Science fiction was my first true love, and so I always try to pick up any new sci-fi comic that hits the stands. Of course, it doesn’t always happen — unfortunately, superhero comics get all the press, but that’s a topic that doesn’t belong in a review. While I hadn’t heard of “Planetoid” before it was picked up by Image Comics, the success story was enough to get my attention, and the comic made its way to the top of my “to review” list.
Written and Illustrated by Ken Garing
Silas, an ex-soldier turned space pirate, finds himself stranded on a mysterious planet in alien territory. As he explores the long-abandoned industrial ruins of the planet’s surface he will have to fend off rogue mechanical creatures, roving cyborg militias, and a hostile alien military with a bounty on his head. Silas will have to rely on resourcefulness and bare-bones survival tactics in order to stay alive and ultimately unlock the secrets of a planet where survival is a luxury and escape an impossibility.
The first thing any given reader will probably notice about “Planetoid” is Ken Garing’s excellent artistic style. Whether or not Garing adjusted his usual style to fit the story he was telling or wrote to fit his own artistic strengths, the rough-hewn look of “Planetoid” fits the world Garing has created perfectly. There is no disparity between the world Garing has created in his mind and the one that he has put on paper; we are presented with a world that seems like it has just been slapped together, but a closer inspection reveals that there is an incredible sense of structure to everything. “Rough” is a word that is sometimes considered synonymous to “sloppy,” but that is not the case with Garing’s work. The use of grit and grime is not a shortcut to cover up haphazardly placed line work — an unfortunate tendency in comics these days — but a stylistically appropriate choice that not only complements the story at hand, but enhances it.
It is not just a matter of style, though; Garing is also an excellent sequential storyteller. The action scene that takes a good portion of the book is testament to this talent. Each panel flows into the next one smoothly and without any effort on the reader’s part. Panel-to-panel motion is always an important facet of any comic, but the presence or lack of good storytelling is most noticeable in action scenes. In this case, Garing creates a scene that is constantly in motion, and, thus, constantly exciting. Certain moments in time might slow down for emphasis, but Garing never brings the action to a complete halt, purposefully or otherwise. Not only that, but the storytelling is clear; despite the aforementioned gritty style that Garing uses, there is barely a single vague or difficult panel in this first issue.
The excellent art may be the most noticeable component of the first issue of “Planetoid,” but Garing’s writing is hardly unremarkable. The core hook of “Planetoid” is one that suggests, slow, gradual, but still ever-impending doom, and manages to seem unique; sure, the idea at its most basic form is one that has been used multiple times in science fiction, but Garing has managed to find a way to make what is old new again, combining one trope with another in a way that is not derivative, but clever. There is not a terrific amount of character work in this first issue, but this is not a mark against the comic. Rather than giving us too much information, which would be a rookie mistake, Garing gives us a brief glimpse into our protagonist’s past. We do not see much of Silas’s character, but at the same time, Garing does not make the gaffe of telling us “This is what this guy is like;” the bits of character that are hinted at by the implications of the flashback scene are not necessarily as desirable as actually seeing characterization, but this approach is always preferable to cramming false objective judgment into a first issue. For now, what ARTIST gives us is sufficient — we know enough that Silas is mysterious and enticing, and we can always learn more in future issues.Continued below
Every month, more and more evidence piles up that it is a good time to be a fan of science fiction comics. If this first issue is any indication, “Planetoid” is sure to be a favorite for those who enjoy the genre, especially when it is not polished up by the lens of space opera. Not only that, but Garing’s work is sure to appeal to any comic fan just looking for some great sequential art — which, let’s be honest, is what ever comic fan should be looking for. Whether you are looking for unique science fiction or well-crafted comic art, pick up “Planetoid.” You just might love it.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy it!