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ORPHANS OF THE IMPACT WINTER (review)—“Trying hard to be not yet gone”

Story: Lee A. Carlisle

Art: Ross Carlisle, Marina Gonçalves, Marco Ventura

Independent 2022

AN ODDLY MOVING dreamscape in a wasted world flickers in and out as one wades into ORPHANS OF THE IMPACT WINTER, a brief single tale that opens with gray panels scanning a sprawl of broken buildings and derelict machines on the outskirts of a cordoned city. Zoom in on a boy and his dog out scavenging for supplies, and the panels shift into squiggly cartoon colors, like waking up with a smile to start your day no matter what, the way the heart views it, in the zone, exposing alien architecture, strange beasts, shiny outfits, and a cheerful step. The dog walks upright like your pal, and talks, though appropriately, none of the talk comes out intelligible, except to the boy.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Except the moon is breaking up and is way too near the earth. Not sure how much time is left. Still need to eat every day, and it gets more challenging.

Mood swings flicker on and off like a spotty wireless connection. Faltering moments slip into grays. Finally, one poignant clip arrested my attention, and I comprehended what was going on. The cartoon face of the dog—disappointed they have no food, and the boy saying, no, no, I can’t go there, even if there is food—suddenly shifts into grays, showing the recognizable face of a miniature tri-color Aussie with sharp features and mismatched eyes more intelligent than you are. The penetrating look speaks. You feel it. Love calls. Not a cartoon anymore.

The real face of the boy sighs, “Fine. I’ll see what I can find.”

Cartoon imagery insulates the intensity. A final shot shows the real situation, neither gray, nor brightly colored, feeling extraordinarily intimate. The cartoonish action directs the way, then drops you there to see for yourself what it feels like. This is a good feat by author-artist partners Lee A. Carlisle and Ross Carlisle. Added colors by Marina Gonçalves and letters by Marco Ventura give it a springy step to move, and flicker.

It’s a common theme displaying how the world ends, leaving armed survivors, and scavenging orphans in a frightening place on the edge of doom, so I might have experienced the next scene, following the boy alone where he does not want to go to look for food, as a dramatic turn to give the story a tragic climax, just a good story, draped in a cartoon; instead it splattered into real life, emotionally: the moon is falling. I had just seen the same scenario in another comic (Once Upon a Time at the End of the World, writer Jason Aaron, Boom! Studios, 2022), showing an orphan castled away in a safe house, with a door in one of the hallways crisscrossed with hazard tape: “Keep Out.” The repetition, the flickering, connected a wavelength.

The parents behind the door are lovingly wrapped in each other’s arms, shriveled in death on the bed, very similar to the impact-winter boy peeking into the dining room downstairs to find, once again no doubt, his desiccated parents slumped over the dining table with a last drink, holding hands. This spoiler has to be allowed, because it may mean something more: if this is really two creators about the same time coming up with the same imagery independently, or even if copied from another source, it may be the power of an archetype, common to a generation.

Talking about symbols too closely is risky. The flickering imagery in Orphans of the Impact Winter helps you feel it in your own experience, in your own house, now, what the world is like when the moon is falling, and food is scarcer than ever.

[Editor’s note: More on this title can be found at its website – Comic | Orphans of the Impact Winter ]