Top Cow has come up with an ingenious way to test the waters on new book ideas to see if they will fly. Much as the TV networks each year sanction the creation of pilot episodes of prospective new shows to gauge how they might look and whether they will succeed, Top Cow has created a "Pilot Season" of their own, in which they release 6 one-shots that could potentially become an ongoing series if the demand is high enough. In this contest, fans vote in a poll posted on a special MySpace page, and the top two vote getters will be rewarded with a shot at a monthly series. Neat idea, isn't it?
Last year's two winners were both superhero books, but this year there is one straight-up sci-fi nominee, and that's Jonathan Hickman and Kenneth Rocafort's The Core. Packed jammed-tight into 24 slick pages is a little bit of everything I like to see in my space operas: politics, intrigue, combat, and groovy alien races. A lot happens in this issue, but let's face it: it's the creators' big shot at trying to land an ongoing gig, and they lay out their scenario at a breakneck pace. Too bad that, as I post this, voting is 24 hours away from closing, and this book is only in fourth place!
The Core of the title refers, quite literally, to the center of the universe, where populated worlds are more closely packed together and the home of several ancient coalitions which over the millennia have steadily expanded outward. After so much passage of time, the inner worlds of the Core are low on resources, making them more desperate for new member worlds as they branch out. As the story opens, Earth has only recently been accepted into the Dahiba Federation, but the alliance is an uneasy one because humanity is making many demands which the Dahiba resent but grudgingly put up with for access to the Sol system’s resources.
Enter our POV character Asimov Dedeken (great name, huh?), the first human to be accepted into Red Sector, which is the Federation's religion-tinged special ops forces. We are along for the ride for Asimov's baptism of fire, joining four other ops for a rescue mission to recover a captive ambassador taken hostage by separatists, most likely on the orders of the Federation's foes, the Saano Solidarity. Amidst the action, Asimov absorbs more and more about the political makeup of the Core, and what exactly he has gotten himself into. He learns about the world that Hickman and Rocafort have devised even as we do. The book ends with a bit of a twist that ensures our hero is in for a big-time moral dilemma in the days ahead.
Hickman and Rocafort have crafted a universe that seems like a cool place to spend some time. Rocafort is a good imaginative penciller, and the pages are colored to give them a painted look. In terms of design, the alien creatures, ships and interiors are all eye-catching, and it's fun to pore over the pages and really take a look around. Hickman's writing is mostly solid; sure there's a lot of infodump but, again, they have just the one issue to lay out the book's premise. I could gripe about a few punctuation errors and odd sentence structures, but shouldn't an eagle-eyed editor have caught those?
I liked The Core quite a bit, I would rate it a 8/10. I would love to see more of it. Unfortunately, as I said, the book is not a frontrunner, and voting closes at the end of the day. Not sure why the deadline had to be quite this soon, I only got my copy from Westfield about a week ago. If the book sounds at all good to you, you don't need to take my word for it, as the entire issue is posted for free up at Newsarama. If you agree that we need to go back to the Core, head on over to the Pilot Season page and vote. Probably a last minute hail mary is too little too late to disrupt a poll that has been going on for a month, but it's worth a shot!