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“Earthdivers” Explores a World Without Christopher Columbus’ Infamous Journey

comic reviews Earthdivers IDW review Stephen Graham Jones

Written by Angela Rairden

With November being National Native American Heritage Month, it feels like the perfect time to talk about Earthdivers. Written by Stephen Graham Jones (author of horror novels The Only Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw), with detailed and remarkable art by Davide Gianfelice, the comic take place in the year 2112. Humans (Americans specifically, it seems) have nearly destroyed the Earth. Those who could left via spaceship, and among those who are left behind is a group of Native activists who have a plan to return the Earth its pre-apocalypse state.

The key to achieving this goal is simple – go back in time and kill Columbus, thereby preventing the founding of America and saving the world.

No big deal, right?

Our tale begins with four characters – Tad, Sosh, Emily, and Yellow Kidney. We are thrown into their adventure without much backstory beyond the knowledge that Tad and Sosh are a married couple but don’t really seem to know Emily or Yellow Kidney too well at all. Furthermore, we learn that this Yellow Kidney character, a young Blackfeet man, has discovered a time travel cave. The four have decided that Tad, as one of only males and the only one fluent in multiple languages, should be the one to travel back in time. They feel strongly that killing Christopher Columbus before his storied expedition reaches American shores is the only thing that will save the world.

I found an interview with author Jones on Nerdist.com in which he explains how he came up with the idea for this comic: “I would like to point to a specific trigger or something, but to tell you the truth, sitting through American history classes all through elementary and junior high, we always get kind of indoctrinated into the Christopher Columbus myth that makes America happy. America wants to believe in that. And sitting in the back of the class as the only native kid, I always felt like shouldn’t this be another way? Why don’t we tell the other stories? I think all of that just kind of just kind of balled up into this. What if I could go back and do this? I don’t think I’m the only Native American that thinks that. I think it’s a pretty common thought, I just happen to be the one writing a comic book about it.“ 

Author Stephen Graham Jones

I think it’s an interesting narrative and a compelling idea. By issue two of Earthdivers, we haven’t yet learned if there is a specific reason why our protagonists feel that killing Columbus and thereby preventing him from “discovering” America is what will save the world. What’s to stop someone else from discovering it in Columbus’ place? Perhaps they don’t know for sure themselves. However, even in 2022, we’ve learned that Columbus wasn’t exactly the great man that he’s been made out to be in U.S. history books. Born in Italy, he ended up in Portugal as a teenager where he studied mathematics, astrology, cartography, and navigation. He infamously devised a plan to reach Asia via the Pacific Ocean; however, it wasn’t until 1492 that he finally found someone who would finance his journey – Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella.

In that same year, he embarked with three ships and, three months later, stumbled upon what is now known as the Caribbean. In his journal, Columbus described every new sighting and encounter he had, including his first impressions of the natives that he met there and why he felt that they would make excellent slaves.

Columbus is a product of his time, but his voyage was ultimately the catalyst for centuries of mistreatment of the native people of the Americas by European explorers and settlers. Killing him seems like the easy answer to prevent or at least change this. So, our hopeful activists send Tad on a one-way mission back in time. Fluent in English, three romance languages, Latin, Genoese, a “smattering of last-minute Portuguese”, and Lakota, the language of tribe, Tad is their last best hope to fit in and accomplish their gruesome goal.

Tad discovers, however, that pretending to be a sailor in 1492 is a lot more difficult than it sounded as he struggles to fulfill his task and save the world in a tale that’s steeped in Lakota myth. Meanwhile, his wife and associates that he left behind in 2112 are discovering their own complications as more mysteries of the time traveling cave begin to reveal themselves.

Issue three of Earthdivers hits comic book store shelves on November 30th, 2022, which should give you plenty of time to hunt down issues one and two and catch up on what seems a thrilling mix of sci-fi and horror with a dash of history thrown in. Come along for the ride!


Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store as a floral manager, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.

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