Horror readers might be familiar with the name Stephen Graham Jones. A writer of indigenous fiction that features slashers, werewolves, and vengeful spirits, Jones is steadily becoming a household name in horror. Having already won major horror and science fiction awards like the Stoker from the Horror Writers Association and the Locus Award from Locus magazine, Jones and his fiction has appeared on the New York Times best seller list. However, he’s not a writer who just rests on his laurels. Like many writers who’ve been in the writing game for a while, he isn’t just sticking to just one medium; he’s also broken into comics. His most recent foray into storytelling through words and pictures is Earthdivers Vol. 1: Kill Columbus. Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, Earthdivers is a time travel epic about the dangers of trying to unravel history and how bloody such undertakings can be.
The book begins in a post-apocalyptic future, where much of humanity has retreated from a broken and dying earth. The story follows a group of indigenous survivors who discover a cave that allows those who enter to travel through time. These survivors decide that the only way to save the world is traveling back in time, killing Christopher Columbus, and preventing the creation of America. However, the man they send to accomplish this task, a linguist named Tad, might not have the skills or the mentality necessary to kill Columbus before he and his ships reach the New World. Not to mention that messing with any timeline is bound to create some truly horrifying consequences.
Though most of this story is head-spinning time travel science fiction, Jones’ signature style is obvious, not only in the subject matter as it deals with the plight of Indigenous peoples from different moments in time, but in how the story moves. Jones is foremost an efficient writer, never letting flowery language or unnecessary explanations slow down the plot. With the time travel narrative wreaking havoc on the order of events, readers will have to pay attention or lose track of what’s happening. That simply makes Jones’ story a roller coaster ride where readers will enjoy the story even if they feel like they’re gripping the safety bar with white knuckles. Sticking with Jones’ story will reward readers with a wild tale full of horror with occasional snatches of humor and heart.
And speaking of horror, Davide Gianfelice proves he is the right artist for Jones’ story. This story does get bloody and Gianfelice shows he has the chops to depict the red stuff flowing out of the body in a variety of ways while the supernatural elements (or whatever fever dream hallucinations Tad is seeing) can raise a reader’s hackles. He also shows a penchant for detailing more mundane details that help immerse readers. He depicts various characters, from the slightly futuristic-looking survivors to the surly sailors in the 15th century, in a way that grounds the story in reality before those characters’ bodies and minds are put through various traumas.
Writers often experiment with different mediums with varying levels of success. They might alienate fans of their earlier work or even show that are ill-equipped to create in the new medium. It is fortunate that Jones does not have that problem. This is a great choice for graphic novel selectors who want a robust horror section and is an excellent choice if the selector serves patrons who are fans of Stephen Graham Jones.
Earthdivers, Vol. 1: Kill Columbus
By Stephen Graham Jones
Art by Davide Gianfelice
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)