Botema, seen here on the cover of the new Image Comics book Afar. (credit: Image Comics)

Sci-fi stories often tantalize us with visions of travel to other worlds—and the promised glory that accompanies such journeys. Turning this familiar trope on its head, Afar, a new graphic novel from Image, written by Leila Del Duca and drawn by Kit Seaton, suggests that such dreams might be more nightmarish than we expect—at least initially. It challenges the premise that extra-planetary travelogues must revolve around the acquisition of mastery or power. Instead, the shifting worlds of Afar remind us that we are never less in control than when we leave the familiar behind.

Early in the book’s first chapter, a young woman named Botema begins to suspect that she is not entirely herself when she sleeps. Each time she closes her eyes, she unwillingly leaves her own post-apocalyptic milieu—a world of arid deserts and ancient technology—behind. No mere tourist, she occupies other bodies as she travels. To her horror, she often takes on monstrous forms. “I think I travel to other planets when I sleep,” she finally confesses to her brother.

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