Ancient Astronauts is a sci-fi graphic novel painted entirely in watercolour by artist and writer Vincent Pompetti. It tells the story of a young archer named Onys, who fled from her home planet to escape her corrupt father when he tried to force her into a political marriage. After her sister is murdered, Onys teams up with Yulunga, a mysterious shaman, and Mark, an ambitious captain, to catch the killer. Their investigation leads them back to Onys’ home planet, to confront a mysterious force and a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the lives of her people.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the high quality of the artwork. It is unlike any other graphic novel I’ve ever seen. The idea to do it in watercolour was genius and it really brings both the characters and world to life. Every page is absolutely stunning. You can see the time and effort Pompetti put into it, and it adds so much to the story.
The story itself is complex. There’s a lot going on. As well as Onys’ personal journey, the novel is filled with the culture and history of the universe, a political arc, and the higher powers at work. The story also becomes deeper and more philosophical as it goes along, exploring the idea of positive and negative thoughts and actions, and their effects. Whilst all of this does make for a fast paced and exciting plot, sometimes it can seem a bit too complicated. It feels as if the story could have benefited from being longer. An extra 50 pages would’ve given readers a chance to get to grips with this fascinating world, as well as giving more time to develop the characters.
Although slightly underdeveloped, the main characters were interesting and likeable. Onys makes a great heroine, and shows a lot of growth throughout the novel. Mark complements her well as the straight talking yet empathetic captain. Sadly, there isn’t much of a backstory for him, which would’ve helped readers connect more. The standout character is definitely Yulunga. Yulunga is initially quite mysterious, but as the story goes she shows a lot of personality, especially in her mentoring of Onys. There’s also a lot of layers to her, given the fact that she is very peaceful and spiritual, but also a fierce and strong warrior. The trio have great chemistry together but again, their relationships could’ve been developed and pushed further.
Overall, Pompetti delivers a highly ambitious and entertaining graphic novel. He has created a captivating world and intriguing characters, of which I want to see more of. A sequel, or even prequel, would be very welcome.