Review – Southern Cross #1 (Image Comics)
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Becky Cloonan
Artist: Andy Belanger
Release Date: 11th March, 2015
Alex Braith boards the Southern Cross, a hulking space tanker en route to the refinery moon of Titan, looking to collect her sister’s remains and, hopefully, get some answers about the circumstances surrounding her death. Southern Cross, a new creator-owned series from Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger, has a simple enough concept at its core – a young woman looking for answers about her sister’s death – but in reality, that seems to merely be the tip of the iceberg for what promises to be a grimy, gritty and chilling sci-fi horror series.
This first issue is all about world building, as Cloonan and Belanger confidently set out their stall and introduce us to lead character Alex – warts and all. Beautifully establishing the tense, claustrophobic setting of the Southern Cross – in many ways a character in its own right – the pair take their time setting the scene, letting us gradually sink into the rich, detailed world they have created. Granted, there’s not a lot that actually happens over the course of this issue – at least, not until the very end – but as a set-up issue, it certainly ticks all the boxes I look for in a new series.
Once again, Cloonan’s strength lies in the subtle nuances of her characters. Nobody here is a one-dimensional cliché, and everyone seems to have a secret they’re not quite ready to share yet. While we’re only given a brief glimpse at the majority of the supporting cast, Alex is a truly compelling protagonist; not immediately likeable, but still undeniably intriguing in a lot of different ways. Her relationship with her sister, her thinly-veiled contempt for authority and her simmering anger management issues are all interesting threads that are dangled in front of us tantalisingly, only for Cloonan to snatch them away to be tugged on at a later date.
Belanger’s artwork is solid throughout, with some truly impressive splash pages that manage to capture the sheer scale of the Southern Cross vessel. He also manages to go to the other extreme, utilising some side-on views of the ship’s corridors that help to accentuate its cramped nature; in particular, a glorious ‘ant farm’ style cutaway that sees Alex being guided through the maze of tunnels and ladders to her cabin. His work is enhanced greatly by the colour work of Shari Chankhamma, whose muted palette of blues, greys and pinks gives the book a distinct visual style all of its own.
Overall, Southern Cross is series that manages to rise above the seemingly endless parade of sci-fi horror titles hitting the shelves these days, making its mark with a truly unique feel and a brilliantly intriguing protagonist. Count me in for the foreseeable future.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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