Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Steve Horton
Artist: Stephen Thompson
Release Date: 11th May, 2016
There’s something curiously exciting about this book from the get-go, with even the cover giving that rumbling sense of fervent anticipation, the likes of which you might get when you pick up a Quitely-drawn book, or a copy of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman. A lone human, standing amid a crowd of onlooking, variously grotesque extraterrestrials, it immediately toys with that age-old sci-fi trope of ‘all intelligent life is basically human’. Which is super neat-o, let me tell you – and if we were to judge this book by it’s cover (I’m told I’m unequivocally not allowed to do that, sigh), it’d be in the high teens. Out of five.
But alas, those days are long behind me, and judge the book, I must, on its contents. Which, thankfully, are pretty fucking awesome also.
This is indeed a story that, aside from its protagonist, is otherwise devoid of human presence. We get red-headed heroine Lilly – who’s one part Black Widow, one part Raylan Givens – as a point of reference in the titular Satellite, a gorgeously rendered orbital string of urban biomes that serve as a melting pot for countless alien races. Lilly’s a bounty hunter, and from what we gather in this issue, a damn good one too. Horton’s premise is a good’un – I’ll leave the remaining minutiae down to the reading because dammit you will read this – and his dialogue conveys character succinctly yet effective, an economy of words that’s somewhat rare in the sci-fi oeuvre.
The setting seems almost cynically designed for Thompson’s detailed ink-work to go more than a little nuts with his creature and environment design – but boy, is it worth it if that’s the case. Thompson art is just plain terrific – from the detail in the rendering of his backgrounds, to the designs of the various alien hovercars and ships that appear throughout the story, and for the characters themselves. It’s given further life by Jackson’s colours, depicting a vibrant yet grimy when you look closer sci-fi world, and imbuing it with texture that you can almost feel if you run your fingertips across the page.
With regard to the ‘almost cynically designed’ comment above, do note that I chose my words very carefully – because it becomes clear as you read through the book that this is quite simply not the case. Instead, it’s a coming together of a writer and an artist who are synergising in a way that’s not exactly common these days, what with creative teams often have entire oceans separating them. Whilst I’m unsure whether or not that’s the case here, it hardly matters – it’s clear that both understand what the other is thinking, and is capable of.
This series has promise, there’s no doubt about it – from the incredible artwork, right through to the execution of the premise. Quite where it’s going at this stage is anyone’s guess, but for the first time in a while, I’ve got the right kind of ‘wanting more’. It doesn’t feel like it’s stopped short, or holding anything back – exactly the right amount of exposure and intrigue happens before the vaguely traditional cliff-hanger ending. There are bold ideas here, bold designs too, and it’s all tied together with a fluidity that’s deeply enticing. This is the sort of story that Babylon 5 and Farscape wished they could’ve been, and is easily one of the best issue ones I’ve read in months.
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The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24