Breakneck Action In An Off-World Dystopia – Cemetery Beach #1

by Brendan M. Allen

From the creators of the acclaimed Trees graphic novels, which are currently being adapted for television, comes something completely different. A professional pathfinder, his only ally a disaffected young murderess, breaks out of a torture cell in pursuit of his worst extraction scenario ever: escaping on foot across a sprawling and secret off-world colony established a hundred years ago and filled with generations of lunatics. Warren Ellis & Jason Howard ignite a high-speed new action serial.

I’m sure you’ve seen this setup before. Cemetery Beach #1 opens in a dingy windowless room, a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, naked subject restrained to his chair. It’s pretty clear someone’s about to get tortured for some secrets. Except, no, maybe not this time. Warren Ellis has us looking left, then takes a hard turn to the right and everything goes completely sideways. The interaction between characters is smart, laced with dark humour. Most of the exposition comes from a monologue that reads like a dialogue, which plays better than heavy narration and gets the job done.

While the script is fantastic, much of the storytelling falls squarely on Jason Howard’s shoulders. There’s a brilliant six page action sequence that takes place with not a single word of dialogue or narration slowing it down. The setting is gritty, industrial. Some of the action scenes look like they’re straight out of a Russian spy film, running roughshod through a gulag, except all spacey, with flying cars and junk.

I can’t say I’m entirely sure what’s going on here, but that’s probably by design. Cemetery Beach #1 is an easy, instantly engaging read with some fantastic world building. There are elements of 007, mashed up with some Doctor Who, Star Wars, and The Village, all taking place in colonial Space Russia. This is fun.

Cemetery Beach #1, Image Comics, released on the 12th of September 2018. Written by Warren Ellis, art by Jason Howard, letters by Fonografiks.

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