Color me impressed all across the board. I would have never guessed a pop star could have created a comic as deep and interesting as Skin & Earth. While not a frothing at the mouth fan of her music I am now a fan of her comic book. Understandably, however, is the fact that the book is a tie-in with LIGHTS’ upcoming album is easily enough to give someone pause. But what seems like some kind of strange mid-90s promotional gimmick that the Spice Girls might have thrown together ends up working out quite well here. Whatever connection this has with the album it’s not an in your face affair in Skin & Earth, thanks be to the comic gods.
Another surprising treat is the literary depth which resonates in the Skin & Earth. While LIGHTS spends a little too much time on En’s interactions with her kinda-sorta-maybe boyfriend Priest, the rest of the story is told through very mature prose and En’s haunting inner dialogue. We’re not told why she’s “sick,” why the world is split into the sick (the Reds) and the healthy (the Pinks), what she’s going to college for (even though normally Reds aren’t allowed to attend universities), nor are we made aware of what the actual sickness is and does to those infected. But, much like a good novel or slow burn drama, LIGHTS flows all these unknowns into a tense tale that forces you to take in what you’re seeing and reading as opposed to immediately looking for/wanting answers. Her main character, En, is an instantly relatable figure (though she does come off a bit post-apocalyptic manic pixie dream girl-ish) and LIGHTS fleshes out more character into her lead than many authors manage over entire arcs.
Impressively, LIGHTS not only writes the book but is the entire creative team behind the whole thing. So, while the artwork is a bit blase, it’s a bit more forgivable owing to the fact she’s solely responsible for it all. It does, stylistically, manage to fit the theme and hopeless melancholy of the book’s premise, a positive side affect of coming from a singular creative mind, I’m sure, but otherwise, there’s not much to see here. It suits its purpose at least.
If you’re not a fan of wordy, prose-driven literature Skin & Earth is definitely not for you. Not much happens in this first issue, as first issues are wont to do, but the first half of the book does an excellent job of setting up the rest of the story to come. True, the back half does falter a bit, with too much space wasted on backstory. Still, if you’re one, like me, who enjoys a bit more maturity in their comic book writing, then this book is a breath of fresh air among the boilerplate material out there.