Cloonan, Belanger let readers see 'Southern Cross' for first time

Three factors interest me after reading the first issue of Southern Cross, the Image Comics mystery--set on a futuristic tanker spaceship--by writer Becky Cloonan, artist Andy Belanger and color artist Lee Loughridge. Something about the way the cast is introduced as the series lead Alex Braith boards the tanker flight to Titan (a refinery moon) plays out in a manner that is reminiscent of a 1970s murder mystery movie set on a train. Secondly, the cinematic scale of some of Belanger's establishing shots, particularly of the tanker itself. But most of all, I find myself taken by the troubled and somewhat internally conflicted character of Braith herself.

The boarding of the tanker itself affords the creators for a few distinctive storybeats. Adding to the cinematic vibe to this comic, part of the action plays out while the credits are still "rolling out" over the "screen". What passes for Transportation Security Administration in this future vision of Earth has mini-drones with cameras capturing images of the person under scrutiny in front of a literal security bubble. Cloonan's script clearly gives Belanger a great deal to tackle. Loughridge's coloring choices allows elements of the narrative to pop in its unique, yet not heavy-handed way.

Belanger's art truly struck a chord with me when Braith is shown to her room several levels down in the tanker. In an exquisite demonstration of efficient layout, the artist takes the readers down a rung ladder, through a hallway, then an elevator ride, followed by several flights of stairs all in one page. All the while Cloonan's dialogue moves the story along at the same time.

Cloonan's cover sets the dominant color themes with hues of blue and pink. The logo makes clear the meaning of the series' title given that the Southern Cross asterism (pattern of stars) is shown on the letter "O" in Cross. Kudos to the logo designer on that count, as well as crafting a brand that compliments rather than dominates the main art focus.

As explained early in the first issue, Braith embarks on this five-day tanker flight to ostensibly retrieve the remains of her sister from Titan. Braith knows that her sister worked in the less dangerous administration area for the Zemi rig, but still somehow ended up getting killed. Braith soon learns an investigator is on board the Southern Cross tanker, but if this person will aid the lead character's quest for answers about her sister's fate becomes one of the many mysteries teased in the first issue.

In addition to the dominant blue and pink coloring choices, Loughridge uses green hues for the dining/mess room and yellow hues for the gravity drive scenes. Suffice to say, the tanker's gravity drive proves to be a major cryptic element to this story. So the colorist's ability to actually highlight that story prop in effective ways serves to sell the narrative even more.

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

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