Comic Review: Soon by Thomas Cadène and Benjamin Adam
Soon Volume 1 - Script by Thomas Cadène, Benjamin Adam - Art by Benjamin Adam
There's something ominous about a science-fiction book that has a title like Soon. Soon doesn’t necessarily have to mean something bad - and in this case of Thomas Cadène and Benjamin Adam's graphic novel there's another meaning to Soon as an ambitious space project - but in any science fiction book, particularly one that comes from an environmental perspective, the future is never going to look too bright.
In fact, it’s actually through comparing darkness and light that Soon emphasises very effectively right from the outset what we are in danger of losing. The opening scene takes a look at our own society now viewed from the perspective of children in New Winnipeg in 2140 visiting a museum of the past. To their amazement they are able to see a reconstruction of the early 21st century, look on in wonder at the now unthinkably dazzling Times Square, marvel at the space everyone has in their cars, and marvel at devices that once allowed people to communicate instantaneously with anyone. Those luxuries were ‘soon’ to be lost in the environmental catastrophe that would be the inevitable price to be paid for a decadent lifestyle.
Even though there’s little doubt that there will be - or indeed that we are already seeing - serious consequences of the damage that such a heavy and careless use of resources is causing, it may still seem like a little bit of a heavy-handed way to hit the point home. There’s a distinct danger that Soon could become very preachy indeed when the subsequent chapter and alternate chapters go right back to 13 billion years ago and systematically deal with the historical abuse of the planet by mankind in educational-like graphic spreads.
Fortunately, the story is well balanced out in providing a wider scope but also a smaller-scale human story that puts things into context, engages the reader while providing pause for thought at the path that we are heading towards, and - judging even by the sections of the book that presciently document a futuristic struggle with a pandemic that puts WHO put under great pressure in 2040 - the way that we head towards global disaster could perhaps come even sooner than the book expects.
It also helps that the book avoids the typical clean-line graphics that you might expect from a futuristic science-fiction tale. Even the educational slide show is well laid-out in a Chris Ware box graphics way with intriguing hints of future events. Artist Benjamin Adam blends this with a more cartoony style that captures both the grim reality and the shining newness of a world that is struggling to adjust, adapt and repair. And it’s there that the story finds its momentum and way of engaging the reader, through Yuri, a scientist in the New Winnipeg’s Pinawa Forest in Zone 3.
Yuri’s mother Simone is a prominent public figure who was once involved in the first failed Soon space project to set up a colony on the moon, and her career has come at a cost to their mother/son relationship. Simone is preparing to leave again, working on a second Soon mission but before she leaves this time, she wants to spend time now with her son, visiting the seven cities of the zones of the newly partitioned Earth, all working in conjunction to renew the planet’s ecosystem and live more efficiently and in accordance with nature. The trip shows Yuri the reality of life on the planet, a reality that can’t be learned from the books and educational slides alone.
And, by the end of Soon Volume 1, after a few of the new cities of Earth have been visited, you can see the scope and ambition of Cadène and Adam's graphic novel, in how it knows that merely looking at the history and reading books isn’t enough. Its imagining of future history, of war, social and environmental upheaval is completely credible, as is the important recognition that setting laws that won't be adhered to isn’t enough, and that there will evidently be barriers to progress with conflicts of public, political and private business interests. What the answer might be is hinted at, but there’s clearly more to be explored, revealed and warned about in Volume 2. Coming Soon.