REVIEW: A Distant Soil vol. 1: The Gathering by Colleen Doran
Princes and monarchs will contend
Who first unto your land shall send
And pawn the jewels of the crown
To call your distant soil their own.
—Henry David Thoreau
This weekend, I attended Boston Comic Con at which the talented Colleen Doran was a guest. Doran was literally the first woman in comic books I ever encountered, when I began reading The Sandman when I was 16 (though technically, both Jenette Kahn and Karen Berger’s names were on those books as well).
Her art struck me deeply even then, back when I barely grasped comics art and admittedly spent more time on the words than the pictures. In the third volume, Dream Country, she and Neil Gaiman reimagined the Element Girl’s existence as a tragedy. The Element Girl constructs a synthetic face from the elements so she could enjoy meeting an old friend for lunch, only to have it fall into her food— of course that sequence itself was memorable, but Doran was also able to clearly draw in the friend’s face confusion, horror, and concern in one expression, in just one panel. And Doran’s miniseries with J. Michael Straczynski, The Book of Lost Souls (soon to return, at long last, from Image Comics), was one of the first comics I started buying in issues, and the first I bought for the artist.
So it confuses even me to realize that I’ve previously never read more than a few dozen pages into A Distant Soil, Doran’s most famous work. It has been available for free on her website for as long as I can remember but whether due to my short attention span or continued attachment to paper, it just hasn’t gotten read. But I have been anticipating the definitive re-issue ever since it was first announced, and have followed the travails of the restoration process: learning the printer had destroyed the original negatives, tracking down long-sold off art, hiring restorationist Allan Harvey, and a generous gift of a high-resolution scanner and computer with the necessary processing power from JMS are but a few of the peaks and valleys. All told, the restoration has cost upwards of $100,000.
I was able to pick up a copy early at Boston Comic Con from Doran herself, and I think Doran and Image should not have too much trouble earning that back. (Full review under the cut.)