So this book has an interesting perspective on the living-in-space genre. Outpost Zero is all that remains of a generation ship that left Earth centuries ago. The survivors have adopted something of a small town mentality, focusing on keeping their outpost alive and otherwise exhibiting a marked disinterest in exploring the icy planet on which they crash landed.
Ofc, not everyone is so inwardly focused. Alea is the brave, almost foolhardy daughter of members of the Discovery team, the dwindling group responsible for venturing outside the dome. As she and her friends approach Singularity — i.e. the day they choose their grown-up career paths — they contemplate their futures. Alea wants to follow in her parents’ footsteps. Steven is happy to join his own dad in Engineering, while Lyss doesn’t particularly care where she ends up, despite her father’s ambitions. Mitchell wants to be a prizefighter, the dome’s main entertainment. No one’s heard from Mitchell’s twin Maddie in some time. Steven’s friend Sam, who for some reason rouses Mitchell’s ire, is already interning for Security, under the watchful eye of his foster mother, who’s the station’s Chief Of Security.
But then Steven breaches the airlock in an apparent suicide. The rest of the kids are devastated. Alea refuses to believe that Steven would kill himself without any sign or warning, and begins to investigate. What she discovers could turn their entire community upside down, and either crush their spirits for good or give them a new hope altogether.
I do like the idea behind this comic, that insularity can still happen even in deep space, with people closing themselves off to new experiences and ambitions out of fear that these may threaten their survival. The suicide metaphors were deep and interesting, even tho I wasn’t 100% convinced myself of Steven’s fate. I was also quite drawn to Maddie’s plight, even if I didn’t find Lyss’ resolution in the face of it all that assuring.
What bothered me about this comic was the pacing. It’s deeply weird. Characters have the same arguments in different contexts, which feels deeply unnecessary, especially since we’re not given much background before being shunted from one scene to the next. Our protagonists also have the bad habit of talking/arguing around each other, which might be realistic but is still deeply irritating. For goodness’ sake, I don’t read sci-fi expecting tedious literary verite. Almost as annoyingly, there’s a lot of unexplained angst before things actually start happening. I can’t tell if this is literary pretension, or if Sean Kelley McKeever is relying too much on Alexandre Tefenkgi’s art to provide emotional nuance. I think it’s a pretty big ask of any artist, tbh.
And the thing is, Mr Tefenkgi’s art is great! But there’s only so much any artist can do to extract meaning from the muddle that is this sci-fi story in its first two thirds or so. The book really starts firing on all cylinders in the last third, such that even when I disagreed with the narrative choices, at least I was entertained. But then… it ends. Which would be fine if not for the myriad and vast unresolved plot threads. There is a really outstanding sci-fi graphic novel in here, but Mr Tefenkgi’s excellent art unfortunately illustrates a script that needs a lot of refining.
Outpost Zero by Sean Kelley McKeever & Alexandre Tefenkgi was published today April 25 2023 by Image Comics and is available from all good booksellers, including