StationA comic review article by: Dan Hill
Two hundred and twenty miles above the Earth’s surface, the International Space Station is one of the most isolated places a group of humans can gather. So what happens when there's a murderer in their midst?
The premise of this story is what hooked me into reviewing this book. I'm a big fan of stories that take a single location and spin out a great premise from it: Lifeboat, Rear Window, Twelve Angry Men,Phone Booth (okay maybe not that last one so much, but you get the idea).
What we have here is a very remote single location, the ISS, and a murderer turned loose. Writer Johanna Stokes gets things rolling straight away, introducing the characters quickly and diving right into the thick of things. The characters themselves are a mixture of genders and nationalities (representative of the station’s name).
It's not long before one of the crew bites it. The death scene is very unsettling, the thought of drifting off into space until you run out of air or freeze is a horrid one. That sequence (and others that follow) is greatly enhanced by the way in which Stokes and artist Leno Carvalho bring home the station’s isolation and the endless void of space with panels dominated by the black of space and dialogue breaking up as the victim drifts into the void.
Things begin to break down between the crew after what seems like another murder attempt. Trust and relationships begin to buckle under the weight of paranoia. It's here that the story begins to settle into its second act, which was the weakest section of the book, but by no means makes it a bad one.
After the initial high tempo (the murder, the mistrust) the story slows down slightly. Characters argue, disasters are averted. Yet this section serves almost as the calm before the storm because it's not long before all hell breaks loose and everything that can go wrong does go wrong. From that point on, it's a high-tension ride all the way to the end with some excellent nail-biting set pieces.
One criticism I do have is that the end wraps up rather quickly. I would liked to have spent more time focusing on how the characters will deal with what they've been through, and how it will affect them. The art towards the end also has a rushed, almost unfinished, look to it (which is a shame as Leno Carvalho’s art is good throughout).
In looking at Stokes’s past work, I noticed that there seems to be a lot of variation. It's great to see a writer who's willing to try on as many genres as possible. After Station, I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more stories from her.
One of my favourite comics of recent years was 10 by Keith Giffen (which is also from Boom!). Like Station, it was an excellent thriller. However, whenever I mention it to friends they draw a blank, they've not heard of it. It's a shame because comics like 10 and Station show that Boom! and other small comic companies can be showcases of excellent stories that aren't all about tights and fights. With that in mind, I strongly urge people to pick up Station.