Off-World Blues might easily have been called One-Off Blues, given the stand-alone nature of this generically-titled SF adventure from Humanoids. Except it isn’t – or rather, wasn’t – a one-off. Its origin stems from 2004 and a projected three-part French comic series, Nirta Omirli, whose first two issues only were published, the third not seeing the light of day until now. Not that you’ll find this information anywhere in this English language repackage of the trilogy, which presents itself as a seamless whole; curiously, the only hint given of its interrupted 15-year journey into print is a short art-cum-cover gallery which closes the book.
Is it worth the wait? Well, if big bangs, boobs and blowjobs float your boat, then yeah, you’ve come to the right place. Artist Bachan – of Doom Patrol: Silver Age fame – delivers a violently voyeuristic vision of the year 2976 and beyond that wouldn’t be far out of place in the pages of Metal Hurlant, and while Bachan is no Giraud or Druillet, his characters, spaceships and organic cityscapes achieve a passable and satisfying impression of style. It’s in the script by J.D. Morvan Wolverine and Bramble – that matters become a little let down.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a good, literally explosive read – it’s just that at its heart its major plot devices can’t help feeling a little cliched. To summarise, the fragile co-habitation of colony world Neve-Rikosse is shattered when Peacekeeper secessionist Nirta Omirli launches an attack on the humans’ neighbours, the indigenous Petzetatis-Qcouzinaz, or Petz-Q for short. Omirli is executed for the outrage and we cut to 24 years later as a Peacekeeper troop ship is blown out of the sky and its five survivors – all women – crash-land back on Neve-Rikosse, now a human/Petz-Q war-zone. It also happens to be where Nirta Omirli is due to be executed the next day.
Intrigued? Then by all means go for it. Just be prepared for the resolution to be not quite as clever as the build-up might have you hope, and for the arbiter of human/Petz-Q reconciliation, when it comes, to be something of a deflating trope. Not bad, not brilliant, Off-World Blues is an enjoyable and enjoyably different in-between. Mike Wild