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You don’t have to look far to see the influence of French comic legend Jean “Moebius” Giraud. His surreal visual style can be found everywhere from video games to animation. Sometimes it’s just used as an aesthetic, but in the case of Scavengers Reign — a new animated series on Max — it’s the starting-off point for one of the most imaginative and thoroughly convincing alien worlds I’ve ever seen. It’s equal parts beautiful and brutal, and it might be the most original piece of science fiction of the year.

Scavengers Reign takes place in the aftermath of a crash, when the few survivors of a ruined interstellar cargo ship find themselves scattered across an uncharted, hostile planet. The story primarily follows three groups as they attempt to not only survive but also find their ship in hopes of getting off the planet. There’s Azi (Wunmi Mosaku), who rides around on an Akira-style motorcycle and works alongside a cheerful robot named Levi (Alia Shawkat). Elsewhere on the planet is the sensible duo of Sam and Ursula (Bob Stephenson and Sunita Mani), and Kamen (Ted Travelstead), who is stranded all on his own.

Early on, the humans are the least interesting part of the show. It’s the world itself that draws you in. It looks like a Moebius comic brought to life, filled with so many peculiar and confusing details. As one of the survivors remarks early on, “Nothing really makes sense in the way that we know it.” Initially, it seems that a lot of the oddball alien life is pretty useful. There are organic light bulbs harvested from inside of an animal and slugs that work as surprisingly efficient gas masks.

Just watching the little details — living balloons floating through the air, sea creatures that suck up their eggs like a massive vacuum, dangling jellyfish that can clone their prey — it really feels like a living, breathing ecosystem, albeit one that’s extremely weird by our Earth standards. This illusion of reality is helped along by the art, which is detailed and precise and, at the same time, surreal and strange.

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It all looks beautiful, from the picturesque fields full of rolling insects to the dark forests that grow underground. But it’s also very deadly, as the planet’s ecosystem makes for some horrifying predators. There are a few of the standard variety, the kind that come at you with huge pincers and sharp claws. But the scariest use different ways to control their victims; sometimes through a kind of hypnosis and, other times, through much more unsettling means. There’s also a particular threat that grows — quite literally — over the course of the first season.

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As the various survivors find themselves more entrenched in the world of Scavengers Reign, things get much more interesting. Kamen, for instance, has a truly tragic backstory, and it pulls him into some very dark territory after getting mixed up with a mind-controlling monkey-frog. And Levi slowly evolves into something different, as native spores and mold infiltrate its circuitry. This is a show that gets bloody and gruesome, while playing mind games with its various characters. They change a lot over the course of 12 short episodes.

It’s also a story that just keeps throwing wild new ideas at you, furthering the illusion that this is a real place. It may look familiar with Moebius-inspired art, but Scavengers Reign truly feels unique. That’s no small feat at a time when there is so much science fiction coming out. It also ends on a note of hope, suggesting that, somehow, there’s even more to discover out there — and things could get even weirder.

Scavengers Reign starts streaming on Max on October 19th.

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