It’s been so long since we last did a group review that it needs some reintroduction. A group review is when the writers/reviewers of ComicBastards.com come together like Voltron (okay like a huge ass Voltron because there’s a lot of us) and they each give their impressions of a particular issue. It’ll get a score and maybe even an average score at the bottom. Quickly, here’s what Cluster is about from BOOM! Studios:
Faced with a shortage of manpower, and in order to protect their colonies across the galaxy from other species, Earth’s government has resorted to offering prisoners a chance to shorten their long sentences in exchange for serving as an interstellar soldier. More and more soldiers are needed as wars continue, so small crimes are met with long-term punishments. But when a group of prisoners-turned-soldiers are marooned on enemy soil, they’ll need to work together to survive and uncover the truth behind Earth’s role in deep space.
To say that I liked this comic is an understatement. Is love too strong of a word? No it is not. I loved this issue so damn much that I put together a group review for the site for it. It’s possible that I was so blinded by its quality that I felt it needed other opinions… but really I just wanted to force others to read it and hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.
In all seriousness, this is what I wanted from Dark Horse’s Dark Matter and Image’s Bitch Planet, but both of those titles sucked to high hell. Then comes Cluster and not only manages to take a sliver of both books, but actually make it interesting. And that art! Oh How I adore Damian Couceiro’s artwork. I clung to every page and I can’t wait to continue reading this series.
You can also hear what I thought of the issue on this week's CBMFP, our comic podcast:
I didn’t really know what to expect from this sci-fi title, but the fact that Ed Brisson was writing it had me intrigued. Even though sci-fi stuff usually isn’t the first thing I run out and get in the comics world, Cluster #1 had me enthralled the whole time. There’s really nothing that I could point out in this comic in a negative light, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for next month’s issue. I really like the idea of being able to be a soldier on Midlothian for 15 years rather than your previous punishment on Earth. If I were in these character’s situations like the one who got sentenced to life in prison, the decision would almost be a no-brainer.
Even though we just are meeting Grace and Samara, I’m interested in their character development and the new squad’s whole relationships with each other as the story progresses. Ed Brisson has proved time and time again that he builds a world with extremely strong characters with emotional pull and he can also get real dark and dire in a moment’s notice which we see in this debut issue. The art is also great, making this the full package. I would recommend this to anyone, especially anyone who is a sci-fi fan and/or already a fan of Ed Brisson’s.
Ok so besides for loving everything about this new comic from BOOM!, I realllly loved the storytelling. Ed Brisson has a way of dragging you in from the first page. Damn. When Samara is on the ground and with every last breath screaming for help from the police, I was hooked right away. The whole start of the comic reads like a dystopia with a mix of Orange is the New Black. Then you fade into a more battle zone action packed adventure. The comic was so well-balanced and gave a clear look into what this comic is going to be about. Plus you know I am sucker for strong female leads. So the concepts behind Samara makes the comic just come to life. She has such flavor and intrigued.
Michael Garland should get some credit too for his big blast of color. This comic was screaming with it but didn’t come across as cheesy but more badass futuristic. It isn’t tough getting introduced to the characters and remembering who is who. With Garland’s colors and strong background, you know exactly each character and exactly where you are. The art is going to shine in Cluster.
No doubt I will be coming back for this title.
Ed Brisson is one of those rare creators who hasn’t yet let me down. No surprise then that I leapt on his new BOOM! book, Cluster, like some kind of sexy grenade. Nor was it a shocker that I loved it! From its gorgeously addled, perfectly disquieting opening to its rock-solid world building and character introductions, right through to the suitably-tense, “doomed journey” setup at its end, this right here is exactly what you want in comics about ill-fated space-based penal colonies. And that’s kind of saying a lot these days. Brisson douses his story in effortless presence, in very real emotions, organic humor and explosive theatrics. All of these are mirrored beautifully in Damian Couceiro’s crunchy, blisteringly exciting and well-paced - though not utterly infallible - visuals. Altogether, Cluster #1 is damn fun comics, girls and boys. Good game, all around!
I totally dug this opening chapter. This had all the elements I need in a first issue to crave the next. I'm definitely gonna follow this one (unless they crash and burn next issue).
Cluster sets the scene quickly, giving you just enough background on the main character, the supporting cast and the world they exist in. The stakes are set in the first quarter, which allows you to strap in and enjoy the ride.
Also the artwork is really nice, aliens and people all feel well realized. The backgrounds are a bit sparse, but they are on a desert planet so I guess that shouldn't be too surprising. The action is drawn well, which is good because there's a lot of it. There's also a few things in the panels that don't get references or explained (which is good layering for later).
Cluster asks the question “What if we were to combine Starship Troopers with Judge Dredd?” That’s the impression I get anyway. Unfeeling, automated justice gets doled out and you can run your sentence down by killing bugs. Or bug people. Or in this case mostly humanoid aliens. It’s a very interesting world that feels immediately “lived in” and rich because of it.
It is definitely cribbing a lot from a lot of different sci-fi stories but it does it well. It does a great job of getting you into the story, introducing you to the world and getting you on the hook. The characters are intriguing, the premise is solid and it ends with a literal ticking bomb that will make you come back for the next issue.
I like the idea behind Cluster; however I don’t think that having regular citizen being sentenced to 15 years for an absurd crimes is really crazy. I mean, wouldn’t people be protesting just by the abuse of power. I just didn’t believe that this situation would be possible. As far as the main character I was confused one minute she is scared for her life for being arrested; the next minute she is all hard in the prison. There were no real explanation why she suddenly changed her mood. As far as the art in the book. It isn’t bad, I found the art to be consistent from panel to panel and the colors popped from panel to panel as well. Overall, I wanted to like this book more but the whole fact that anyone was being lift up and taken to this planet for a petty crime was just too absurd to digest.
I read Cluster despite the fact that nothing about its premise hooked me. The Dirty Dozen IN SPACE didn’t seem like much to go on, but I hoped that the simplicity would translate to an engaging character study. It’s hard to tell if much of that will come in the following issues, especially since the protagionist does not to delineate herself from the many other troubled people with something to prove.
The comic sticks pretty close to the visual tropes of a sci-fi prison story. We get the shot of everyone waking up from cryostasis, exposition on the prison’s security measures, and an early and ambiguous flashback about what got the protagonist to her current predicament. And again, that would be fine if done in a humorous or subversive fashion, but other than someone throwing up unexpectedly there’s not anything that surprised me in any way, and even then the throwing up gains a little too much attention with a reference to it later.
My hope for this comic is that the way this first issue ends, the idea of the battle ensuing between the human outpost and the attacking extra terrestrials will become more complicated. Right now though there’s no indication that that would be the case, and so I think this is one I’m gonna jump ship from now. Hasta.
Writer: Ed Brisson Artist: Damian Couceiro Colorist: Michael Garland Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/4/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital