violence that he has both witnessed, and participated in. The futility of it all has come to him, finally, and he realizes that there will be no end to the killing. All he want is to get himself and his men home, but that wish proves to be a more daunting task than they ever imagined.

On the home front, events are even worse than abroad. Flooding, disease, and the collapse of the societal infrastructure has led to mass panic, and worse, as neighbor turns against neighbor. The strong feel free to prey on the weak, now that society's chains have been shrugged off, and everything that man has built is collapsing around them. Duggan takes his character's and tosses them into a raging fire; those that emerge have grown stronger, and become more complete beings. Along the way, many good people die...

Interior art by Phil Noto.

Duggan effortlessly moves the story's focus from the soldiers on their long trek home, back to events in their homeland, showing the travails that their loved ones are undergoing. He creates a number of sympathetic characters for the readers to focus upon, and then leads them through hell. The story is less about the horrors and futility of war, and more about how humanity, in general, react to the overwhelming violence that surrounds them in the story. Some see the futility of it; others see it as an opportunity; and some, out of fear and/or hate, choose to support the machinations of evil men. The story, while not enjoyable, in a 'fun' sense, is powerfully written and engaging. The events are not for our amusement, but stand as a possible warning of what might come to be. By the time that you reach the end of the journey, your hands will be shaking, your eyes will be burning, and you will vow to yourself to not read this again... Until the story calls you, once again, and your hand creeps towards the book, opening it of its own volition...

Cover art for issue #5 by Phil Noto.

Phil Noto's art is depicted in a clean, spare style, with a minimal use of shading. His dynamic action sequences and the emotive facial features of his characters are exceptional. The line work is strong and clean, while his panel composition definitely propels the story forward. His character designs give us, instead of fantastic heroes that are fated to save humanity, just normal human beings. The great unwashed mass, the average joe, the neighbor next door... Perfectly suited to this story, his art is the finishing touch that takes the release to another level. It shows us as we are, and reminds us that, although their are villains amongst us, heroes may reside in places all unlooked for. A face is just a face, its what lies behind it that truly matters.

This story really hit me hard, on many different levels, and, initially, I was convinced that I would only read it once. The events were just too plausible, in today's world, and I didn't think that I could deal with them again. Until I reread it, and reread it again... As I alluded to before, this is not a 'fun' story, but one that is powerfully told, one that will stick with the reader over time. If you're like me, you'll be coming back to it, seeking to glean answers to unasked questions, hoping to find something that you may have missed within the narrative. Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto have combined to create a singular release, one that will haunt the reader, and one that is highly recommended.

Pick up a copy of the release here.

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