In the future, safe long distance space travel is made possible by a unique resource called alcanite. This story features the end of that era as alcanite is running out and no replacement has been found. Ada, Mallic, and Haika are a team of scavengers looking for forgotten alcanite in historic shipwrecks. The work is dangerous, especially as the competition for this resource grows and unsavory people get involved. Ada finds a clue that could lead to an alternative travel method rumored to be used by her ancestors. Unfortunately, the inscriptions that might hold that knowledge have been moved off world by a wealthy collector.
The crew takes low priority cargo at the behest of Outher, their go-to mechanic who fixes their ship. During the long manual voyage, they discover that the unknown contents of the cargo is actually people who’d hoped to escape before getting stuck away from home when the alcanite runs out. Seems like the person in charge of their transportation wasn’t invested in their health and all the passengers, minus one, perished. Ada and Haika are able to rescue Hodge and promise to drop him off at the next station. When they arrive, they have a disastrous run-in with the wealthy collector when they discover he is connected to the dead travelers and has no desire to share an alternative to alcanite with anyone not paying.
The story device of limited resources is not a new one. However, set in the vastness of space where anything is possible, it does a good job of showcasing what makes a person human. Especially when they aren’t always humanoid like Mallic the octopus or Hodge the alien. The illustrations fit the story with muted versions of brighter colors, like the colors have dirtied over time. Detail lines not only define the drawing, but give the sense of texture as well. You can see that things aren’t what they used to be.
My biggest issue with this book is that there is no indication this is the beginning of a series, and the story doesn’t even begin to resolve the main issue of how an alternative to a non-renewable resource might affect people’s lives. This book focuses on character growth and relationships instead of the plot, which is not bad, but could leave your patrons feeling unfilled if this is the full story. Because of on-page murder, human trafficking, and other emotionally charged conversations between the characters, this would work best in a collection for older teens or adults. It is relatively short for a graphic novel, but there’s a lot going on.
The Hard Switch
By Owen D. Pomery
Avery Hill, 2023
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Black, Lesbian