Literature is at its best when it tackles the big questions that have long bedeviled humanity. Two of the biggest questions that will forever alter the trajectory of our civilization are: “Whether we are alone in the universe?” and “What happens after we die?”. Either question is complex enough to exist as the focus of its own novel or series. It takes a skilled and experienced writer to tackle them both in one series and Jeff Loveness is artfully exploring these questions in his new series, from AfterShock Comics, called World Reader. It should be no surprise that a story of such lofty ambitions has a home at AfterShock Comics which has housed such fantastic titles like Animosity and Dark Ark (which was the focus of my last interview). World Reader is a fascinating journey into the big questions of our universe.
So, what is World Reader about? The primary concept of the series is that the universe is dying. Humanity has been traveling the galaxy and we are realizing that every civilization we find has already been wiped out by something. This leads to the possibility that humans exist as the last species in the universe. A character, named Sarah, has the ability to talk to the dead of these lifeless worlds. Now Sarah finds herself hopping from planet to planet in an attempt to discover what is murdering all these civilizations. But something is pursuing her and time is running out.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Loveness about his new series. The below questions have not been edited and exist in full.
Please describe your writing style.
I’ve been a comedy writer for most of my career, so that’s always going to be my base- but I’ve always loved comic book storytelling: the limitless canvas and deep themes set amongst very personal, relatable characters. I’ve tried fusing the two styles together in my Marvel work, but for my first original series, I wanted to challenge myself and try another style… something a bit more dramatic and introspective in tone.
What inspired the creation of World Reader? It is a very unique series. How would you define its genre?
I love lonely sci-fi epics like Solaris or 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I always wanted to try something in that vein. I’d say it’s… Lonely Sci-Fi? I’m not sure if that’s a genre, haha. Did we just make it? Let’s say we made it.
I wanted to write something that got to the heart of why we explore. We’re all secretly hoping to find someone out there, just like us. And then I tried to take it a step further: Because how truly sad would it be if we found that there WERE people out there just like us… but we were too late?
According to Sarah’s narration, humanity is now alone in the universe. Is she correct?
Issue 5 revealed that life is still out there, barely hanging on… but then the actions of our superiors seemed to have ruined even that small chance. You’ll have to read issue 6 to see how it all wraps up.
Sarah can communicate, or at least interact with, the dead. Will the series explore the theological implications of this? Do all living beings share the same afterlife?
Oooh. Excellent, excellent question. I haven’t gotten that one before. Again, I’d say check out issue 6. That will be touched upon.
The reader is informed in issue #3 that Sarah once attempted suicide. In a universe where entire civilizations are being wiped out, is there a commentary to be found in an individual taking her own life?
As someone who struggles with depression, I think it’s easy to feel like you don’t matter in the grand scope of things, but I hope this story, and every story I write, reinforces the notion that “You” matter. Every life Sarah meets tells her their personal story. She traveled far across the Universe to hear the small, broken stories of small, broken people… because they matter. I hope that has a beneficial effect on readers. Every little story matters.
It says something about humanity that even amongst the backdrop of dying worlds and a dying Earth, there is still a love story at its center. What draws Harris to Sarah?
I think Harris is drawn to Sarah’s bravery, resilience, and willingness to go after the truth, even if it isolates her from the team. Sarah is drawn to Harris’ sense of wonder in the face of this abject cosmic loneliness. He believes her, trusts her, and works with her as an equal, not understanding what’s going on all the time, but he’s there because she’s there. It’s a true shame they didn’t meet under better circumstances, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Is Sarah’s connection to Harris solely due to Harris being the only person who believes her, or does her affection for him run deeper?
I think it’s deeper. I really love Harris’ big moment in issue 1- when he’s discussing the connection he feels with these beings who lived long ago wrote stories in a language he’ll never know. Sarah loves his optimism and charm… which is hard to come by when you’re surveying extinct planets.
Harris states that humanity needs to be saved by Sarah. While Sarah can see these dead worlds, what can she do against a creature capable of killing all life on a planet? Is her job to simply inform, or does she possess abilities that have yet to be explored?
You’re asking the hard questions! We’ll see how it shakes out in issue 6!
What can readers expect in upcoming issues of World Reader
We swing really big in the final issue! Juan Doe has truly nailed issue after issue, and I can’t wait for everyone to see how this all wraps up. Without spoiling it all… we basically… discover the meaning of life. Or at least try to. It’s complicated. You’ll see.