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Station #1

Posted: Monday, June 23, 2008
By: Penny Kenny

Johanna Stokes
Leno Carvalho, Ed Dukeshire (l), Imaginary Friends Studios (c)
BOOM! Studios
EDITOR's NOTE: Station #1 will be in stores Wednesday, June 25.

If Planetes and Moonlight Mile have whet your appetite for realistic space adventure, then Station is a must add to your reading list. Billed as a mystery, Johanna Stokesí script and Leno Carvalhoís art convey the grandeur of the setting and manís achievement in reaching space and the pettiness that man canít seem to transcend, even when heís been removed from Earth.

The story begins with a four person team arriving at the International Space Station to perform emergency repairs and supplement the crew already aboard. During the repairs, one of the astronauts is lost. Was it an accident? Or murder?

One of the characters readers might be able to rule out as a suspect is Dyson, the space tourist. Heís the readerís surrogate. Most of the events, but not all, are seen through his eyes. Other than knowing heís been space mad since he was an infant, we really donít know that much about him. The way he reacts to certain situations seems to suggest heís been in law enforcement or that heís an investigator of some kind, but even thatís conjecture.

Johanna Stokes has written a marvelous script. Dyson opens the story with an interior monologue thatís very similar in tone to the opening narration of the Babylon 5 TV series, immediately invoking the sense of a humanistic epic. The characters are introduced quickly and clearly and their dominant personality traits are evident from the first. Yes, you have the hot shot pilot, the dedicated scientist, the loving husband (special mention was made of his wife, so heíll probably end up out the air lock soon), and the hot-headed rule breaker. But locked room mysteries tend, as a rule, to deal in archetypes and with only four issues, thereís not a lot of room for nuanced character development.

The sequence in which the astronaut is walking in space is beautiful, and chilling at the same time. The way Stokes has paced and dialogued it is -- well, as you read the speech balloons, youíll Ďhearí the static and labored breathing in your head. Itís that good.

The other part of this bookís powerful equation is Leno Carvalhoís art. His people arenít overly rendered, but they have a comforting, life-like ordinariness about them. They donít look like actors or models. They look like your neighbors.

In contrast, the background art is highly detailed. All the switches and toggles weíve been conditioned to expect to see are there, as are the other little touches that add to the readersí belief in the environmentís reality. In one panel a troll doll floats free and out of the panel during flight; while in another, the bulkiness of the space suit evokes its heaviness and isolating nature. Carvalhoís combination of broader character art with detailed backgrounds is reminiscent of Masamune Shirow, only without the latterís technology fetish.

The sequence of the astronaut drifting in space is awesome. He grows smaller in relation to the ISS, then Carvalho opens up the scene in a spread that emphasizes the smallness of man and his creations in relation to the infiniteness of space.

Imaginary Friends Studiosí lighting effects are stunning. The reflection of light off helmets and panels, the blaze of the sun rising over the Earth, and the differentiating of the colors on the control panels are all small touches that add up to a good-looking book.

Station is not perfect. A pivotal scene is staged in a confusing manner and the dialog seems off in another, but overall this is book worth seeking out. Donít wait for the collection -- buy the single issues so you can read and enjoy now.



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