Back when the first Alien movie led with the tagline ‘in space no one can hear you scream’, few could have imagined the ripe pickings space travel held in the horror genre. Indeed, now forty years later, the notion of unsettling and terrifying goings on in space are common place in all fiction. We take an early glimpse of another entry to this subgenre as Scout comics prepares to release Dave Chisholm’s Canopus, about a woman trapped on a distant planet as she tries to figure out why she’s there and how to escape.
Publisher: Scout Comics
Writer: Dave Chisholm
Artist: Dave Chisholm
Price: TBC Out February 2020
Canopus follows the story of Dr Helen Sterling, a renowned scientist who wakes to find herself alone on a deserted, unknown planet with no memory as to how she got here or even why. All she does know is that the Earth is in danger and she is 300 light years away on a spaceship which is missing vital components. Therefore, accompanied by an inquisitive, childlike robot called Arthur, Helen begins her quest across this strange new world to locate what her ship needs to take off. However, despite being on a desolate world, Helen and Arthur come to realise that this planet holds secrets which might not only save their home but profoundly affect Helen’s life with it.
Dave Chisholm has written a seriously engrossing story, as much a thriller as a psychological horror. The plot is an intriguing one as we are introduced to Helen who is, for all intents and purposes, a blank slate, allowing us to get to know her and understand her motivations at the same time as she rediscovers these things. It is this journey which feels most compelling, as Chisholm presents both reader and character with unusual and unforeseen surprises which not only allow for a doorway into Helen’s past (while also setting up this story) but leaving questions unanswered to keep the reader hooked. Possibly the strongest part of the series is the dynamic between Helen and Arthur, whose childlike curiosity and loyalty is a good contrast to the more cynical, weary Helen, especially in the later scenes. In fact, a lot of the revelations of the past have this reviewer wondered if Chisholm has attempted to fit a subtle subtext about battle depression due to some of the Helen more negative memories. Of course, there are some issues, most notably moments of over heavy dialogue use which bogs pages down, but this is a minor concern against an overall addictive plot.
Meanwhile, Chisholm’s art work is a solid style which has a scream-like vibe and, as a result, comes across as incredibly haunting. This, along with the dulled, almost white, colour scheme works really well to sell the horror theme as the entire series has this almost lifeless, disconcerting look to it. Meanwhile, Chisholm also lets his imagination run wild, filling his apparently lifeless world with a varied selection of bizarre and memorable obstacles for Helen and Arthur to face. The art style is a little rough but works well with the tone of the story but the biggest problem on the artistic side comes in some of the double splash pages which, while all looking fantastic, look to be overly crammed full of information, making it difficult to follow the narrative. That said, while it does feel like information overload, given their use during flashbacks, it makes a thematic sense as the reader receives the memories back in a similar way to Helen.
Scout Comics faith in Dave Chisholm’s second big work feels to have been well placed as Canopus is a tremendously engrossing and emotionally charged series with visuals which are unforgettably haunting. While it’s by no means perfect, its good points far outweigh its bad to offer readers a thoroughly entertaining story which, once you begin reading, you will find it a struggle to put back down.