Literature plays a role far more significant to society than simply enjoyment. A properly weaved story can entice people to ponder the integral questions about the world around them. To question an idea or situation is to be awoken to the potential injustices happening around us. Ultimately, great literature is the germ in which action may pullulate. A literary craftsman can accomplish this in several ways, but no way has proven as effective as the allegory. Following in the footsteps of Pride of Baghdad, Metropolis, and 1984, comes Image Comics’ fantastically written and thought provoking series The Few by the phenomenal Sean Lewis.
For those who are not yet familiar with Lewis’s series, it takes place in a dystopian America awash in war, rebellion and tyranny. The Few centers around Edan Hale who may, or may not, still be an agent of the authoritarian Palace, and who has been tasked with infiltrating the rebellious Remainder States of America. Along the way, she finds herself caring for a baby, whom she covers with a gas mask, and being haunted by a soldier she has killed. Her motives are not clear as she reaches the Remainder States.
Having the opportunity to discusses Lewis’s new title, I first wanted to understand his writing process.
“It usually starts with an image — in the case of The Few, I kept seeing this image of a child in a gas mask, Lewis told me. “Everything starts as prose. I write a short story for each issue. This is usually between 2,00 and 3,000 words and encapsulates action, world, location and early dialogue. I then get that to the artist and let them create the work into panels. The panels come back to me and I write final dialogue. All the editing happens within each incarnation. This way the story and the art evolve together.”
This parallels the Marvel style in which the artist creates the page,prior to the final dialogue being added to the story. It has certainly proven effective for Lewis, who has also written the critically acclaimed series, The Saints, also by Image Comics.
One important aspect of The Few is its timely nature; it’s perfectly suited to reflect today’s political chaos. I asked Mr. Lewis about his inspiration for The Few and why he felt that now was the perfect climate in which to release this title.
“I’m a New Yorker who lives in Iowa. Traveling back and forth for work I kept seeing how divisive and angry people were, Lewis responded. “I like genre. I think it’s a good way to talk about things with at least a little distance — setting things in a sci-fi world lets people get out of themselves a bit. I felt it would be good to talk about what people believe. What makes a person a terrorist? A freedom fighter? What makes anyone right? This is what I think about a lot lately.”
Mr. Lewis, wisely, was less revealing in discussing the true motives of Hale. A mystery that propels the action is whether Hale has renounced her fealty to The Palace.
“Oh man, you know you gotta read to find that out,” was his only reply. Lewis was also cagey about whether the true villain of this series was The Palace or the Remainder States. “I’m not giving that up.”
One potential insight into the changing allegiance of Hale may be gleaned by the fact that she is protecting a baby that is not hers. I felt that this baby may affect how Hale viewed herself and the world.
“I just had a son. A baby, even for the most unsentimental of us, in which I’d include myself, changes you, man,” Lewis revealed. “It’s the one last pure thing about us, I think, that when we see something so completely fragile and in need we can’t help but submit to it. Hale is tough, a soldier but when she sees this being that needs her… she suddenly knows she has to do this. She has to help. She has to risk herself.”
Another interesting twist that occurs in this story is appearance of Ephraim, the ghost of a man Hale killed. It is not entirely clear if this ghost is simply a figment of Hale’s guilt or if Ephraim is legitimately there. What is clear is that Ephraim advises Hale. But is he just telling Hale what she wants to hear?
“I think we all are haunted by moments, people, ideas,” Lewis said. “I think our ghosts tend to both say what we think we deserve and what we might not be willing to say to ourselves. Ghosts take us to task. I’m an Irish Catholic; my guilt is a constant ghost. Ephram is a morality in an immoral world. He is the only person who seems to question this sad world he lives in.”
So, what can readers look forward to in future issues of The Few?
“I promise the book keeps shifting and surprising you,” according to Lewis. “There are a lot of secrets in that world and when they start to come undone, look out!”