I’ve been reading Southern Cross since issue #1, and currently at issue #11, it’s been a strange journey for fans to find themselves carried along by. Reading the comic written by Becky Cloonan, and experiencing a world carved out by Andy Belanger’s unique and highly charged art style, puts you in a state of mind as a reader where you can accept wild and unearthly happenings, hints at parallel worlds, none too friendly, and pursue this ghost story as far as the narrative allows. Lee Loughridge crafts the highly original and wide-ranging color palette that gives the comic such an intense mood, and the comic is lettered by Serge La Pointe.
Starting off as a murder mystery concerning the death of mining refinery worker Amber Braith on one of the moons of Titan, the series initially follows her sister Alex Braith’s obsessive search for the reasons for Amber’s death—even on the edge of deep space.
In its second major arc, Alex has disappeared, perhaps into an odd and uncanny parallel reality threatening her world, and we follow ship staff and miners in their search for ancient alien artifacts connected to the disturbance in reality.
Issue #11 packs a particularly powerful punch after necessary set-up as the search comes to a head (pun intended) as a severed head talks from the other side of reality, having seen it, and giving clues and instructions to those searching for Alex Braith and the unusual manifestations of the other side. They learn where they must go to find Alex and the entry to the other side.
Significant and memorable moments in the comic include the horrifying perspective of “Mo”, someone who has died and can see the other side, commenting on his life as a severed head, and saying, “I wasted my life, didn’t I?” There’s something so emotive about his simple observations about his life in the sand and dust and his current state.
But there’s a huge emotional reveal in this issue which will drive the story forward, which I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers. If you wanted to know more about Amber and Alex Braith and their strange history, you may well find the key in this issue and beyond.
This is also an issue of true terror and nightmarish events, and Cloonan and Belanger handle the uncanny with such basic no-nonsense head-on perspective that it’ll strike a chill through the most hardened sci-fi horror fan. Haunting voices from the other side bring us messages like “I am here to give you life”, even while they seem to represent death. And then there’s the message of the back cover of this issue, reading “Your ego is a prison”.
Southern Cross is a very subversive comic in new and devious ways. It’s in the texture of the world Cloonan and Belanger have created. It’s in authority figures like Mr. Swan (also in this issue). It’s in the voices from beyond and the strange drug-like effects of the artefacts upon human beings.
It’s also in one of the most delightful aspects of Southern Cross from a purely visual media perspective—the fake ads that Belanger creates for the back of each issue. They are always compelling, off-beat, compelling, and slightly off in an askance way. They make you both interested by and a little creeped out by the world of Southern Cross, and that’s just the way it should be. In this issue, we get ads like a homage to 80’s wrestling, an ad for robot-led workout routines, and one for unearthly music. Everything is familiar and yet…different. And that’s a great strength of the comic.
Issue #11 sets up a really strong forward movement for the series, and though I’ve always enjoyed reading Southern Cross, this issue is a stand-out for reminding you why you feel a connection to the comic in the first place.