Science fiction and fantasy has had its hits and misses across media. Cult hits like the TV show Farscape are revered among passionate fans of the show. In comics we have Saga, the long running beloved space opera. On the flip side, flops like short lived TV series Legend of the Seeker and the movie version of Warcraft might have their dedicated fans, but overall they are forgettable entries into the genre. Twin Worlds is simultaneously a hit and a flop, at times making the most of its interesting moments, but also mostly floundering in sci-fi tropes and fantasy cliches.
Twin Worlds opens right in the middle of an intense action sequence with a dragon attacking robots and then cuts to soldiers on horseback capturing a group of enemies. Exciting stuff, right? Except for the matter that there is no context for what is happening. Captions relay the setting and time to the reader, but there is no real explanation as to what that setting or time means until well into the book, when it’s too late. Usually too much exposition can bog down a story, but in this instance, a total lack of it leaves readers guessing what is even happening on the page in the first place.
So what is Twin Worlds about? Years ago, a portal opened up, creating a mode of travel across the universe from Earth to the planet Tassaroth, where its inhabitants, the Tassanites, are led by a nation called Drakkara, whose leader, the Darukin, is leading a rebellion against the invading “Earthers” who are seeking a natural resource called govizide. The Earthers are aided by the Zila, a Tassonite tribe that has sided with Earth for reasons that this reviewer thought were unclear. At the same time, the Darukin is a member of the Vin clan, which just so happens to have a pair of twins in the family who are half-Tassanite, half-Earther, and you can probably guess how well that goes over with the two planets at war with each other. If you’re still confused, don’t worry—the book has a glossary to help make heads or tails of all this.
The problem with Twin Worlds isn’t that there is a glossary, it’s that the glossary is absolutely required to decipher what the story does not make clear. Supplemental journals from some of the characters help fill in backstory, but even these feel more like filler than adding something substantive to the story. When Twin Worlds does finally get around to explaining what’s going on the book is at its best. It’s unfortunate that this exposition comes later in the story when it is so desperately needed at the beginning. Whatever world building happens falls flat from the start because the world is never built, the reader is simply thrown in and forced to muddle through the confusion until it’s too late.
The art and design choices made in the book are better, but not by much. Letterer Lucas Gattoni makes a smart choice by using black and blue text to distinguish between the different languages being spoken in the book and there is an interesting editorial choice of denoting this in a “language guide” rather than just in the body of the story itself. Either way, the separate languages are a moot point. The majority of the book’s characters speak Native Tassonite, with the other language being Earther English, but the whole of the dialogue is presented to the reader in English, so the distinction is mostly unnecessary. Jethro Morales’ art is what you’d expect for the genre and the same can be said for Bryan Magnaye’s colors, which alternate between subtly different palates depending on where the action is taking place.
Twin Worlds is not a great comic. Is it OK? Sure. Are readers going to clamor for more of this series? Probably not. But even though this book never gains enough traction to pull in a mass quantity of readers, it has its merits, and for somebody somewhere, this is the cult middle ground between hit and flop that fills a genre niche.
By Rami Al-ashqar, Jethro Morales, Bryan Maganye, and Lucas Gattoni
Action Lab Entertainment, 2020