Creative team Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger and Lee Loughridge take the reader on a journey the length of the galaxy, marking the boundaries between genres and then blending them together with cold environments, a red-headed protagonist and inner monologuing by the bucketload. Southern Cross #1 is a noir case set in space, but does it work?
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Becky Cloonan
Artist: Andy Belanger; Lee Loughridge
Price: £1.99 from Comixology
In short, Southern Cross is brilliant. While the first issue is setting up a lot of questions and world-building and there isn’t much plot to be had, it’s a genuine pleasure to sit and admire all of the detailed art and become suspicious of every new character introduced. This comic is noir writing meets dystopian art with a sprinkling of other influences.
The comic is quick off the mark to introduce the main protagonist, Alex Braith, on her way to the moon Titan – taking passage on the tanker Southern Cross – to reclaim her sister’s remains and belongings. She has a lot of questions over her sister’s demise and is hoping to find answers. However, that remains to be seen as Captain Mori Tetsuya warns her “you won’t find them on Titan.” Whether that’s because the incident is a cover-up by the ever present, petrol mega-corporation Zemi, or because something more sinister is afoot remains to be seen.
Southern Cross boasts a lot of detailed panels where the reader can really sink their teeth into the “hopeless dregs of humanity”. We are treated to a tour of the tanker where the edges of panels are used as bulkheads to separate each compartment, getting to grips with quite how labrynthine the universe has become, and quite how alone Alex is. The artwork complements the noir writing with close-ups on objects that catch Alex’s eye, suspicious persons (read: everybody) and the environment around her, be that in the canteen or engine room. Mixing a colour palette of cold colours with the golds and yellows of the gravity drive, this universe leaps off the page and you can’t help but submerge yourself in it.
The writing has taken the usual red-headed femme fatale and made her the gritty protagonist. Whether you read her inner monologues with a cigarette-gruff voice or not is up to you, but truly this spin on the noir genre is brilliant. Alex’s voice comes through loud and clear, and fits in with the universe and her mission. She’s working under her own steam and her own motives, rather than having them placed in her lap. A breath of fresh-air from other comics where women have no control over their own actions or plans.
While Southern Cross #1 builds up a lot of tension and questions in preparation for the next issue, some readers may grow impatient with the slow pace. While there isn’t a lot happening in this issue, it does get the ol’ grey matter working, trying to figure out characters with limited information and settling into a new universe where this noir will play out.
“Southern Cross #1 is noir fiction blended with detailed science fiction environments. A slow buildup of tension, plenty of character introductions, and lots of questions asked in the first issue, but not a lot of action to go with it. Brilliant for those who love the little details, not so much for those who like to get to the heart of the matter.”