The very first page of the very first issue of The Passengers seems to already define it as a concept: Two quotes, hinting at the dark concepts and themes that will become apparent throughout the series, one from Ernest Hemingway, and the other from famed South African musician Tumi Molekane. And so, The Passengers is introduced, a dark urban fantasy set in our own South Africa, but which weaves storytelling and artistry on an international level in terms of quality.
Although I for one love the use of intertextual references to introduce ideas and concepts, a comic should of course also be judged on the writing and design of its own authors. The story begins with a look at our world, a world in conflict, where the plans and plots of dark demonic (or possibly angelic, who knows) forces are drawn up, designed to have an effect on people and places we have yet to encounter. All we can tell is that great events have been set into motion. From there, the story moves to Joel, a typical second year BA student at UCT, who harbours some hidden secrets of his own, secrets which he himself may not fully be aware of, except in his dreams. Joel is friends with the light-hearted Luke, and together the two find themselves caught up in more than they expected when they attend a party.
This first issue is very much an introductory comic, but does not suffer from that at all. A great deal of effort is made to show that a sweeping narrative is being established, rather than each issue merely being episodic. It is clear that an entire mythos is being constructed, and it makes the cliff-hangers and hinted points that this issue introduces all the more tantalizing for us as readers. It also of course makes the wait for the next issue somewhat more frustrating in some ways, which I would count as a success.
The art of the comic compliments the dialogue well, with both being colloquial and relatable, imminently local in flavour, but at the same time expressing arching concepts, scenes and higher powers just as well as it does the simpler, more down to earth scenes. All in all, the authors of this comic seem well on their way to establishing a genuine South African urban fantasy, where the themes are universal, but the events are back dropped against a local scenery in such a way that it becomes very pleasing to see what we as readers will recognise next.
The Passengers is available online for free, and the second issue will be up by the 2nd of July. If you are a South African, or indeed any lover of comic books with more adult themes than the mainstream press, then you owe it to yourself to take the 15 minutes necessary to go through this production, and see what the bright creative minds of our local scene are creating today.
Read The Passengers online: