For many, the story of Aladdin may be the first mention of the Genie, a powerful mystical spirit from Arabian folklore infamous for granting wishes. Since then, this concept has caught hold of everyone’s imagination, becoming a popular character in many different stories. While even one wish getting granted could be monumental, what happens when the whole wide world gets its wishes granted? Image Comics’ latest title works on this very premise, bringing an interesting conundrum to the comic book medium. Written by Charles Soule, with artwork by Ryan Browne and letters by Chris Crank, Eight Billion Genies #1 gives a peek into the first eight minutes as the world goes mad.
Eight Billion Genies #1 creates a world where anything is possible, but that brings its own kind of danger. The story opens in The Lampwick Bar and Grill in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, where only a few are in attendance. Inside, three musicians are setting up shop on stage as a kid walks in to take his drunk father home while a pair of tourists arrive, lost and confused. Though it seems that nothing exciting was happening, suddenly the situation takes a turn. Small ethereal creatures appear in front of everyone and announce that they are genies, here to grant everyone a wish, so choose wisely. To the amazement of everyone present, the bartender makes a surprising wish that they can perhaps save their lives.
Wishes are nothing but the missing pieces in one’s life, yet they have the power to break the workings of society, bringing everything tumbling down on itself. Eight Billion Genies #1 takes its time to build up the backstories, introducing all the players on the field before plunging straight into the heart of the plot. The storytelling in the book is quite interesting, with the pace starting out slow, allowing characters to have interpersonal interactions that not only flesh out their roles but also provide exposure through dialogue. Writer Charles Soule lets the intrigue build to critical mass and parts the curtain at the right moment, turning the entire story on its head. A linearly flowing tale, Eight Billion Genies #1 gives its denizens a chance to succumb to their weaknesses or make something great out of it.
The artwork of Eight Billion Genies #1 embodies both the wackiness of the absurd and the grittiness of grounded reality, creating a dichotomy of styles that works remarkably well with the plot. For the most part, artist Ryan Browne explores the drab interiors of a rundown bar, letting the readers soak in the atmosphere as the panels give equal focus to each character. As for the tiny, levitating Genies, Browne gives them a starry torso, each having their own unique design, from outdated facial hair to graphic tees. As chaos grips the world, the visuals get increasingly fun, bringing people’s imaginations to life in the wildest way possible.
Eight Billion Genies #1 does what it says on the label: eight billion genies for eight billion people on earth. What should have been a utopia has turned into Armageddon. As people spend their one precious wish most unwisely, it causes massive death and mayhem in the first eight minutes itself. For now, everyone inside the bar is safe, yet the real question is not for how long but whether they can resist the temptations of the one wish. Soule ends Eight Billion Genies #1 on a narrative hook, inviting readers to come back to check up on the world after eight full hours of madness, with no signs of the “happy hour” stopping.
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