Published on March 14th, 2015 | by Dapper Dan0
Southern Cross 1 – Review
Image Comics seem to be staking their claim as the premier publisher of female-led, quality comic books these days and, by Crikey, they’re good at it.
Southern Cross comes from two incredibly talented creators; Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger. Becky provides the writing duties and a fantastically atmospheric cover, while Andy creates intensely detailed and eye-catching art.
Southern Cross is a sci-fi take on the Western concept of the troubled loner travelling to deal with a dead relative’s affairs. Alex Braith is headed to Titan, one of Jupiter’s moons, to deal with the aftermath of her sister’s death. Titan is home to a corporation-run, high-risk, mining operation. Only thing is: Alex’s sister wasn’t a miner, but an administrator. How dangerous can a desk job be?
…And from here I was hooked; I love a good mystery and this one looks to be a doozy. Alex starts in Earth orbit on board the Port Authority, a huge station serving as a transit hub for space travel. The titular vessel is a tanker headed towards Titan, and as Alex boards she meets several crewmembers and passengers. The Southern Cross is a working ship that also happens to carry passengers, not a space-ferry going on a cruise around the solar system. (A three hour tour, a three hour tour…)
Alex doesn’t seem to be a people person and while we learn she’s had some run-ins with the law in her past, she does seem to be trying to keep on the straight and narrow now. She’s confident, smart, seemingly fearless and, once she discovers that the company is investigating her sister’s death, determined to get to the bottom of things.
None of the other characters get fleshed out, despite our meeting half a dozen of them, but that’s OK. This is Alex’s book, the others will have to wait for their time in the sun. One of the characters who does stand out is Captain Tetsuya. I’m very curious as to why the Captain takes Alex on his tour of the engine room. One would think that’s a bit of a security breach. Oh, and speaking of the engine room, do any of you remember the film Event Horizon? Something is very wrong with the new drive…
With Cloonan currently riding high on DC’s Gotham Academy, she’s continuing to produce that same kind of sharp dialogue and tight plotting here. Much of the book’s text is Alex’s inner monologue and this, coupled with the art, really gives us a good idea of who she is. Making her feel this real and fleshed out, so quickly, is impressive.
Belanger’s art has an incredible level of detail throughout, especially on the double-page spreads showing the Port Authority or the Southern Cross. I get a very similar vibe to Alien’s Nostromo; everything is functional and utilitarian, likely at the company’s behest to minimize costs. The colour palette used below-decks is a mix of greens and blues, giving a very dark, claustrophobic feel. This all combines to good effect and really brings you into the book. I recently re-read DC’s Wednesday Comics and Belanger’s work here reminds me of Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures from that title in some respects. His facial work is characterful and distinctive, and there’s no confusion between characters. He’s also adept at showing a variety of ethnicities and body-types without resorting to trope cues.
It’s a very strong start to what’s certainly been a highly anticipated book, coming from two great creators. Southern Cross looks like it’s going to capture readers’ imaginations quickly, and be another big hit for Image.
I’ll give Southern Cross a mighty 4 and ½ shady corporate secrets out of 5.