Review – Cluster #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Author: Ed Brisson
Artist: Damian Couceiro
Release Date: 4th February, 2015
Would you trade a life sentence for a fifteen-year tour of duty as a soldier on a hostile alien planet? That’s the question at the heart of Cluster, a brand new ongoing series from Ed Brisson and Damian Couceiro. In this first issue we are introduced to some of the unfortunates who have chosen ‘option B’ and find themselves exiled to Midlothian, a barren world locked in a brutal war of control between the inhabitants of earth and the Pagurani, a hostile alien race who have set their sights on the same planet.
The story centres around Samara Simmons – don’t call her “Sam” – a tough kid living in the shadow of her politician father who finds herself forced into fighting as part of the Military Inmate Deployment (M.I.D.) program following her DUI arrest. Her fellow inmates are varied and interesting in their own way, from the gruff prison veterans to Grace, a cocky young punk who finds herself arrested and exiled to the confines of Tranent Penitentiary following a trumped-up shoplifting charge.
Brisson and Coucerio fire out familiar sci-fi tropes here at a machinegun-like pace; oppressive planetary regimes, no-nonsense prison wardens, implants that explode if the inmates deviate from the rules or try to escape. In all honesty, there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking at work here – at least not yet, anyway – and while the execution is undoubtedly impressive, I was kind of hoping for something more, y’know? Something I could really sink my teeth into, rather than what appears at this point to be an enjoyable, but ultimately superficial, sci-fi romp.
One factor that Cluster definitely has going for it is the lively, dynamic artwork of Damian Coucerio, who tackles the ‘sci-fi soldier’ environment with gusto, providing a brilliantly distinctive cast of characters in an ever-so-slightly cartoony style that prevents things from ever becoming too dry. Michael Garland’s colour work really helps in this regard, keeping a vibrant feel that once again stops things from becoming overly serious, even given the potentially bleak environments of both Midlothian and the Penitentiary itself.
The final pages of this issue set the tone for what’s to come, and given the intriguing cast of characters that have been assembled, it should make for some interesting reading. Perhaps more than anything else though, it is Brisson’s impressive work on pre-apocalyptic series Sheltered that gives me high hopes for the future of this series. With a proven track record of taking familiar ideas in new and unexpected directions, I have no doubt that things are going to improve in the issues to come, and with a strong foundation being laid in this issue, I’m definitely on board with this series – for the time being, at least.
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The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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