I like the idea behind “Southern Cross” #1. It introduces us to Alex Braith, a woman travelling on board the Southern Cross freighter to the moon of Titan to try and solve the murder of her sister. Even on board the spaceship, of course, new mysteries are starting to form. While the basic premise is solid and holds a lot of potential for where the series will go, Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger’s opening issue feels unusually stiff and cold.
Part of the problem is that Cloonan’s script gives us a character who is, on some level, emotionally closed off. A protagonist who is unwilling to talk to others and spends the majority of the issue holding things back is hardly a character that is going to suck readers into the plot. That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if her internal dialogue — which we do get a lot of — was a little more engaging but, even there, she’s holding back, not offering up so much material that you find yourself liking the character.
Similarly, Belanger’s art feels lacking in energy. There’s a scene about halfway through the first issue where Alex slams her berth door on an unwanted neighbor but, if it wasn’t for the dialogue, it would be impossible to tell. The fellow having the door closed on him is supposed to be pulling his arm back but, instead, he looks posed. Similarly, Alex feels frozen in time when she leans back against the room’s wall while water drops from the faucet; even the splash of the water bouncing up is curiously motionless. There’s nothing here that conveys any real sense of movement.
The best part of “Southern Cross” #1 is probably the titular ship itself. Belanger and Lee Loughridge give us cold green and blue decks with vast corridors full of cables and girders that stretch off into infinity. A ship like the Southern Cross should be truly massive, and everyone involved nails that look and feel. Perhaps it’s not that surprising that the one moment that could drag you back for a second issue involves the heart of the ship itself; there’s something about the Southern Cross that is clearly engaging all of the creators of this comic.
“Southern Cross” #1 is off to a slightly rough start, and that’s a real shame. Cloonan’s work on “Gotham Academy” has been a real joy, but “Southern Cross” #1 isn’t capturing that same spark of energy. Maybe future issues will pick up the pace and excitement level but, for now, this is a book that is trying to succeed but hasn’t quite stuck the landing.