Stay gold, Ponyboy

Midas Flesh Vol. 1 by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelly Paroline and Braden Lamb. Boom Box, 2014. 9781608864553.

In great speculative fiction, there are rules for magic and advanced science. Zombies infect you with a bite and are killed by destroying the brain. Vampires can’t survive sunlight. Don’t cross the streams. In Midas Flesh, the rules are about the Midas touch: King Midas wished that everything he touched turned to gold, so everything he touches and everything that is touching something he is touching turns to gold. Moments after his wish is granted, the entire Earth and everyone on it has turned to gold. Midas dies (the air in his lungs changes to flakes of gold) but his body is preserved: no bacteria can consume him.

An advanced spacefaring Federation finds our dead planet and determines that there’s no way to explore it without being turned to gold. The planet is erased from every map, and everyone with knowledge of it is sworn to secrecy. Generations later, two women and one small sentient dinosaur find speculation about this strange planet, then set out to find whatever advanced super-weapon destroyed it. (They want to use it to free their home planets from subjugation by the Federation.)

Ryan North’s dialogue is funny and snappy, the action is fast, the stakes are high, and the well-crafted rules create a fascinating world for characters that I liked immediately. I’m a big fan: I highly recommend his ongoing webcomic Dinosaur Comics, his reboot of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl, and his choose-your-own-adventure versions of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet (review coming soon!).

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