Satellite Sam Vol. 3: Limestone Caves of Fire

Matt Fraction, writer; Howard Chaykin, artist

Image Comics, 2015

There were a lot of narrative balls in the air at the beginning of this final collection, and the creators deftly catch them all. Not only that, but they subvert some classic noir expectations in the process (they discuss this in the interview-style essay at the end, which has been a common feature in all of the collections). Impossible to talk about these issues without spoiling anything, so consider yourself warned.

The blackmail possibilities of the secret kinescopes were real, and they drive much of the action in this arc. Libby was forced off the road by Dr. Ginsberg (owner of LeMonde Network) at the end of the previous arc, but the details weren't clear before. He did it to steal the key to the storage locker in Limestone Caves, and with access to the tapes he tries to turn up the heat on Karnes, to force the FCC to allow him to enlarge his network.

Michael takes his investigation of his father's death to its logical conclusion. Turns out it really was death by sexual misadventure rather than murder. But that does not mean there isn't plenty of murderous intent among the principals. This all comes to a head at the storage facility: Ginsberg and the Karnes have broken in to search for the compromising kinescope, and Michael crashes the party. Deaths and a fire consuming the tapes seem to put an end to that chapter.

But Michael and Libby had a plan, which results in Karnes finding himself in the scandal he had been trying to avoid. There's another plan, as well. Eugene has narrowly escaped a lynching attempt, so he and Eve have good reason to leave town. Michael and Libby join them in Hollywood, where Carlye White's original idea of taking the Satellite Sam show West combines with Eugene's foresight to establish the first independent television production studio. There's a marvelous shift to color for the California sequence, dramatically illustrating the bright new beginning. The art shifts back to B&W for the coda, an equally dramatic look at Kara's downfall.

The whole series was really well done, capturing the period while employing classic mystery noir tropes. The creators have left the possibility open that they might revisit this world. I would love to see more.

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