Story by Curt Pires
Art by Jason Copland, Alexis Ziritt, Ian MacEwan, Andrew MacLean, Liam Cobb, Kevin Zeigler
Colors by Adam Metcalfe
Lettering by Colin Bell
Design by Dylan Todd
The Tomorrows is an experience. Overall, the book suggests themes without offering definitive conclusions and leaves gaps in the storyline. The reader must cooperate with the creators to complete the story, to give the piece meaning, and to decode the message. The content is designed to allow for multiple interpretations and for its meaning to change after each re-reading. This makes The Tomorrows an excellent investment of your time and money - as long as you're on-board for some mental exercise.
So when I write that I didn't enjoy the process of picking through The Tomorrows, it says more about my personality, about my own personal baggage than what was presented in the book. Really, it comes down to this; writer Curt Pires seems like the sort of madman who would break into my house and rearrange all of the books on my shelves by color. This experiment in anarchic library science, like The Tomorrows, is an interesting idea, looks pretty cool, and makes me think about my book collection in a different way. Unfortunately, both are ultimately useless when it comes to the business of everyday life.
The structure of the first volume of The Tomorrows is both its strength and its weakness. Each issue has its own beginning, middle, and end, with art provided by a different artist.
Issue #1, Jason Copland with action sequences inspired by contemporary cinema (above)
Issue #2, Alexis Ziritt with visceral, more abstract fighting (below)
Issue #3, detailed linework from Ian MacEwan (above)
Issue #4, Andrew MacLean with creative and stylized layouts (below)
Issue #5, Liam Cobb with more organic, emotional lines (above)
Issue #6, Kevin Zeigler with clear heavy lines, using regular geometric layouts to show passage of time (below)
Adam Metcalfe's saturated colors, Colin Bell's letters, and Dylan Todd's design provide some consistency between episodes, but maybe not enough. During my first read through the series, I found the changes in art disorienting. Sometimes I wasn't sure if I was looking at a new character or the same character drawn by a different artist. The discrete stories in each issue made me feel like I was missing something.
My confusion was resolved by the central conceit of the story. Once I reached the end of issue 6, I understood that every issue in the series was related, but not by the strict causal threads I was seeking. During my second reading of The Tomorrows, I was overwhelmed and impressed by how well the structure of the series reflected the main premise. Sorry for the vague language, but to say anything more specific about the plot might ruin the story. Still, expecting the audience to experience discomfort for the sake of an inspired ah-ha moment is a risky strategy that can ruin a book.
Something else that can ruin a story is a pile of inexplicable cultural references. The Tomorrows includes numerous call outs in plot, dialogue, and in footnotes, but I found that these allusions did not improve my understanding. An example might be a sex scene in issue 5, with keyword: Gaspar Noe "Love 3D" written outside a panel at the bottom of the page. I don't know why Pires wants the reader to compare this two page love scene with a movie notable for making two hours of unsimulated sex boring.
Similarly, at the bottom of a page from issue 6, the villain complains that "even nihilists get lonely" and Pires has included footnotes pointing to Nietzsche, Ligotti, and Heidegger. So.... so what? That's the general reading list for a Freshman philosophy class; these notes are too generic to be useful. My best guess is that the story was constructed around these references, selected randomly in advance, as a sort of dare. These footnotes are tracking which prompts have been resolved to satisfy the challenge.
I suppose that's the best way to describe The Tomorrows; it's as though the readers have been invited to review a personal art project passed around a group of creative friends, almost like an inside joke or a riddle. If you're a reader who can tolerate feeling 'out of the loop' then you may find the challenge of reading The Tomorrows quite rewarding. On the other hand, you might be more like me. I prefer my escapism to be more comprehensible than my daily life, so I'll be waiting for the annotated 10th anniversary edition to help me understand what I'm missing.