cover image Primordial


Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. Image, $24.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-5343-2216-5

Lemire and Sorrentino (the Gideon Falls series) reunite to craft a darkly curious animal allegory about the costs of the Cold War, which swells with empathy and imagination but fails to deliver on its inventive premise. The story opens in an alternate 1961, after the American space program has been shut down following a test mission that ended due to reports of the deaths of its lab monkeys, Able and Mrs. Baker. MIT researcher Dr. Pembrook arrives at Cape Canaveral for a top-secret project, where he’s told by a mysterious operative that the monkeys didn’t in fact die, but that along with the Soviets’ test dog Laika, they were “taken... and we think they’re still out there somewhere.” Pembrook travels to East Berlin, where Laika’s old caretaker, Yelena, draws him further into the conspiracy. Sorrentino’s shadowy, sinister art in the terrestrial scenes contrasts neatly with the bright, psychedelic images set in outer space, where the monkeys and Laika have met, bonded, and appear to be heading home courtesy of an alien intelligence. The hints provided to outline this skewed alternate world are tantalizing (Nixon beat Kennedy in 1960) but too thinly laid out. The test-animal story line is heartbreaking, laced with tragedy-haunted sweetness. Though fans of mystery-minded speculative fiction (plus monkeys) will enjoy the premise, the inconclusive third act will likely leave them wishing there was a sequel. There’s a lot of potential here, but not enough of it is realized. (May)