Writer: Johanna Stokes
Artist/Cover artist: Leno Carvalho
Colors: Imaginary Friends Studios
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US
It seems to me that Station is one of those books that Boom! supports with a little more of a promotional push, as it did with North Wind and Talent long before that. I understand why. The premise is a solid one, bound to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. There are space/science buffs out there just as there are sci-fi enthusiasts, and who doesn’t like a good whodunnit? Johanna Stokes, who’s done plenty of work for Boom! in the past but is still billed as a TV writer, has happened upon a natural concept: a murder mystery in space. While offering new ideas in terms of means of murder, it limits the number of suspects to a manageable, easy-to-consume level. Of course, the premise is limited as well. The art boasts some striking visuals at times, and the man responsible certainly has capture the close quarter of a space station along with the vast emptiness that lies outside of it. But the visuals are inconsistent from page to page, which makes for some distractions and interferes with the story.
More than 200 miles above our heads is the International Space Station in orbit around our planet. Staffed by scientists and astronauts from a number of countries, the close quarters and unusual conditions don’t make for the easiest of living accommodations, but for everyone aboard, working in space is a dream come true. That dream turns into a nightmare when a mission specialist is lost trying to make repairs to a solar array. His suit malfunction is a tragedy, but one newly arrived astronaut discovers it was no accident.
Leno Carvalho’s cover is the strongest, most compelling piece of art he contributes to the book, and I only wish the interiors were as dynamic. The cover captures the dire nature of the plot as well as the cold, stark qualities of the setting. I rather enjoyed the panel approach to the cover; it’s not something one sees often in comics — a comic sequence on the cover itself.
The interior art varies from detailed and realistic to sketchy and inconsistent. Some pages look fantastic, capturing the minute detail of the technology. Others look incredibly rushed, with the anatomy off. Carvalho’s work makes it seem as though he’s trying to channel Bryan (Fantastic Four) Hitch, and he doesn’t entirely pull it off. Where he does succeed in this comic book is when he uses nothing to say a lot. The space-walk sequence is fantastic. I love how the “camera” keeps pulling back from the Russian cosmonaut, isolating him and culminating in a two-page spread that demonstrates just how far away he gets from the station.
Stokes does a solid job of communicating the science of modern space travel and missions without talking over the reader’s head. She offers accessible information, but it doesn’t seem as though things have been dumbed down too much for us laypeople. The narration, in Dyson’s voice, also goes a long way to show the audience that the men and women who sacrifice so much of their lives for these missions are really kids at heart. They undertake these Herculean jobs because of a sense of wonder, not dedication.
Promotional copy from the publisher compares this story to Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s Whiteout, and I can understand why. Both are murder mysteries set in remote, inaccessible places that limit the movements of the characters. Whiteout is a more compelling read, though. There’s more grit and a rawer quality to the setting and characters in that book. Whiteout was interesting before any murder took place, and that doesn’t seem to be the case so much here. The tensions among the characters aren’t spotlighted until later in the story, after the main plot is already underway. Maybe more of a focus on the characters and the dynamics among them before the story’s catalyst might have made this seem like more than a mystery with a novel backdrop. 6/10