Lightstep – Milos Slavkovic, Mirko Toplaski & Tiberiu Bek (Dark Horse Comics)

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Well, I have to tip my hat to this – new to me – comic book for sheer imagination and scope. Proper hardcore Sci-Fi that is not the best place to bring a new to the genre reader for a gateway to the stars, but for the hardened fan of such antics, there’s plenty to devour. Set across a number of times and worlds, the scope is admirably ambitious and the watery, art deco style is wildly imaginative at times. The storytelling itself is equally epic in its reach making Lightstep an intriguing opening gambit in to what I assume, will become a galaxy that we will be revisiting.

The lead protagonist appears in the form of the statuesque January Lee, a privileged daughter from the upper echelons of a social system which imposes a brutal form of stratification upon its denizens. Time itself is used to divide the “haves” and “have nots”. Some worlds exist in a zone where time moves slowly and a lifetime lasts, well, a lifetime. Those less fortunate souls in the lottery of birth rite inhabit worlds where time moves quicker and life – birth, childhood, teen, adult, old age, death – is but a fleeting existence that is over in a day or so. The life of the blessed at the top of the pile however, is just as brutal and when January refuses to partake in bloodthirsty rituals on which her society is based, she becomes an outcast, roaming the galaxy and well, you know getting in to adventures and that.

Escaping this dystopian utopia January encounters Jazzman, a mysterious fellow, who along with his army of winged mini minions, searches the air waves of the galaxy for long lost radio broadcasts which linger as a remnant of a long gone civilisation. It appears that there exists a black market of collectors who offer top dollar for such audio treasures. Enigmatically, every so often, the story slips back to early 20th Century America where these stray strands of radio sound bites are from and where the time hopping narrative throws up an intriguing thread: the ancient radio play that the pirates are harvesting for their paymasters seems to be the tale of Jazzman’s adventures. Is his story already written or is he writing a tale from eons back in time?  So far so weird …

Initially, Lightstep makes for uncomfortable reading as it appears a master race holding sway in a dystopian future where life itself is restricted and those deemed inferior are expendable, not even worth a full life, has parallels with our very real world both historically and sadly presently. January Lee steps up to challenge this however, and the tapestry that is woven develops in to an intriguing and highly complex socio-political, and later religious, battle ground. The concept of time moving faster or slower depending on where you are, coupled with the Radio Days America of families sat around the wireless, listening to crooners crooning and plays telling tales of heroes and high adventure, doesn’t let the reader off the hook, even at the, sort of, conclusion. An elliptical tale,  it wraps up with something of an explanation but the overall feeling is that we have merely been introduced to a much wider world and as the narrator wistfully suggests, space is huge, really huge. Lightstep is a rather intoxicating trip of a read that intrigues, confuses and excites in equal measure and that my friend is a recommendation. I think. Marv Gadgie

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