"Southern Cross: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Southern Cross #1 - #6
Written by Becky Cloonan
Illustrated by Andy Belanger
Colored by Lee Loughridge
2015, 164 Pages
Trade paperback released on January 19th, 2016
Alex Braith is looking for answers. She's taking the Southern Cross space flight out to Titan to pick up her sister's remains and look into her death. “Mysterious circumstances” doesn't begin to describe it. Before she even gets to Titan, she has to survive the journey there, which is easier said than done. The ship is strange, emitting a powerful pulsing tone that affects Alex's mind and body. The crew and other passengers are just as unusual.
Southern Cross starts off as a vast science-fiction story. Artist Andy Belanger draws a meticulously detailed spaceship. This is a massive freighter with many moving pieces. Belanger showcases the size through some brilliantly illustrated pages showing characters literally walking panel-to-panel, climbing down ladders, going down steps, and through long corridors. It's a great effect that is used sparingly, although very well.
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Belanger also zooms in on little moments or aspects of a scene, giving them a larger focus and more importance. Things like a leaky faucet, slowly dripping into a sink go from moderately annoying as a background detail to mind-numbingly rage-inducing with a close-up. Every drop is like a nail drilling through your – and Alex's – mind. Speaking of Alex, she has a tough look about her, like she won't take anyone's shit. She's smartly dressed with an outfit that's suitably futuristic in its design. She has an inquisitive yet suspicious expression on her face.
Lee Loughridge's colors set the tone of the book. Most times they're flat and muted, like there it's always nighttime aboard the ship. You'd think they'd have better lighting. As a contrast, the scenes set in the engine room are depicted with a brilliant shade of yellow, casting light over everything it touches.
Southern Cross builds tension over time with moments like the faucet. You can feel the walls closing in around you. Alex and the rest of the passengers aboard this ship are stuck there until they reach Titan. Although it's a giant vessel, it can feel rather claustrophobic at times. As more of the mystery is revealed, Alex starts to hallucinate...or does she? It's tough to discern what's real and what's a trick of her mind and that's a big part of the enjoyment of this book. It's not a horror comic filled with jump scares and gore. Instead, it's more psychological, creeping along with each image becoming more unsettling than the next. There's a shot of clothes lying on a bed that is so friggin' disturbing. It sounds silly, but in context it's chilling.
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All of this leads up to a stunning climax that is absolutely mind-blowing. Belanger outdoes himself with these beautiful shots of space and carnage melding together to form images that belong on album covers for mythical metal bands from space.
Southern Cross is the perfect blend between science-fiction and horror. It's got the tension of something like Dead Space or Alien, but instead of relying on jump scares, it gets under your skin, keeping you in a constant state of terror. Each page turn brings you deeper and deeper into the abyss and there is no looking back.