ComiXology’s ‘Eden’ marks TV producer Matthew Arnold’s graphic novel debut
ComiXology Original Eden, released this week in digital format with a print edition from Dark Horse set for July, marks the graphic novel debut for Matthew Arnold, creator and executive producer of the NBC’s Siberia and Emerald City. The book is illustrated by widely acclaimed Italian artist Riccardo Burchielli, co-creator of Vertigo’s sprawling, 72-issue epic DMZ. Luca Salce provides colors and Ed Dukeshire does letters.
The story jumps right into the action with a loud and explosive first chapter that unfolds with breakneck speed. A handful of prisoners have been mysteriously set loose from their glass cryogenic chambers and find themselves on the run in an utterly strange, incongruous world.
Almost immediately, the story quickly takes a sharp turn—albeit briefly—for a deep dive into protagonist Anna Croft’s backstory. We also meet her husband and a small ensemble of secondary characters while learning more about the world where the story is set.
There are huge dinosaur footprints, sabertooth tigers, an incomprehensible wall calendar, and a deserted, but fully stocked grocery store set amidst an array of contemporary, overgrown vine-covered buildings. It’s post-apocalyptic, maybe? Or some kind of alternate timeline…?
No worries, we’ll figure it out. As the lead technician later says, “What we require is extreme verisimilitude…. Create whatever world you want, as long as it’s authentic.” Through that lens, the narrative is well-paced and the world building feels organic—if a bit scattershot—even as some characters start getting picked off one by one.
Given the creators’ backgrounds, it isn’t hugely surprising that Eden sometimes reads like the pilot episode of a high-concept TV series. Certainly, the underlying mechanics are robust and broad enough to spawn several seasons’ worth of episodes—or more—before having to double up and recycle settings and situations.
Similarly, Burchielli’s inks are bold and dynamic, with a great mixture of close-ups, wide, and medium framings, but often tend to look more like a storyboard than a graphic novel. The use of deep, solid blacks without any texture only adds to this somewhat hurried, proof-of-concept vibe. The book’s paneling is also pretty straightforward, likely missing some opportunities to more fully embrace the medium and do things motion pictures can’t do.
Much to its credit, the story wrestles with some weighty and highly relevant issues. Individually and collectively, the characters grapple with guilt and redemption, forgiveness, the largely unchecked power of the prison industrial complex, and the ever elusive concept of ‘rehabilitation.’
The creators do an admirable job in the limited space available. Unfortunately, the book’s 130 pages don’t provide enough space and time to adequately engage with story’s nuanced, complex themes. In the end, the book is tightly scripted and dynamic, with a very likable main character, but it all feels too rushed. A better balance between high energy, fast-paced action and a deeper exploration of the real issues would have been great.