Some people just seem a little too obnoxiously talented to be true. I’d say the Canadian music artist who goes by the name Lights has entered that category. She recently released her fourth studio music album alongside her self-drawn, written, lettered, and colored comic series, both of the name Skin & Earth.

Whether you or not you are a fan of the music or the comic or neither or both, you have to be impressed (or if you’re jealous like me, annoyed) by how much talent Lights Poxleitner-Bokan shows off in this project. The album’s songs interweave with the comic’s storyline, and accompanying music videos provide live action portrayals of the plot. The series has even been optioned by Entertainment One for television and digital and gaming content. So is the hype worth it?

Of course the answer is both yes and no.

The comic is set in Madison Oasis, the last known habitable area of the Earth that has been split into two sectors: Red and Pink. Those who are affluent live in the Pink, reaping the profits of the Tempest Corporation and grasping for escape and indolence at the cost of the environment. The poor live in the Red sector, an area that is toxic after being destroyed by Tempest for its resources. Enaia (En) Jin lives in the Red, but thanks to an inheritance from her mother, she goes to school to study geology in the Pink. En struggles to find hope in a world that’s ravaged by the Tempest corporation, finding beauty where she can, whether on the banks of a toxic City Center river or in the arms of Priest, her summer fling. When Priest gives her a tattoo one night but tells her they’re done the next, En is confused and embittered that she’s lost one of the few things that brought her joy. In the midst of her anger, she meets Mitsuki, who encourages her to channel her anger and to take hold of the power within herself. When Mitsuki opens up another world and way of living to En, En must decide who she is and who she wants to be.

The story is set up as a popular dystopian trope, complete with classism, forbidden love, and a destroyed ecosystem, but Lights manages to bring a new twist to the genre. Instead of being reunited with her lost love or finding a way to save the world, the female protagonist must fight a personal battle to decide what she values in life. We are left on the last page of the last issue wondering what En will choose if the series continues. It’s nice to not know, for once.

On one hand, the art in Skin & Earth is clearly the work of an amateur. You see this most clearly in facial expressions and some attention to detail, like fingernails or toenails. On the other hand, it is amazing that Lights illustrated, lettered, and colored the comic on her own. It’s an impressive debut for an untrained artist. The panels flow well from one emotion and action to the next, and different chapters are marked by dominant color schemes. Lights was clearly thoughtful in how she laid out her work and how she wanted to communicate ideas. In interviews, she gives credit to her favorite comic artists and to YouTube for helping her learn the art. She cites her favorite comics as artistic influences, and I can see a similar style to that in The Wicked + the Divine.

In the end, I advise you to try Skin & Earth for yourself. The art and the music can exist independently of each other, but they do pair well. While rated M, the comic is appropriate for teens and up. I can see this comic and the accompanying album as a part of a display on genre crossovers and media tie-ins at a high school or public library. Or maybe you can start a reading list of people who are just too obnoxiously talented to be true.

Skin & Earth, vol. 1
by Lights Poxleitner-Bokan
Art by Lights Poxleitner-Bokan
ISBN: 9781524106034
Dynamite, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: M

  • Joy

    Past Reviewer

    Joy is an MLS student at Emporia State University. She has an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Kansas and has spent most of her career facilitating instruction--teaching college composition, tutoring at college writing centers, and training software customers. When she's not freelance copy editing or wrapped up in a book, she's likely playing with her pitbull, Nina Simone, drinking craft beer, or volunteering at an equine therapy program. She has a weakness for lists and spreadsheets, and she'd love to swap reading stats with you.

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