18th May2022

‘Eight Billion Genies #1’ Review (Image Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Charles Soule | Art by Ryan Browne | Published by Image Comics

I was going to start this review by saying that I chose this book as I felt it was time for my indie fix, but then thought that was doing this book a disservice. It would be better to say I wanted to have a read away from the big two of Marvel and DC, where quantity over quality is sometimes the order of the day. Fresh thinking and new ideas come from the smaller publishers, indeed the freedom to try such things is positively encouraged. Big name writers, like Charles Soule on this book, no longer work in the indies just to move up to the big boys, but voluntarily come back to stretch themselves as writers and try out new ideas. Eight Billion Genies certainly has the look of a book that is different, but definitely a lot of fun. So, what have we got?

We start in Michigan, at the Lampwick Bar & Grill, which seems quite the hive of activity. Twelve-year-old Robbie has come on his birthday, not to celebrate, but to collect his passed out drunk Dad, while local band the Bada-Bangs are hoping tonight’s the night they get noticed. Throw in two seemingly lost Chinese tourists, and all seems relatively straightforward. Sure, Mr. Williams the bartender can mysteriously speak Chinese but hey, learning languages is a good thing. Then it all gets weird.

After a mysterious birth in Paris, suddenly everywhere around the world genies appear. Small, friendly-looking imp-like creatures, they seemingly appear everywhere at once, one for every person on Earth. Everyone gets their own genie, and every genie will grant their ‘owner’ one wish. I’m guessing you can’t wish for a hundred wishes, but it seems almost anything else goes. So, is this a good thing? bad? neutral? are the genies good? bad? just mischievous? Whatever or whoever they are, there are now 8 million genies on Earth, and a few of them are in the Lampwick Bar & Grill in Michigan. Mr. Williams makes his wish immediately, that no wish made outside the bar can affect the bar or anyone or anything in it. I think Mr. Williams knows which way this is all probably going to go.

He’s not wrong. Within the first 8 minutes, 2 million genies disappear, and 1 million people. I guess there is some major revenge wishing going on… The bar itself becomes a microcosm of what’s going on elsewhere, which I guess was why Soule decided to focus mostly on a small place with just a handful of characters. Human nature on full display. One band member tries to use their genie to make another love her, taking away his free will. It fails, and he’s pretty pissed that she even tried. Robbie’s Dad Ed has woken up and made the mistake of looking outside the door. It’s not good. In fact all around the world, it’s not good. Money. Superpowers. Taking away disabilities. Flying. Sexual deviancy with no judgement, and fame. Whatever the wish, most are underpinned by one main emotion. Selfishness.

Ah, human nature. Never change.

This was a great read, it almost felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone, which may have been where Charles Soule got the original idea from. The clever use of the bar to tell the main story, with its collection of characters reflecting the world at large, enables Soule to tell an effective story. We’ll get updates of the world at large I’m sure, but the more intimate story always works better, rather like M. Night Shyamalan’s use of one family farm to tell the story of an alien invasion. This issue was an effective scene setter, and I look forward to see where it’s going. Not anywhere good I’m guessing. The art by Ryan Browne was very nice, and had a sort of old school feel to it, like those old science fiction books. A good thing, as it helped create the atmosphere that the script then maintained. A great team on a great book.

What would you wish for? Nothing? Everything? What if you got your heart’s desire knowing it would ruin someone else’s life?

You don’t just read this book, in a way you join in, you live it. Great stuff.

**** 4/5


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