Packed with much to love and some to improve upon, “Kaptara” #1 is a humorous hodgepodge that bodes well for the series to come. Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod create an offbeat world and snappy cast and, even when these elements don’t quite mesh, there’s so much fun stuff cooking in the issue that it remains an easy, entertaining read. As a story, “Kaptara” #1 didn’t quite hook me but, as a preview of what’s to come, it did enough to get the series on my pull list. This is going to be an interesting one.
The issue follows an astronaut crew on an undisclosed mission that’s derailed when their ship is snatched up by a quantum pinch. Zdarsky gives the ship a dynamic cast whose tensions and teases feel organic. They squabble, pass the buck and problem-solve, and their rapport carries the issue until the disaster strikes. However, Keith is admittedly an odd protagonist. He’s funny, and his reactions work well as everyman audience stand-ins, but he’s also an unapologetic troll who doesn’t take much seriously. It doesn’t make him easy to root for. Now, every character needn’t be likeable but, if they aren’t, they need be interesting. Keith doesn’t get to make any choices in this issue — he’s just reacting — so he isn’t given the chance to be interesting. In that way, following him around isn’t all that compelling.
That said, the issue is still quite funny. As with a lot of Zdarsky’s other work, the biggest laughs are in the details. From jokes about technology design to the inclusion of “Single?” in a villain’s profile, “Kaptara” #1 is most successful in its humor when it’s unexpected. The parody of “Princess of Mars”-style empires is much broader, but it still made me chuckle. There’s also a refreshing lack of meanness; when everyone in a book is somehow ridiculous, there are no punching bags. I can’t wait to see more of this court.
McLeod and co-colorist Becka Kinzie give “Kaptara” #1 an aesthetic that transitions effortlessly from the ship to Endom. McLeod does fine work in the spaceship scenes, as all the characters are expressive and the action easy to follow, but he really shines once Keith and Lance land on Kaptara. His creative character and creature designs are something else. The first monster they encounter is a hideous septa-reindeer with a face like a drunk guardian lion statue. It’s at once grotesque and goofy. The citizens of Endom ride a similar line between parody and straight science fiction. The villain Skullthor is absurd in matted purple wool, but the skull on his head still has a wicked curve. It’s a curious approach that I couldn’t stop looking at. In addition, the pink, teal and purple color palette gives everything an alien feel, but freaky rather than scary.
Based on this issue, I’ll be sure to follow “Kaptara” over the next few months. I’m excited to see Zdarsky go full science fiction, and McLeod and Kinzie’s creativity is truly fascinating.