A Dramatic Space Opera: Advance Review Of Stellar #1 By Keatinge, Blevins & Image

by Oliver MacNamee

Thanks to a very chatty captive, insect-like Melon Karkinos, in the opening splash page and throughout this comic’s opening pages, it doesn’t take too long for us to learn that the tough, no-nonsense bounty hunter and protagonist of this sci-fi series by Joseph Keatinge and Bret Blevins, Stellar, is something more than what she first seems. And that’s pretty tough already!

When it is revealed that she was once a highly weaponised individual with a grim past that she no doubt wants to forget, then the tough cookie becomes something even more. A walking, talking nuke who, it would seem, has tried to decommission herself by resorting to bounty hunting across the galaxy. And so we meet her, on a decaying and desolate planet with obvious signs of warfare on a massive scale. The planet she journeys through with her wise-ass alien aphid prisoner is littered with the corpses of gods and monsters as well as the odd space ship too which, in the design work, seem to hearken back to a golden age of sci-fi on the silver screen, with wrecked rockets reminiscent of the old Flash Gordon black and white serials form the 40s. A little bit of the classical mixed in with the contemporary, as illustrated by Stellar’s own spacesuit.

And, while a week in politics is often seen as fast-paced, it would seem the same can be said of governance in the galaxy too, as leaders and figureheads rise and fall off page, causing a few problems for our beautiful bounty hunter as she attempts to cash in on her prize prisoner. Although, its hard to tell, really, as time and space seem to be on the fritz.

Blevins produces some sumptuous art here with colour to match, creating a painted-like final page thats backdrop reminded me of the wonderful sci-fi and surreal worlds of Moebius at times. Lived in with a hint of a history we may never know about. Keatinge offers up a first issue that seems disorientating at first – dropping us right into this degenerative world with little context – but soon eases you in with Stellar’s backstory. Well, enough of the back story to still fascinate the reader.

It’s another sci-fi saga I could see in the pages of Heavy Metal, or as a European ‘bande dessinée’ (something of a trend with a lot of Image series recently). And this first issue out in June does just the job of introducing our main character, some of the gang who she will no doubt interact with as the series progresses, as well as a great sidekick (for now) in Melan Karkinos. Someone who not only offers Stellar the chance to deliver exposition, but brings great comic relief to the book, too. After all, in this grim, ever changing war-faring landscape of battling planets and wobbly wobbly time and space stuff, everyone needs a laugh every now and again. In space, they may not be able to hear you scream, but I imagine they can hear you laugh.

A dramatic, space opera with a nod to the classics as well as the contemporary.

Stellar #1 is out on June 13th from Image Comics.