In the second issue of Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s highly anticipated “Satellite Sam,” Dick Danning approaches the cast and crew of LeMonde Station’s hit TV show “Satellite Sam” to persuade them to renew their contracts. Through this device, Fraction zeroes in on character development this issue in an effort to flesh out the deceased Carlyle White’s associates. Unfortunately, however, “Satellite Sam” #2 struggles under the weight of hard-to-follow dialogue and an overabundance of flat characters.
The story is extremely dialogue-heavy and — while this typically wouldn’t be a drawback — the wordiness poses a problem for two reasons: technical jargon and design. Technical jargon pervades the story, dropping the reader into a 1950s television studio filled with tech-savvy operators. Fraction has clearly done his homework to get an authentic feel for the story, but the lingo alienates, since it dives right in with no introduction or explanation for an audience that has little-to-no experience with such niche knowledge. Though immersive, it ultimately takes away from the flow of the book, which otherwise has organic, natural-sounding dialogue. Additionally, the design of the speech bubbles and dialogue boxes themselves disappear into the art since they are white and have no borders. Throughout the issue, it’s extremely difficult to tell just who is speaking what lines through their placement and shading.
Even with a snappy character list at the beginning of the issue, the story suffers from too many characters introduced too quickly. Although each character comes packed with his or her own distinct character design, they are essentially indistinguishable from each other by way of personality; I found myself constantly flipping back to the character list at the beginning of the issue in order to make sense of the plot. While some exceptions exist — notably, Carlyle and Michael White — this issue sags where it focuses on these smaller roles. What’s more, the issue’s primary goal seemed to be the development of the minor characters, saving most of its contribution to the main plot until the very end.
Howard Chaykin’s art dominates the book, easily becoming the best part about it. His eye for detail excels through the beautiful, intricate backgrounds in each panel; his character designs and their facial expressions are clear, distinct, and comprehensive. Little touches, like the rain reflected through car windows, breathe life into the story. Moreover, the choice to tell the story in black and white reminds the reader of a ’50s noir film — the perfect atmosphere for this book in particular. With a degree of grace and style, Chaykin enhances the story through his superb artwork.
Fraction and Chaykin’s second installment of “Satellite Sam” arrives as packed with dialogue and character moments as the first issue. Unfortunately, Fraction attempts to cram too much information into too small a space, however well-researched and thought out that information may be. With a lot of zeal and wonderful artwork, “Satellite Sam” #2 is nonetheless burdened by the weight of too many lifeless characters and off-putting dialogue.