We start to get a clearer picture of exactly what kind of place this exo-planet is, how the last few generations have lived, and the secrets of the colony known as Maincastle. Mild spoilers ahead
Illustrated & Colored by Jason Howard
Lettered by Fonografiks
As Mike and Grace try to escape the colony of this unknown planet, they find that disappearing without a trace will be harder than they ever expected.
The eccentric rebel Grace Moody coordinating the escape by the seat of her pants, leads Mike Blackburn away from the prison as they are chased by President Barrow’s high guard. While we get some new information, the issue is anything but shocking. It is well crafted, but this part of the story is not unexpected. We are told that the president is villain of the piece, we get an excellent action packed chase sequence and yet another cliffhanger based solely on Grace’s actions. While we are led to the conclusion that Mike is the lead character, he is along for the ride just like us. We are learning everything about this world at the same pace he is.
Ellis balances exposition and action perfectly here. He gives us plenty to chew on while throwing blasting guns and hover bikes at us. Unlike the calm and conversational premiere, this issue never lets up for a moment. We get a quick discussion between Barrow and his guard. It spells out all of his fears and anger at the realization that Earth or “Oldhome” has sent a scout to look in on them. He fears losing his control over the citizens of Maincastle which he rules through fear. Even though it is a quiet introduction, the insanity starts to ramp up with each panel. Touching on Barrow’s insanity without being outright ludicrous gives great insight to the character. His calculated evil is far more relate-able than using just another over the top science fiction villain. He is all about the political maneuvers. His physical appearance is more fantastical than his personality. The extreme obesity, the odd uniform that screams of post-French Revolution military and royalty; it all works in the series’ favor. He’s a perfect blend of Dune‘s Baron Harkonnen and Napoleon Bonaparte. In the context of the book, it is a perfect design. It tip toes up to the line of bonkers, but it works so well.
While he is toying with some bigger political and social themes, he is using a broad brush to cover them. He has yet to put a fine point on any of it. Which is just fine. He is allowing for a dystopian yarn to play out without putting out a book that is too heavy or cynical. This is not “Transmetropolitan,” yet, but we will see where he takes it. This is Ellis at his most accessible while still writing a great comic. He knows he has the ability to speak to a wider audience than he (possibly) attempts to reach. Issue two moves this miniseries to a great mashup of action thriller and The Twilight Zone. As the mile-a-minute action pulls the characters through this world, we get to see far more than what was revealed in the previous issue, and it is an ugly place. It perfectly conveys a deep space settlement that was started in the 1920s. Knowing that the inhabitants were completely disconnected from Earth and had to jump start civilization with only what was stored on their starships and what they could find upon landing makes for a horrific junk yard of poverty and pain. This is a far cry from other hopeful, space exploration/settlement stories. It dabbles in fascism and an underground rebellion and we can only assume that subsequent issues will really delve into these subjects.
Jason Howard’s illustrations make for a world that throws Star Wars, steampunk, and the French Foreign Legion into a melting pot of an apocalyptic nightmare. He revels in this. It is a bleak look that has been used time and time again in science fiction, but he manages to throw in little details that allows it to stand apart from many other similar stories. He stays in the muted tones lane. Everything is coated in brown and gray tones with just flashes or hints of bold covers hidden behind a smoggy filter. He uses fine, sketchy lines combined with shadows that are so heavy, they feel like mini black holes, pulling the light and color from each panel.Continued below
His work is very similar to that of Fabio Moon, Mike Mignola (who Howard imitated on a GREAT variant cover for this issue), and Sean Murphy. Howard is doing gorgeous, sorrowful work here and his influences are wholeheartedly felt throughout this series; in both the story he is helping to tell and in his killer variant covers that specifically call out his heroes.
While some details come into focus, lending to some great world building, the second chapter of this sci-fi adventure hand feeds us plot points, and expands its history, all while keeping plenty of secrets to itself.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A bleak sci-fi tale that takes familiar themes and brings them together to create something truly original. All signs point to an excellent game changer on the horizon.