Simple concepts often make for the best stories. Taking something familiar and tweaking it ever so slightly can turn a derivative narrative into something special. Consider James Cameron's 1984 science fiction classic, The Terminator. A time traveling cyborg assassin bent on killing the mother of a man who would lead humans to victory over sentient machines is about as high concept as you can get. But if you strip all the artifice, The Terminator is basically a slasher flick. All the story beats and trappings are there, but instead of promiscuous teenagers falling under knife, it's Sarah Connor. Sea of Stars #1 might be the start something special, but its debut issue doesn't do much to rise above an all too familiar tone and setup, but that's okay.
Written by Jason Aaron (Southern Bastards, The Avengers) and Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum (Star Wars: Vader - Dark Visions), Sea of Stars #1 is a "lost at sea" story set in space, with what appears to be the seeds of a "working class child messiah" storyline thrown in for good measure. The plot, although well realized, is quite simple: a father is tasked with making a transport run through space and is forced to bring his eight year old son, Kadyn, along because there was no other means of finding childcare (an all too real hardship for many working class parents). Things naturally go awry, and the father and son are separated by the vastness of space. If you want to be reductive about it, this first issue feels like it's setting up a story operating somewhere between Gravity and An American Tale.
But as familiar as the story beats are in Sea of Stars #1, there is a genuine earnestness on each page. Aaron and Hallum treat their leads with respect and build a believable father-son relationship. The dialogue is smart and doesn't rely on massive exposition dumps to set the stage for the drama to come. We get all the info we need to get things moving, and that's about it. The story is lean without feeling hollow. The larger world of Sea of Stars #1 is not spoon fed to us, and any information we do get is mostly periphery. Again, this first issue isn't breaking any molds or reinventing parental dynamics seen in comic books. Sea of Stars #1 just plays the hits, but it plays them exceptionally well.
As strong as the script for this first issue is, what truly stands out is Stephen Green's beautiful artwork. Some of his character designs have a classic animation vibe to them, as if they jumped off the storyboards from a '50s Disney film. The creature/alien design is also exceptionally strong in this issue. Not to get too deep into spoilers, but if anyone out there needs some designs for a big, weird space sharks, Green might be your guy. The big impact panels and splash pages work well in this issue, making it easy to follow. Unlike most Image Comics releases, Sea of Stars is aimed at a broader age demographic, and it's easy to see how a pre-teen might gravitate to Green's art style. It's inviting enough to pull in young readers, but it has a hard enough edge to fit in with other Image books.
Sea of Stars #1 has all the making to be a gateway into indie books for younger readers. The familiar setup may design more cynical comic fans, but the art, character dynamics, and creature design will keep readers of all ages invested. The creative team behind this debut issue has a lot of pedigree and are capable of rising above stagnant staging. Green's art work really shines and Aaron and Hallum's script is sharp enough to wade through any stagnant waters is goes through. Sea of Stars #1 is another fantastic science fiction title from Image Comics that you can share with your kids.