Last week, Southern Cross joined the ever-growing catalogue of Image titles on the shelves. Created by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger, the book is a science fiction/mystery that promises a great setting coupled with corporate conspiracies. The depth of those promises is impressive, but the first issue crumbles a bit under their weight.
Southern Cross follows Alex Braith, a tough, abrasive loner trying to move forward from her criminal history. She is on a journey to the mining colony Titan to investigate the mysterious death of her sister Amber. Alex believes that Zemi, Amber’s employer, has something to do with her death. The trip takes five days aboard the freighter Southern Cross, with the return trip not scheduled for another six months. Alex plans on spending the trip alone with her thoughts, but she ends up unexpectedly sharing a room with Erin Mckenna. Though annoyed, this coincidence turns out to be a boon as Erin is an investigator sent by Zemi to look into Amber’s death.
The writing in the issue is solid, laying the groundwork for an interesting story and an even more interesting universe. The scope of the first issue is massive, building not only a universe filled with corruption, but the enormous backdrop of the Southern Cross. There’s a lot of information to take in and every detail about the world was appreciated. Cloonan feeds the reader snippets of the greater mystery at play, piquing our curiosity consistently and effectively.
While the surrounding world and circumstances are great, the main character is underwhelming. As with the rest of the issue, there are hints that there is more to her than what is on the surface. The problem is, what’s on the surface doesn’t invite much exploration. Alex repeatedly shuts herself off from the world and it makes it hard to be interested in her as a character. It’s still early and this is likely to change as the series goes on, but it detracts from what is otherwise a great first issue.
The art in the book does a lot to set itself apart from similar books in the genre. There’s an incredible level of detail in Belanger’s settings and backgrounds. The ship feels alive, like a self-contained ecosystem. The pages depicting the exterior of the ship are especially eye-catching. The ship and the space around it dominates the page while smaller panels depicting the interior are arrayed around it. It makes for some spectacular pages. Another positive note about the layouts is that they manage to convey a feeling of claustrophobia inside the ship. The panels are often small and close together, capturing the feeling of being inside an airtight vessel.
Southern Cross #1 does a lot of things right in its debut. The world the creators are building is worth the admission price on its own. It’s expertly planned and beautifully realized. The first issue was on the right track to become another great Image series and I have high hopes for the next one.