Writer(s): Mike Raicht, Leah Moore, & John Reppion
Artist(s): Alecia Rodriguez, Jeremy Dale, & Jason Roth
Publisher: Th3rd World Studios
EDITOR’S NOTE: Space Doubles #1 will be in stores this December and is currently available for pre-order through Diamond Previews.
This new release by Th3rd World could almost be billed as the comics equivalent of Grindhouse, only with a harder sci-fi theme (sans the fake coming attractions). Space Doubles #1 is a compilation of two science-fiction stories that have two connecting threads: The element of outer space (duh!) and the intrusion of hostile aliens that seek to dominate the human race. The first connection is elementary, but the second common trait is a perfect starting point to discuss this issue due to the different ways these stories are presented. “Red Rain”, written by Mike Raicht and illustrated by Alecia Rodriguez, is an example of comic book sensibilities meeting the science-fiction short story that populates such magazines as Asimov’s and Analog. The comic proceeds like prose and hums with realism due to the artwork by Rodriguez, who is a talent worth checking out. The second tale, “Project: Obeah”, written by John Reppion and Leah Moore, and illustrated by Jeremy Dale and Jason Roth, looks and reads like an animated version of the Thing or Aliens. The influences of visual media are more immediately felt in this story of survival against a constantly multiplying foe. Both stories will fill up any science-fiction appetite, but each has flaws that prevent this collaboration from being all it could be. Though the three writers have significant comic experience, they should all be proud of what they’ve accomplished in this first issue, considering that this is one of the first published works I’ve seen for these illustrators.
Let’s start with “Red Rain”, shall we? Raicht’s tale concerns a group of space explorers who are shot to the moon to investigate a strange red cloud that surrounds it. When they reach the moon, the encounter a threat unlike anything they have ever seen, a threat that could potentially destroy Earth. The entire story is told in flashback by the main character, Dexter Doogins, which doesn’t work well in this kind of short tale. Sure, many slice-of-life comics use this same kind of narration, but in a horror/action/sci-fi twelve page quickie, you can’t lead your readers down the primrose path by the hand. Rather, you should wow them with atmosphere, introspection, and, above all, a sense of wonder. Dexter’s narration deteriorates both the impact and the pacing of this short comic, dictating our emotions as well as filling in the details the art doesn’t necessarily provide. Speaking of Rodriguez’s work, it is appropriately realistic in her depiction of a near-future that is very similar to our current world. However, her panels and characters are stiff and formalized, which is more a characteristic of amateur caution rather than a flaw in her style.
The second story, “Project: Obeah”, is night to the day of “Red Rain”. Moore and Reppion are after the atmosphere and wonder that I had mentioned was lacking in the first tale. The comic is about a group of terraformers who encounter a menace that transforms humans into bloodthirsty monsters similar to zombies. It’s a combination of gory art and horror movie-style pacing that is meant to be suspenseful but comes off hit or miss. Also, there appears to be some holes in the progression of the story that probably would have been filled in had this been a twenty-two page comic, such as the lack of appearances of our main character, Adamson, and the abrupt appearance of Evelyn, who plays a big role in the conclusion of the tale. Speaking of the conclusion, the ending is handled in cliffhanger fashion, but the realization doesn’t really add anything to the point of the story. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it seems like the authors want to make a poignant statement that just doesn’t come across. As for the art, Dale and Roth’s work is technically solid yet slightly cartoonish. There’s nothing exciting or innovative in the panels, but they love the gore for gore’s sake. Horror sci-fi fans should get a kick out of some of the attacks that these two draw up.
Space Doubles is the creation of Scott Closter, who writes two introductions for this first issue due to the flip style of the presentation (two covers, two different short comics on either side), both of which illustrate his love for science-fiction and the deeper meanings of speculative literature. For my money, Issue #1 is a fine start to this series of Twilight Zone/Amazing Stories-type tales that have some sort of zinger in the concluding page, though the deeper meanings that Closter alludes to aren’t apparent in these first two yarns. It’s a showcase for seasoned writers and fine raw illustrators who have just started getting their feet wet in the comic book world. Even though the execution of words and art are not in the upper echelon, the enthusiasm is here, which is what caused most of us to start reading comics in the first place.
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