EDEN II by K. Wroten
Format: Paperback / Softback
Dimensions: 8.2″ × 10.5″
On sale date: August 29, 2023
A blistering critique of digital media and a kaleidoscopic depiction of consumer culture, Eden II is both fanciful and satirical, a combination of deft cartooning and virtuosic storytelling.
In the grungy, punk-inflected world K. Wroten creates, a cast of disaffected young characters struggle to find their purpose in life. Faced with a dying Earth and numbingly useless jobs, protagonists Ellis and Dr. Otis Heck invent an immersive virtual reality game, Eden II. But when Heck betrays Ellis and sells the game to a mysterious corporation, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur. As each chapter highlights a new character in the ensemble, the game’s impact grows as the world becomes consumed by fantasy.
Coming off the heels of their acclaimed queer comics Cannonball and Crimes, Eden II is Wroten’s magnum opus, establishing them as a breakout graphic novelist. Philosophical, sarcastic, self-assured, Eden II is a vital work of the moment that positions Wroten alongside recent comics luminaries like Emily Carroll, Caroline Cash, Isabel Greenberg, Melanie Gilman, and Tillie Walden. Reminiscent of the stylized angst of Gregg Araki and Jamie Babbit’s works, Wroten’s imagery in Eden II reflects the blighted pastiche of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker—and they have suffused that pastiche with a dark sense of humor and technologically enhanced moral ambiguity.
PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
In a world where comics often stick to a specific pattern of stereotypes, it is always refreshing when a book comes along that not only breaks away from the norm, but instills in its readers a more profound sense of meaning. K. Wroten’s latest book is chock-full of commentary on the modern world’s obsession with digital entertainment and our ever-expanding consumerist culture. To readers and newcomers to Wroten’s work, the biggest standout is that even if you are unfamiliar with Wroten as a creator, delving into this volume will lead you down rabbit holes to a Wonderland of self-discovery.
Writing: Wroten writes with a deft skill that, once readers make their way through the book once or twice, really clicks in the mind. While the plot does make use of satire as a tool to open the mind by calling out two of the primary focuses of society’s potential self-destruction, it is skillfully woven and intermingled within the development of the characters, whether it is Ellis or Dr. Heck or anyone else that shows up throughout. A story like this, which seeks to caution its audience about the already slippery slope we are on, is a prime example of the kind of fine writing that has found a place within the comics community over the years.
Art: Having researched K.’s work before reading through Eden II, the art style reflects the punk-infused, chaotic world that Ellis and company inhabit. The linework is thick and vivid and plays well with the script in a very similar way that this reviewer did not expect. The only issue here is that, having been raised on a diet of artwork from mainstream comics over the years, it is off-putting that most of the character’s eyes and facial expressions seem to penetrate right into one’s soul and disconcertingly hold sway. It was very distracting at times, like a scene from a movie or TV show that takes one out of the plot for even a brief moment. This is what lead to this book requiring two read-throughs to be able to fully grasp the message of the plot, and if the art in a graphic novel takes away from someone being able to appreciate
We live in a world constantly teetering on the brink of chaos. To either avoid it or cope with it in some small measure, people seek out distractions in the form of entertainment or the old standby of “therapy shopping.” Eden II aims to call out these escapes through the medium of comics to convey the author/artist’s concerns in a profound manner. While I am beyond certain that K. Wroten’s work is brilliant all-around, Eden II hit the mark in terms of getting to the heart of the matter. As previously stated, however, the in-your-face, soul-penetrating artwork was off-putting. If anyone is a newcomer to this creator’s work and can get past that barrier, Eden II is worth picking up and diving into.
4 out of 5 Stars
Publisher – Fantagraphics
For over 40 years, Fantagraphics has published the very best comics and graphic novels that the medium has to offer. Our mission is to celebrate great cartooning in all of its incarnations, from the form’s early luminaries to contemporary artists currently forging the future of visual storytelling. Not content to rest on our laurels and extensive roster of talented artists, we constantly seek out fresh voices from across the globe. Thus, we honor the rich history of comics while providing a platform for bold new stories, styles, and perspectives that push the boundaries of the medium. Fantagraphics remains peerless in our commitment to be the publisher of the world’s greatest cartoonists.