Boom Studios Broken World #2 by Frank J. Barbiere aims to pick up the pieces of its previous blockbuster opening. The story takes place three months after the “predicted impact.” In that time the remaining population has begun to adjust to life after (non)death. While the unlucky few who were not taken to the life sustaining outer space “arks”, they have been granted a new lease on life. Our title character Elena, however, does not share the same elation. She is living in the aftermath of the last transport off of Earth exploding before her eyes. With a government issued suicide kit in her possession she must make a choice. Elena is forced to find a way to either get busy living or get busy dying as Red says to Andy in The Shawshank Redemption.
This issue is interspersed with flashbacks to the five days following the non-impact and the present, three months after the impact. We see her grieving over the separation from her family. We also witness the beginnings of her revival. Through her experiences we see how her fellow survivors react to the recent incident. Rather than rebuilding, the remaining citizens of Earth have reverted to scavenging. Instead of working to fix their broken world, they have taken to exhausting its few remaining resources in a never ending celebration.
In a sense, this is the Earth living up to the comics’ name sake. The meteor may have not collided with the Earth. It was, though, enough to shatter the fragile civility of its citizens. Barbiere displays great restraint in these moments of the story. Rather than electing to echo post-apocalyptic worlds like The Walking Dead or Sweet Tooth, this Earth is in far less disarray. Its infrastructure remains in place. What remains is a general malaise. While it may not make for the action-oriented moments that those other comics possess, it infuses Elena’s story with a strong sense of melancholia and futility.
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One of those remaining citizens who is coping with this stasis is Elena’s former student Emma and her little brother Dan. Depicted with a t-shirt emblazoned with the Statue of Liberty, Emma is one of the confused faces of the new world. The illustration of this monument’s symbolism should not be overlooked. Below that famous landmark exists the famous words from The New Colossus “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The meaning of this famous phrase carries more weight than ever. Those that remain after the non-impact are free to begin a new life.
Unfortunately, those with a past are not as fortunate as immigrants of the 1800s. A fresh start meant a new country. The past lost its meaning. While Emma may have a chance at a new life, Elena’s memories of her past are far too present. She says “this world…it’s not for me. I’ve got nothing left here.” Little does she know that she may be the lamp that guides Emma and her brother to freedom.
Comics such as Broken World #2 are typically derided for their lack of plot and action. While that is a fair criticism of many such books, it is an unfair dismissal in this instance. In the previous issue, Earth narrowly averted the destruction of all of humanity. Under normal circumstances that would be the climax of another film or book. In Broken World, however, it is the setup for all the events that follow. Aside from the rare Mad Max: Fury Road, most stories must follow the trajectory of a rollercoaster, building to peak and falling into valleys. By the end of Broken World #2, we are given a glimpse at what should be a crashing conclusion as Elena discovers that there might still be a chance to get off of her broken planet.
Nick Bennett is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TheTVBuddy