Port of Earth #5
Zack Kaplan’s stellar sci-fi series, Port of Earth, returns with an issue that takes no time in reminding readers why his version of Earth is a terrifying place to live. Port of Earth #5 picks up right where the last arc left off. ESA agents McIntyre and Rice return from their devastating encounter with the Qotil assassin only to discover their troubles may not yet be over.
In the wake of the wild goose chase for the assassin, Qotil, McIntyre and Rice and the rest of the ESA believe the alien to be dead. The death toll also includes Rice’s would be fiancee and a host of other innocent humans. Upon returning to the ESA base, the two agents are reassigned. McIntyre is assigned to a security detail for the impending arrival of alien delegates to discuss future projects. And Rice is forced to take a psychiatric leave in order to process the death of his girlfriend. And that’s when Kaplan kicks the story back into high gear.
McIntyre, still shaken from the encounter with the alien from the previous arc, is portrayed as being hyper-aware and even more wary – of the alien delegation and their security detail. Before anyone else catches on, he’s immediately aware that something is wrong. That the aliens know something the humans don’t. And of course, he’s waved off. Instead of writing drawn out scenes where McIntyre appeals to his fellow agents, Kaplan takes the quicker path. Instead, he treats us to an immediate confirmation of McIntyre’s intuition as all hell begins to break loose.
On the other side of the story, Rice finally admits to losing his badge in the field. (Technically, it was stolen by the alien assassin). In this issue we see Rice go from becoming unsure of himself and the ESA’s place in global security, to becoming an action hero seemingly hellbent on revenge. It is a common character arc seen in almost every genre of storytelling. And while some may find the trope to be tired, Kaplan is able to keep it fresh from the sheer honesty of his writing. Rice’s grief is palpable, yet not overly dramatic. It is relatable, yet personal to the character. It is devastating, yet not crippling. Most importantly it is both the strongest and weakest part of this issue.
My qualm with Rice in this issue is how fast he goes from grieving would-be-widower to action hero. Instead of going to counseling, he immediately goes to the armory after mentioning his stolen badge to the psychiatrist. His hunch turns out to be correct. Not only is the Qotil assassin alive but still using his badge to access things it shouldn’t be. So Rice does what any action hero would do. He mounts up and goes hunting. While I appreciate the immediate jump back into action after a brief hiatus and the brevity in the “dead girlfriend” trope, I think there is a balance between the two, and Kaplan tips it just slightly in one direction.
Andrea Mutti’s art continues to be a high point for me in this series. He captures grief, action, intrigue, and hostility in a way many comic artists cannot. What I continue to love about his work on Port of Earth is his creature and ship designs, and this issue does not disappoint. Whether it is the non-human, squid-like alien in the opening pages of the issue, or the exaggerated humanoid shape of the Qotil with its sharp, brutal armor plating and near-constant foaming mouth, Mutti’s designs are as unsettling as they are cool.
All in all, Port of Earth #5 is a great first issue to bring readers back into Kaplan’s world after the nearly three-month hiatus. While it doesn’t do anything drastic in terms of storytelling, it has some great action set pieces and doubles down on the more intimate character moments that help bring the reader into Kaplan’s Earth.
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