Stairway Vol 1
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Artist: Raffaele Ienco
Volume one of Stairway collects the first three chapters of what looks to be a promising science fiction story. Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around a discovery made by Dr. Alicia Vander. She found 600 pieces of code hidden inside our DNA as well as a further 66 segments which are unique to specific individuals. Yes, that means there are 666 in total. When combined the codes activate a secret device, however, no one knows where it came from or what it will do. Each issue follows the account of trillionaire Gregory Hopkins who is speaking before a committee after causing some sort of catastrophic event by collecting the pieces and activating the device.
If it sounds like you already know too much, believe me, you don’t. There are only three chapters, but they are well paced and move quickly. The story itself contains several deeply human and tragic scenes which make it feel more like a dramatic thriller at times. However, an outlandish action sequence or incredible technological phenomenon is never too far away.
The other hook is the mystery of the code. Theories about where the device came from and what it is meant for, ranging from divine intervention to alien contact, are teased throughout. Despite this, the revelation in the final chapter is still hard hitting and will leave most readers pondering its implications long after they’ve finished reading.
The two central characters are Dr. Alicia Vander and Gregory Hopkins. Hopkins is quickly established as your typical cutthroat corporate type that is willing to do anything to get results. Most comic fans will already be familiar with the type, what makes him compelling is his justification. Similar characters normally base their decisions on the philosophy that the ends justify the means. While the same is true of Hopkins, writer Matt Hawkins has found a unique take on the idea which stops it from being a cliché and turns into an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, it’s hard to explain without major spoilers but if you stick with Hopkins through his ruthless actions you’ll find a more complex character than initially expected.
Dr. Vander, on the other hand, provides a counterweight to Hopkins. When we meet her, she is a slave to her work and something of a puppet. Her struggle to balance family life with work makes her easily relatable but she also isn’t immune to making the selfish choice. This adds another level of depth to her personality. Throughout the story, she becomes more independent and aware of the implications of her actions which makes for a satisfying story in itself.
Visually, the strength of the colours used is beautifully done. Raffaella Ienco’s use of colour and lighting in undeniably impressive. When there are crazy, unbelievable events happening, such as the kidnapping of a child or the detonation of a nuclear bomb, this works to bring the event to life and creates a very vivid atmosphere. During the more human and personal scenes, however, it can serve as a hindrance. The powerful colours are used throughout and don’t always match the tragic nature of the events they are capturing.
The care taken with the artwork is impressive. A lot of detail and care is put into the close-ups images of people’s faces which captures the emotion behind the events. Events are easy to follow and there’s a lot to appreciate about Ienco’s work.
Stairway is a gripping read, however, it is ultimately just setting the stage for the real story to start. The final revelation sets up a great premise for a sci-fi book and there’s a lot of potential moving forward.
On a final note, the end of the volume also contains some information about the discovery and nature of DNA. Hawkins also writes about the religious and scientific influences on the book which is a very nice bonus.
Stairway volume 1 sets the foundation for an intriguing science fiction story with a very unique premise. The plot is well structured and takes time to flesh out the two central characters. There are flashes of brilliance among the artwork but also some missed opportunities. This is definitely one for sci-fi fans to keep their eye on moving forward.