Helen and her robot friend Arthur are searching for answers on an alien world, but they just keep finding more questions. As her memories begin to come back in drips and drabs, Helen is confronted by items and even people from her past…but how can that be on this far off planet? Her quest takes her to a set of underground tunnels. Is she being lured here by some foreign entity? Or is she closer to the truth than ever?
That questioning of reality is a core aspect of Canopus and it really keeps you on your toes. I found myself studying each panel for longer than I usually do in an effort to look for clues as I try to put this puzzle together just like Helen is.
The flashes from Helen’s past come at specific times, like someone is carefully guiding her down this path. This creates an unsettling quality, almost like a horror movie where an unseen force is toying with our protagonist. Helen is desperate for information, not to mention safety. She’s clinging to anything familiar, including a face from her past, welcoming the security this brings and ignoring the bizarre elements as to how this person could possibly be here before her.
Creator Dave Chisholm’s artwork works in a minimalist fashion at times as we’re mostly just seeing Helen, Arthur, and a mysterious figure from Helen’s life. The backgrounds have swallowed them up, shrouding them in darkness. There’s one sequence in particular that really sums this up, as Helen walks deeper into the cave and the stalactites and stalagmites surround her like a giant maw ready to swallow her up.
When one of the memory flashes hit, it’s like an explosion of images. Chisholm delivers some double page spread broken up in a myriad of shots that tell a complete thread from Helen’s life. There are some smaller panels that repeat, showing an image that becomes burned into her mind, like a lover’s kiss or the first time she set eyes on someone. This is a powerful way to tell a lot of story in a small amount of space. They are used sparingly and every time they pop up, it’s like a shock to the system, much like how Helen is experiencing them.
While there are still loads of questions surrounding Canopus, there’s quite a lot here to pour over. It’s a fascinating character exploration of this woman who has been through quite a lot during her lifetime and she’s going through each major – and sometimes traumatic – event again…but for the first time. This is a trippy sci-fi thriller that set a high bar out of the gate and has surpassed it with its sophomore issue.
Canopus #2 from Scout Comics is currently available at your local comic shop.