Celestia review – a new sci-fi epic from Manuele Fior

From award winning Italian comic artist Manuele Fior comes the highly anticpated Celestia, one of his most ambitious works yet. The “Great Invasion” originated from the sea. It moved north across the mainland. Many fled, while some took refuge on a small concrete island called Celestia, built over a thousand years ago. Now cut off from the mainland, Celestia has become an outpost for criminals and other misfits, as well as a refuge for a group of young telepaths. Events push two of them, Dora and Pierrot, to flee the island and set sail to the mainland. There, they discover a world on the precipice of a metamorphosis, though also a world where adults are literally prisoners of their own fortresses, unintentionally preserving the “old world” at a time when a new generation could guide society towards a better humanity.

If you have seen any of his previous works, you’ll know Fior’s main strength is his stunning visual storytelling. As we discussed in our spotlight of his previous work 5,000 Kilometers Per Second, Fior has a mastery of watercolour that is hard to rival. The range he has is quite astounding which varies from a boat being battered by a storm at night whilst out at sea, a sun-soaked swimming pool or an action-oriented scene featuring Dora fleeing from a masked figure that blends into the shadows. His techniques really enhance the ambience and mood of the story he is telling. This can be adapted to whatever genre he is working on whether it be drama or – in this case – science fiction. It also aids the transitions between scenes which come off seamlessly, even with drastically different setting and actions.

Story-wise, this another example of Fior pushing his creative envelope. After the rather grounded drama of 5,000 Kilometers Per Second, he seems to have settled quite comfortably into the science fiction realm. The post-apocalyptic world theme is one that has been delved into heavily, but it always works best when it looks at how such a scenario impacts humans and how they adapt. Celestia is very much in that vein with a poignant examination on whether humanity should cling to their old life or try to make something new in the world they currently have. Dora and Pierrot are an intriguing pair of leading characters too, with Dora trying to move past a traumatic event from her past whilst the gruff unsettled Pierrot has little patience that leads to plenty of bickering between the two.

Celestia is another visual feast from Fior that demonstrates his considerable skill with water colours and storytelling. He has proven again that he is definitely a talent to follow.

Celestia is out now from Fantagraphics
(9781683964384, h/b, £25.99)

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