The Goggler Pull List #34: Primordial

Dept. of Comic Book Compulsions

In this week’s installment of The Goggler Pull List, we review Primordial, the brand new alternative take on the space race from Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino.

Primordial (Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino)


The premise of Primordial is a deeply compelling one. Back in 1957, in those early years of the space race, the USSR sent a dog, Laika, up into Earth’s orbit. Two years later, the United States responded by sending two monkeys named Able and Baker. These brave animals, the first earthly creatures to venture beyond our planet and into space, never returned. But they didn’t die up there in orbit. They were taken.

That’s where Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s latest collaboration kicks off. Primordial is a subjunctive history, one that is inspired by the paranoia of the Cold War, and taken to its wildest and bizarrest ends. It is sci-fi. It is horror. It is a “what if?” that feels fresh and exciting.

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: Okay, let me get the gushing out of the way. We love both Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. Individually, they are two of the best creators working in the medium today. Together (as witnessed in the brilliant Gideon Falls), they have a rhythm that is shared by very few in the industry. Moore and Gibbons. Brubaker and Phillips. Wolfman and Perez. The way Sorrentino brings Lemire’s words to life is nothing short of astounding. There is a real dynamism in the way each page unfurls, from a Ditko-esque six panel grid, to an explosion of colour and space that is, in all honesty, completely overwhelming.

Primordial was already laser targeted towards a reader like me. Someone who isn’t just obsessed with that period of history, but also utterly preoccupied with the conspiracy theories of the time. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those whackjob idiots who thinks the moon landing was faked. I’m just a guy who loves whenever writers and artists ask “what if?” as a way to explore an idea?

What if Nixon beat Kennedy? What if the space race just fizzled out? What if those animals we sent up all those years ago suddenly came back?

Bahir Yeusuff: And it is that last question that really got me into this. Primordial has got a great concept. Those animals “did not die in orbit… they were taken. And now they are coming home.” I mean, come on! How does that not grab you by the scruff of the neck and scream read me!

That first issue is also just so well tuned. It is so tight. It does everything a great TV show pilot needs to do in its runtime. It needs to introduce the world (alternate reality, Nixon beat Kennedy, both Russia and America abandoned their space race, the Cold War still brewing), it’s characters, and it’s concept immediately. There have been a few comics that have done that to me. Kieron Gillen’s Die just immediately grabbed me. Something Is Killing the Children too. Nice House by the Lake did the same. In those first pages of the first issue, the writer can’t give away too much, but must do just enough to ensure that you will come back, and Lemire does everything right here. This isn’t a case where I have to read one or two more issues to see if this is something I’d love. Primordial gets it right immediately.

Also, the art is just amazing. Gorgeous. That style of drawing lifelike characters, almost as if they were traced from a photo. Doubled with Sorrentino’s wild colors and graphics. It just grabbed me and never let go. 


UA: For me it was also the concept. I’ve read so much about the space race, about both the Russian and American missions, and yet the fates of Laika, Abel, and Baker isn’t something I’ve spent much time thinking about. The reason the Russians sent up a stray dog was because it was dispensable. It’s the same with the Americans and their monkeys. We just don’t value an animal’s life as much as we do a human’s. But they were a critical factor in our next steps into space.

And so, the idea that there is somehow more to their story is just exciting to me. Because we’ve seen a take on what happens if the Americans had lost the space race (Apple TV Plus’ For All Mankind), we’ve seen how the world changes if JFK didn’t die in 1963 (Stephen King’s 11.22.63), but I don’t think anyone has done this story quite like this.

BY: And it does look like the story will be more focused on the aforementioned space animals. I mean, that last page itself is as good a cliffhanger as I have ever seen. But there is also so much to look at on every page. There’s a psychedelic element to the art. The panels are thrown across the page. There are characters talking from dark shadows. Each page is just so beautifully rendered that it took me much longer to get through this issue than most.

I was just staring at it, panel to panel, page to page. There is a sparseness to the pacing of this comic, but everything feels so tightly wound. I haven’t read anywhere near enough of Lemire’s stuff, but this shows me what I’ve been missing.

How much of the writer’s voice comes through in comics do you think? Is there a “Lemire” tone? I know I like the stories Chip Zdarsky tells, but I don’t know what Lemire’s “voice” is.

UA: There is most definitely a Lemire “voice.” His preoccupations vary. And you can tell from how broad his scope of work has been. Sweet Tooth is very different from Black Hammer, which is very different from Gideon Falls, which is very different from Old Man Logan and Moon Knight.

That said, he is definitely a comic book writer that has his own unique style. He isn’t quite as verbose as Tom King. Nor is he as philosophical as Kieron Gillen. I’ve found Lemire’s work to be rooted in the humanity of his characters. It doesn’t matter if they are superheroes or a kid with antlers, the thing he’s concerned with is how they cope with and navigate being human.

If I had to pinpoint Lemire’s voice, that’s what I would say it was.


BY: For me I love how he grounds and simplifies a high concept idea. Some of the examples that you’ve listed out have some high concepts, and in the wrong hands could become muddled and too high falutin. But like you said, Lemire focuses on very real human themes. And in a story about disposable animals sent to space, the “humanity” of it all will be a really interesting place to go.

There are already little nuggets of spy stuff happening, and maybe bigger political plays, and even bigger cosmic stakes. But that seems like an entry point to the story of Laika, and Able, and Baker.

I can’t wait for Issue #2. Also, being only six issues long feels like a strong creative decision. Like everyone working on this has a clear ending in mind, and God knows that always gets me excited.

UA: This also feels like a horror. And not just in the Event Horizon sense. Yes, the first issue hints at some dark and unknown force on the horizon, but there are also elements of nationalism and jingoism which are put forth as mirrors to what still happens today. 

All of the worldbuilding and mythmaking around that is top notch. It builds on the “what if?” stories that have come before while adding the welcome twist of exploring how it relates to our relationship with animals. 

It’s a very cunning way at making us reassess our present by forcing us to confront past sins. How do we treat organisms that we deem to be lesser than we are? What happens when humanity is the weaker, dumber, disposable species? 

I’m not entirely sure where this series is going, but it feels like it might force us to think about some of those things.


BY: We have five more issues and I really can’t wait. Like you, I think there are bigger things at play here, bigger things that will impact how we look at this story. This isn’t just an aliens against humanity story I don’t think. It can’t be. The way the humans in the story have written off the animals they sent out into space on their behalf feels like the catalyst of a bigger story.

There was a hesitancy for me in reviewing Primordial so early. One good issue doesn’t make for a good comic run. But, when you have a first issue as exciting as this was, I could not pass up the chance to talk about it. Like everything you’ve said, I want to read this issue again. I want to savor every page and every panel. It’s exciting and tense. There are mysteries, and spies, and politics, and cosmic stuff happening here. 

UA: I swear that’s all I’ve been doing. I’ve just been poring over these pages. Touching Sorrentino’s beautiful spreads. Just taking it all in. I swear it’s gotten in the way of my other reading.

I love how cinematic this comic book is. I love how the ill-defined panels force me to look at every page in a different way. And I love how all of it is laid out like a broken puzzle just waiting to be solved.

Honestly, this is such an intricate work that it makes so many of the other comics that I’m reading right now look downright plain and lazy.

We get our comics either from our local comic book store, The Last Comic Shop, or on Comixology. Are you interested in checking out Primordial? Have you already read this comic? Let us know by getting in touch with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out our previous installments of The Goggler Pull List here.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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