Southern Cross #9 is the third part of Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger's Sci-Fi-pulp/noir themed second act, and it's a bit of a banger!
Following on from the trippy psycho-horror of the first volume, the second arc focuses on a grizzled, old detective, dragged back in to investigation after things go sour in the wake of the first volumes events. Before this they had an otherwise relatively simple life on an oil rig on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
It's mid-to-late-transition from that easy life that Cloonan's script in #9 directs us through a taught first half of the book that ramps up the kind of muted intensity (we're never fully in the uprising that's happening on the rig, as they're trying to avoid it) up to near breaking point before the detective and their newly obtained muscle find that their investigation leads off-rig. What's key to our protagonist is that Cloonan can imbue character with minimal dialogue and this is a skill you'll have seen Becky work to great effect in her comics like Wolves, Dementer, and The Mire (digital / paper) which I always love to pimp. There the main focal characters are often alone, or handling things from a lonely perspective, and Becky illustrated those and had complete control. However within these pages exhibits the same control over the art direction to reveal the intent of our inspector, their inner strength, that Clint Eastwood toughness, with a bit of snappy timing to boot. Here we need to feel the hold that our lead has on the situation, and it's completely bossed, in every scene. The bad guy muscle visually feels this, and so we do too, all within the first few pages:
Belanger and Lee Loughridge's stylings aid all of this immensely. Easily evoking the massed anger, claustrophobic panic and urgency on deck, they can immediately switch that to the safety of a locked room, or switch to the horror of a brutal martial beat down. They mostly do this through Loughridge's semi-subtle colour shifts, which are harsher when needed for those clobberings. The palette changing here is what it would be like for old films to having six or seven different types of black and white to shoot with, and it works really well on the page.
So, all told we find Cloonan almost effortlessly impelling us forward in this genre bending ride. The story just never letting you either drop the weird unease from the first arc, but yet here in #9 we're piecing together the parts of this weird-ass puzzle that's ongoing, and I can highly recommend that try to complete it.
- Title: Southern Cross
- Volume: 1
- Issue: 9
- Published: 16th November 2016
- Publisher: Image Comics
- Writer: Becky Cloonan
- Penciler: Andy Balanger
- Colorist: Andy Balanger
- Letterer: Serge LaPointe
- Story pages: 23
- Print price: $3.99
- Digital price: $3.99