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Colleen Doran – A Distant Soil, Vol. 1: The Gathering

June 6, 2014

40. The Gathering by Colleen Doran (1987)
A Distant Soil, Volume 1

Length: 394 pages
Genre: Sci-Fi, Graphic Novel

Started: 21 May 2014
Finished: 22 May 2014

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Random pick off the shelf.

Even being half
alien doesn’t explain
all that feathered hair.

Summary: Liana and her older brother Jason have been institutionalized for years, not to protect them from themselves, but so that their psychic powers can be studied. They manage to break out, but Liana’s powers are not entirely under her control, which makes her dangerous even to those trying to help her. Also dangerous is the fact that the siblings are being hunted not only by the scientists, but also by the Ovanan, an alien race to which Liana and Jason’s father belonged. The Ovanan rely on an Avatar, a being who can tap into the minds of everyone in their civilization and harness their mental energy as a weapon. Liana is an Avatar, so the current Avatar’s faction is trying to eliminate her as a threat. But there are deeper political currents within the Ovanan than anyone realizes, and they could put not only the young people’s lives, but also the Earth itself, in jeopardy.

Review: Colleen Doran started A Distant Soil when she was a teenager, and it kind of shows. There are a lot of elements crammed together here – psychic powers and street punks and aliens and dystopian collectives and secret resistance groups and a god who doesn’t want to be god anymore and a cop with a heart of gold and alien expats and an Arthurian knight who gets pulled into modern times but only speaks Welsh and all sorts of things. And all of these things are so disparate that the feel like they were included because they’re cool, but for me they never really gelled into anything cohesive. Maybe it gets better in later volumes, but this one didn’t grab my interest enough to make me want to stick around and find out.

Am I wrong? I'm not wrong. Those are both males.

Am I wrong? I’m not wrong.

The confusingness of all of the various elements really wasn’t helped by the artwork. It is exceptionally detailed, and each individual panel on its own would be exquisite, but put all together there is just SO MUCH going on all the time that it’s overwhelming and hard to visually track what you’re supposed to be looking at. Also hard to follow are the characters. I don’t know if it’s the 80s haircuts or what (and hoo boy are these some fantastically feathered 80s haircuts), but all of the characters looked alike to me, and there’s a lot of characters, so I had a really hard time following who was doing what and why. It didn’t help that most of the aliens (and some of the humans) are drawn as exceptionally androgynous – between the feathered hair and the overly-developed pectoral muscles that look like breasts when you put them in a bodysuit, I had a really hard time distinguishing the gender of a lot of the characters for most of the book, which led to even more confusion – for example, when a character was talking about something another character did using the “he” pronoun to refer to someone I’d thought was female. I also am still not entirely clear on how old Liana is supposed to be; sometimes she looked 12 and sometimes she looked 18, and she could be acting young because she is young, or because she’s scarred from being institutionalized and experimented on. The story never made it clear, and the artwork didn’t help.

So, overall, too much going on with not enough of it making sense, and just plain not my cup of tea. Sometimes the random graphic novels I grab off the shelves at the library turn out to be awesome, and… sometimes not. 2 out of 5 stars.

(The hairstyles are hilariously fabulous, though.)

Recommendation: Eh. There are people whose opinions I respect who love it (Neil Gaiman writes the intro, for heaven’s sake) but I will not be joining their ranks.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: The Written World
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Good morning Liana, you have a visitor.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 6, 2014 11:47 am

    Good thought son this one… I know Neil Gaiman is huge but I have yet to find “the love”… I keep trying though :)

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