In 2015, Image Comics published a remarkable sci-fi thriller, which we at Blood-Disgusting first described as “The Shining in Space,” that pushed itself beyond its premise. With writer Becky Cloonan (“Gotham Academy”) and artist Andy Belanger (“Kill Shakespeare”) at the helm, the “Southern Cross” series delivered twisted scares in the uncharted territories of outer-space. As time moves forward, readers will look and see how “Southern Cross” defined sci-fi horror in 2015.
In the vastness of outer-space, no one knows what really happened to Amber Braith. Mourning for her deceased sister, Alex Braith has to travel in-between the planets and stars to collect her remains. Surrounded by giant spaceships and holographic 3D screens, Alex is a long way from home, from any outside help as she reaches close to her true destination.There is something lurking in the darkness of space waiting to reach out, grab Alex, and claim her as a another victim. Will history repeat itself as Alex searches for the truth behind her sister’s tragedy?
Writer Becky Cloonan tells the narrative from Alex’s first person point-of-view and never breaks from it. As readers, we learn about a certain clue at the same time as Alex does. We meet the list of suspects and find the red herrings when Alex stumbles upon them. As Alex exudes a tough exterior, we known on the inside, she seeks a reunion with her sister that stems from broken promises and unspoken resolve.
With a female protagonist at the forefront, Cloonan adds a personal touch to the storyline. Some of us may not have grown up with a sibling, but we do know what it’s like to be heart-broken. In the face of tragedy, Alex asks herself, “Could I have done something different?” Human nature yearns for acceptance as the spirit seeks redemption where there is none.
This critic loves the “Kill Shakespeare” series, which why be couldn’t wait and see artist Andy Belanger move from medieval period to space frontier. Technology has surpassed expectations, but the craftsmanship is grounded and gritty. People make mistakes with their gear, as if they’re dealing with broken-down prototypes. The wardrobe these characters are wearing, for the most part, is leathery, beaten-down, and punkish.
Belanger does something unique with the panel layouts as he brings something from the cinematic landscape to the comic book medium. In movies, directors have used long one takes, especially in “Children of Men,” to extend the dramatic tension. To pull at the strings of anticipation, Belanger’s camera always seems to be moving as his main character makes her way from one panel to the next. In a single tracking shot, your eyes follow from top to bottom of the page as Alex heads down to her private quarters.
As this writer analyzed the surreal illustrations, he found themes upon themes in the one-pagers. Space can be a very scary place, but there is so much more than human nature. It is our unbridled curiosity that makes us want to explore the undiscovered. In the sixth installment, which closes the first story arc, the narrative throws the unanswered question, “Are we really alone?”
If you take a deeper look at “Southern Cross,” readers will find themselves enthralled by a cerebral and existentialist mystery. When storytelling and artwork hand in hand, the final result always brings about something unforgettable to the masses.
A must-read, the best comic to have come out of 2015, “Southern Cross” Volume 1 hits stores on January 13, 2016.
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