My surprise hit of the year thus far has been this creepy little thriller from writer Becky Cloonen and artist Andy Belanger that follows the travails of one Alex Braith in her search for answers regarding the mysterious death of her sister on the Saturn Moon of Titan. Deaths on Titan are not uncommon within this story realm, as it has become a brutal mining colony owned by the very powerful ZEMI Corporation who apparently has the monopoly not only of the mining, but also the travel as well. Alex wants answers as her sister worked amongst the administration making her death a little suspicious to say the least. Since we entered aboard the Southern Cross a couple of issues back, we have been introduced to some strange characters, some strange dialogues, and some even stranger occurrences that has tuned this little suspense story into a full blown creepy horror, deep in the recesses of space with no one to hear you scream. The ending of last issue had one of those strange occurrences happen that is picked up quite abruptly at the beginning of Issue #3.
Alex, creeped out by the missing of her roommate who just happened to be doing an investigation of ZEMI in relation to her sister, and even more creeped out by the rather odd appearance of something that I can only describe as diabolical, rushes to the captain’s chambers of the Southern Cross to be told that she may be experiencing some hallucinations due to some configuration adjustments of the ship. Sounds reasonable enough. Maybe even a little too reasonable for Alex’s liking. Adding to the suspense layers, Alex’s room has what you could call a bad history as the previous occupant on another flight apparently committed suicide in the room. But like everything on this ship, suspicious thoughts rule the day.
Not quite buying into anything being told to her, Alex decides to dig a little deeper and investigate, discovering some disconcerting facts as well as noticing some similarities with other passengers, including the aforementioned “suicide” victim. Yes, there is something creepy going on aboard the Southern Cross that ends with a brutal warning to Ms. Alex while she is with the captain. And making it even more brutal, it’s the “who” that is giving the warning that sends the chills down the spine.
Southern Cross has been a thoroughly entertaining suspense tale that blends in the best elements of mystery, science fiction, and horror into a nice jigsaw puzzle of a mystery putting a piece here and one there. It is a creepy combination as it leaves the reader ice cold as they follow Alex while she goes through the steps. The Southern Cross is a living breathing vessel (quite literally it would seem) that plunges the reader into confusion, fear, and maybe even a little bit of trepidation as you wonder what might be lurking around each and every dark corner of this ship.
I give huge props to the skilled writing of Becky Cloonen in securing this tale soundly, as she has paced this story with mystery and suspense in exquisite timing and precision. Everything is well placed as her writing allows the reader to absorb the elements surrounding the ship. The smells, the sounds, the temperature, all of it. It has definitely been one of my favorites for the year to date with its sense of gritty reality and a postmodern decay.
And regarding Andy Belanger with his cold and warm tones of art, he has managed to completely seal Cloonen’s vision perfectly. This ship is rough and harsh as are the people on board. Belanger shows them, scars and all for the world to see with the only warmth coming from the bizarre core of the ship’s engine. The heat there is living hot adding to the mounting pressure and emotion that builds with each page turn as the ship is slowly churning away to meet its destination and apparently its destiny as well.
If you are a fan of good solid science fiction with a creepy edge, then I whole heartedly recommend that you give Southern Cross a read. It is some of the best storytelling that you will read this year. My early favorite for Miniseries of the Year to be sure. And even better, it is making me a big fan of both Cloonen and Belanger’s work.