What to say about Area: 51 The Helix Project? There’s a lot you likely don’t know. Like how the series has already run multiple successful Kickstarter campaigns for every individual issue. Or how Kent, the series protagonist, is an allegory for everyone’s favorite space alien: Clark Kent, mirroring in many ways, a journey of alienation and a desire to fit in.
How about that the story snowballs out of an alien conspiracy veering into mystery, suspense, and moments of visceral action? With subject matters that revolve around the greater whole of the universe, yet somehow, focus on themes of identity and loss. The confrontation of one’s past, and even worse, questions what makes us more-or-less, human?
Area 51: The Helix Project was written by Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz, with art by Marcelo Salaza (issues 1-4) and Samuel Iwunze (issues 5-6), along with colors by Marcio Luis Freire, and letters by Taylor Esposito. A science fiction tale about finding one’s self-identity and owning up to who we are.
The comic is centered around a young man called Kent, who’s struggled for years with self-identity issues. After witnessing his father’s death in an act of heroism, nothing has gone according to Kent’s life plans in the aftermath. Called to action by a familiar ally who not only knows the truth regarding the tragic events of that evening but also, may host a means of undoing some of the damage of his past, this story takes readers on a heck of a journey of genetics experimentation and science fiction conspiracy (It is named Area 51 after all). It also ties into a bit of Cold War geopolitics. With experimentation on aliens on a molecular level.
“When it comes down to it, stories need to be entertaining, yes, but they’re an expression of experience and thought when you boil it all down,” said Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz (He/Him) in a previous press release. “We all struggle to find comfort in identity, and even further, to be proud of who we are in a world that is constantly trying to tell us otherwise. What thoughts and emotions could I express with my platform? Exactly that. At the end of the day, this story came down to me trying to work through the insecurity of pursuing my passion and my dream to create comics despite the world telling me that I needed to spend my days cooped up in a lab for the sake of financial and social security. This world is not safe, and in some regards—particularly when it comes to the pursuit of passion, dreams, and identity—it never will be. Why does this story exist? Because I know that I’m not the only one that feels this way—neither are you—and I think we both need something to remind us of that.”
The comic is set between a 1970s New York ripe with noir detective elements, and Area 51’s secret governmental labs and surrounding desert territories. All visually impressive location settings with grainy and shaded textural components really fit the comic’s design.
It also features dark color palates well-suited for a noir mystery of beautiful black and blues, with inking and shading that make for a stark environment that skillfully narrows in the focus onto the art of the page. There is much emphasis on fine details. Stuff, you’ll not see in traditional indie comics. We’re talking hands, objects, and items on the page that are important, yet often, overlooked. Making this a pretty solid re-read with tiny easter eggs of details you may miss upon first reading.
Though the pacing takes a bit of time in its early issues, the best parts about the comic start to build in its later half, really escalating and developing by issue 5. Which coincidently, features some of the best jaw-dropping moments in the series run. Atop this, there are plenty of great cliffhangers that’ll leave the reader wanting more.
Now, Pocket Watch Press’ creator Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz is a new and up-and-coming writer based in Connecticut. A creative seeking to change the comics landscape with original tales that’ll move you spawned out of a desire to stop simply reviewing comics and to start making them. I met Trevor through a comics class workshop dinner we attended via Scott Snyder’s Best Jackett Press, and must admit, he’s someone who seems ready to break out. With all signs being very much here… so grab this comic before the kid’s famous.
Area 51: The Helix Project’s final issue debuts on Kickstarter on January 2023 with the entire series available upon launch. Until then, drop the project a follow by clicking “Notify me on launch.” You can click the link to support the project.