Review: Panacean

Review by David Ferguson

Art by Leeann Hamilton
Colours by Jesse Samper
Created by Justin Richards and Tom Charles Bair III

This anthology is set in Panacea, a futuristic city where ultimate pleasure and comfort are a screen-swipe away… for a price. Each story follows a different citizen of Panacea as they search for meaning in an artificial world. This first story is about a young girl called Alis, who is abandoned by her parents and left with her apathetic aunt. She, and an acerbic android named Bunny, escape and get lost in the world of Panacea where they learn about some of the realities of the city and Alis herself.

The name Alis automatically brought my mind to Alice of Alice In Wonderland fame. There are certain parallels as she explores a strange city / land that she is not familiar with alongside a rabbit-eared creature. The story does a lot to set up the world of Panacean with nods to things that aren’t really gone into any great depth in this issue thus allowing for more layers to be pealed away in later issues. It adds to the feeling that there is more this city than this story delves into. Alis’s story, and the larger story, deal with moral questions when it comes to artificial intelligence, technology and how some people can be left behind by technology. Alis’s own story certainly brings these up and… well I don’t like to spoil but the story is tied up in a… satisfying is and isn’t the word. You really need to read it to see what I mean.

Of course, what brought me to the table was Leeann Hamilton’s art. Her US debut no less. Leeann is no stranger to science fiction stories having released two books featuring sci-fi tales, A Tear In Jean and Hoda Machine, and shows a remarkable ability to adapt her style for this type of story. Pananacean really allows her to show off her skills as she gets to draw a wide variety of characters, including the city itself. Panacean the city has its own variety as the casts visits a number of areas, each with its own “personality”. Indeed that is what makes her art for me, the personality she is able to give the characters which really helps the reader invest in them. I think this is the first time I’ve seen someone else colour for her and I think Jesse Samper does a great job of working with her art and added to its character.

In all a well told science fiction story with stark warnings about the future of technology that apply to the present. Digital only and a second issue is promised which I will happily download… to my… iPad… wait…