You may know Jeph Jacques as the writer/artist behind the post-singularity slice-of-life webcomic Questionable Content1. He is also the writer/artist behind the post-singularity, post-apocalyptic webcomic Alice Grove. It was an interesting webcomic on which to archive-binge immediately after finishing Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō.
Alice lives out in the country, where nobody will bother her. The townsfolk are fine with this because they are convinced Alice is a witch. A witch who serves and protects the town as best she grumpily can, but still a witch. Alice does her thing and the townies do theirs. It has been that way for a long, long time.
And then the blue-skinned extraterrestrial arrives. The worst kind of extraterrestrial: a tourist. And the worst kind of tourist: an idiot.
The blue-skinned visitor is Ardent. Ardent’s ancestors were baseline humans, but that was a long, long ago. He is the first of his people to visit the surface in millennia. The unspoken arrangement between the low tech, baseline humans on Earth and their space-dwelling cousins is aloof neutrality.
Ardent is not supposed to be on the surface at all. His sister Gavia soon comes to retrieve him. Her enhancements are less subtle than blue skin and regeneration, but it does not take long for the short-tempered woman to discover that her nanotech, as impressive as it is, is no match for Alice’s enhancements.
More unpleasant surprises await Gavia once she regains consciousness: having located her idiot brother, Gavia summons the vehicle that will take them back to orbit. It does not manifest. Gavia and Ardent are marooned on backward Earth. It takes one more surprising revelation before Alice comes to a unpleasant conclusion: perhaps Ardent and Gavia are unwitting pawns of something far older and more cunning. Perhaps their visit is the opening gambit in the conquest of Earth.
Jacques almost certainly didn’t intend his webcomic to be compared to YKK but since I happened to read Alice Grove and YKK back to back, comparisons are irresistible. Both worlds feature Earths that are considerably less populated (by humans) than they used to be. Both feature exciting new species apparently created by ambitious genetic engineers with way too much time on their hands. In both of them, the central character is an ageless woman who is in no way the baseline human she appears to be. There’s even an aloof community living in glorious isolation high above the baselines.
On a closer look, the worlds are very different. While there do seem to have been some unpleasant episodes in YKK’s past, on the whole the impression is of a long, slow, gentle decline. Alice Grove’s world was transformed by an apocalyptic war. The new lifeforms in YKK are eerie. The ones in Alice Grove range from unsettling to voracious. They wonder if human flesh tastes just like chicken, and intend to find out.
The backstory would lend itself to a grim and gritty story of civilizations at war, a world where the pointlessness of life is only barely preferable to the eternal darkness of the grave. That isn’t the direction that Jacques has chosen to go. History may be tragic, but the world as it is NOW is the only one these people have ever known. The tone isn’t too far from Questionable Content’s; there are serious moments, but light ones outnumber them.
Thus far, Alice Grove has raised more questions than it has answered. I am curious enough to see what those answers are to keep reading.
Alice Grove can be read online here
1: Despite the name (and the perverse obsessions of some of the supporting characters … well, Pintsize, for the most part) QC is not risqué. SFW. Click fearlessly. It’s not like Oglaf or Oh Joy Sex Toy,