Disaster interrupts an alien mission to rescue the human race

The Fiah's Exodus mission is a noble one, to remove sentient races from their doomed planet and relocate them to a safer preserve. But Ethma and Endi's assignment on Earth is troubled from the start, though their crew of accidental human stowaways is the least of their problems when the entire Exodus mission takes a tragic turn.

Ran and Cory Brown's The End seems at first like an alien comedy of errors when the stern and cranky Ethma and the sweet but inexperienced Endi of the Axca first arrive on Earth, especially when their data-gathering mission takes them straight to a science fiction convention in the heart of Ottawa. Thanks to a broken cloaking device, an assortment of humans wanders onboard, including a TV actor, an angry college kid, a convention security official, a cosplayer thinking about hanging up her wig, and a young family going through an emotional rough patch.

But this isn't just a story about humans learning to get along with their semi-unwitting alien abductors. The Browns have built up a much, much larger universe beyond the convention doors, and the size and stakes of that universe become clear when the Exodus fleet is dealt a devastating blow from an unknown source. Suddenly, Ethma and Endi's priorities have radically changed; they must run on home with their human captives in tow and not all those captives are ready to follow along quietly.

And as the Browns expand their world, they deepen our understanding of the characters and the larger conflicts they face. Although there is a familiar alien bazaar scene (and they render alien speech in a particularly delightful way), it's given just enough of a twist that, when we see human-shaped characters, it's far more unnerving than seeing aliens with more beast-like forms. And while the main focus might be on the crew of the Axca, the camera occasionally shifts back to Earth and to other alien crews, so that we understand that there are individuals with personalities, whims, and desires involved in these worlds-spanning disputes before we thoroughly understand the nature of the disputes themselves. The Browns can be guilty of the occasional info-dump (as in a recent arc), but for the most part, they show a restrained hand, letting us get to know their characters on an intimate level before pulling back the curtain on the larger story.

As they slowly pull back that curtain, it seems that while The End is a large-scale, large-stakes alien conflict story, it's also a potentially frightening one from the human perspective. While one alien group has a rather indifferent view of humans, viewing them as they would view any sentient race whose planet is in peril, the other takes an intense interest in humanity, perhaps due to a shared distant history or a bizarre biological quirk. The question is whether humanity is prepared for such attention, whether they will be absorbed as pawns for an alien culture, destroyed, or if, with the help of allies, retain their independence, even if it means enjoying that independence somewhere other than Earth.

[The End]