2023 / Christopher Yost, Val Rodriguez, Dearbhla Kelly, Andworld / Vault Comics
Unnatural Order is a sci-fi horror-spiked comic book that reads as well as it looks. There is a real powerhouse group of creatives here and they’re not afraid to play with the comic book medium. With their powers combine, Chris, Val, and Dearbhla smash worlds together breaking all reader expectations.
Christopher Yost has proven his worth as a comic book writer since the early 2000s. Eventually, Chris went on to write for some very familiar animated shows like X-Men: Evolution and The Batman. Most recently Chris helped write for the Marvel blockbuster film Thor Ragnorak, which is peak MCU. The dude’s got chops, yet this is his return to comics in some years, and even better than taking up a gig at Marvel or DC, which one would expect, instead he makes a splash with his first creative-owned work.
The artist behind this slightly gory, yet utterly terrifying first issue, and each subsequent issue, is Val Rodriguez. The aesthetic of Unnatural Order is akin to Conan, yet the reveal at the end of the first issue makes me believe that we’ll be seeing technology clash with this natural world. The artwork is at its best when a spectacle is revealed, be that a team of badass barbarians flying into battle or broccoli people shooting up a bank (check out Val’s previous work Deep Roots). He has a light touch to his work, adding texture and detail where it’s essential. The characters of Unnatural Order have expression, and the tone of the world is conveyed in each intentional stroke.
Val’s pencils are brought to life with Dearbhla Kelly’s colors. She amplifies the mood exponentially. I particularly like when a particular character or action will cause a tonal shift bringing shades of red or green to the forefront. This is effective when ramping up to those spectacular spreads. My only other exposure to Dearbhla’s colors is Vault Comic’s I Walk With Monster’s which is a fantastic-looking book, with an empowering message, although the story got a bit convoluted along the way.
Unnatural Order takes place as the Greeks explore Hibernia just before Christ. The Greeks happen upon a Druid and his Oak Tree, in which he draws his power and rules the land. The Druid's intentions are unclear in the first issue but he’s portrayed to be vile. Meanwhile, a Witch and her band of misfits set out to end the Druid's reign of terror. This cast of characters is caught off guard when they discover someone known as the 'The Prisoner'. The events unfold in a way that reminds me of a group of friends getting down on a good ol' fashion game of DND.
This story portrays the clash of technology vs nature, practicality vs spirituality, and hope vs destruction. That hunch is only strengthened once I googled Unnatural Order and was led to Jim Mason’s book An Unnatural Order: Roots of Our Destruction of Nature. I think you can infer what that book is about based on the title.
I lapped up Unnatural Order, and it occurred to me that this is a story as old as man. Gilgamesh and the Book of Ur is essentially a telling of this push and pull. I have always been intrigued by the ever-growing grey area between these two forces. Can these ideals live in harmony? Are humans able to adapt to the future while staying true to our roots? Unnatural Order seems to be all about intertwining these strings in order to tell a new story, one of history, and of science, and of fiction.