“This is Where We Fall,” the newest science fiction graphic novel written by Chris Miskiewicz and illustrated by Vincent Kings, is short — but that doesn’t prevent it from packing a massive existential punch. Combining traditional sci-fi with some western and medieval elements, “This is Where We Fall” dives headfirst into a swirling realm of life after death characterized by vaguely Matrix-style revelations.
The novel’s premise follows Space-Man, an astronaut soldier whose mission is to illegally download codes from the International Space Station in order to prevent a third world war. After encountering an enemy who foils his plan, Space-Man plummets to Earth in an orbital skydive. Much to his confusion, he lands not on the Earth he knows, but on a world where everyone who ever died from falling ends up. Determined to complete his mission nonetheless, Space-Man attempts to make it to the high-tech city of Abraxis-Nine to upload the codes, with the help of an ex-Confederate soldier-turned-gang-leader, an adventurous huntress, a thief and a garbage man — all of whom have met a similar fate.
Miskiewicz constantly drives home the theme of humanity’s tendency to put faith in something beyond mortality, as well as its tenacity in moments of distress. Space-Man’s revival on a different world after his supposed end and his urge to manipulate the ongoings of his old world build on human desire to understand the powers that control the afterlife, and to determine how much tangibility death really has for those that face it. The novel’s speculation on different planes dedicated to a manner of death further emphasizes how death is inexplicably connected to the real world. Naturally, this is hard for the protagonist to wrap his head around, as he still needs to finish his mission and struggles to realize that that may no longer be his purpose.
Religion also rears its head in the form of knights seeking to burn all the inhabitants of the new world, cleansing it through holy fire, but this concept isn’t developed much and could’ve been done without. While a nod to theology fits in with an overall narrative of life and death being governed popularly by the divine, it simply feels thrown in.
“This is Where We Fall” moves at a relatively quick pace, pulling readers along on a surprisingly steady and straightforward plotline. With its short length, Miskiewicz fares well sticking to one central storyline and adding in twists and turns to keep things interesting without deviating excessively. This gives the novel an air of cogency, and along with the attention-grabbing and snarky moments throughout, makes for a consistently engaging read.
Kings’ illustrations bring Miskiewicz’s story to life, jumping off the page in vivid splendor. The drawings are just detailed enough to effectively capture the action of the scene while eliciting a strong emotional response, particularly in the gory frames and fight scenes. Illustrations in a more standard comic style serve the composition of the book well, as they don’t distract from the plot but help usher it along in a sophisticated manner. Kings excels in depicting character facial expressions and varied viewing perspectives, giving the story depth and enough diversity to keep things visually interesting.
With one final twist at the end and a series of events just shy of heartwrenching, Miskiewicz cycles Space-Man through his life again, drawing attention to the futility of our existence and inspiring thoughts on whether we truly know what kind of end we’re working toward. All in all, “This is Where We Fall” is a bullet train of a graphic novel: quick, effective and gets you where you want to go with just the right amount of bells and whistles.