Expansion, by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward

Expansion, Part One
By Matt SheeanMalachi Ward
2010, Self-Published (Distributed by AdHouse Books)

Expansion is a three part series of comics, penciled by Matt Sheean and otherwise composed and animated by Malachi Ward, set in something like a Star Wars past – it’s “billions of years ago” and the universe is “a smaller, denser place, teeming with intelligent life,” according to their preface. The plot in Part One and Two follows two pilots who have accidentally stumbled into a temporal distortion inhabited by religious fundamentalists, waiting out the death of civilization beyond their isolation, where time moves at an exponentially greater speed.

The first two installments are relatively fast-paced and occasionally I found myself wishing the plot could be more fleshed out in places, but given the difficulty of illustrating, promoting, and distributing an independently published comic book on your own, it’s not hard to imagine why Ward didn’t set out to write something in larger than twenty-eight page installments. Nonetheless, Ward’s illustrations and plot are what elevates the comics; his focus on science and history, here and in other publications, echoes Asimov on every page. Ward and Asimov have told stories with great historical sweep, but their distinctiveness lies in the potential of science, which both use to liberate the confines of their respective narratives. I can’t necessarily relate to a spaceship full of fundamentalists or their hierarchy of monkish Politikos, but few among us could have related to them if they were here on Earth, and that’s a familiar enough scenario.

Sheean and Ward have also done a really wonderful job attending to the specifications of the comics. So far, they’ve been luxuriously printed on large sheet of heavy paper, with a standard comic staple binding. I’m still holding out hope that a finished series will get some kind of omnibus treatment by some friendly comic publisher out there, but in the meantime, the individual issues are awesome.

It may be a surprise to see us reviewing a comic here, but we’ve always had an interest independent publishing and Sheean and Ward’s comic is a great introduction to another facet of it. You can buy parts one and two here, but the catalog at their distributor, AdHouse Books, is a great place to find a ton of other awesome indie comics if you feel so inclined.