Satellite Sam Volume One

Matt Fraction, writer; Howard Chaykin, artist

Image Comics, 2014

I knew I'd had this eComic for awhile, but I had no idea it had been this long. Fraction and Chaykin created a B&W noir mystery story set in the early years of television. It's 1951, New York City, and the star of the hit TV show "Satellite Sam" has been found dead in a seedy hotel room. We don't actually see the scene--a bit of visual discretion that makes me wonder if it isn't being saved for a reveal later in the series--but the room is full of sleazy cheesecake photographs of women dressed in racy lingerie. Apparently Carlyle White (the star in question) had an unusual hobby.

White's son Michael sets out to solve the mystery of who killed his father and why. This is clearly the central mystery driving the story, but there are many other complications. The owner of the TV station that produces the show is lobbying the FCC to expand into a network. The science fiction adventure "Satellite Sam" is his biggest hit, and he wants to keep it going even after its star has died. He may or may not be aware that Carlyle was plotting to move the show to Hollywood. Other actors on the show are pitching their own shows, and are fighting for screen time (it is live TV, after all). There are mystery kinescopes Carlyle was keeping, which we haven't see yet (a kinescope is a document of a TV show made by filming a TV monitor).

Visually the story is right down Chaykin's alley. He loves to draw 1950s men and women: especially when the women are curvy and sporting skimpy, lacy underwear. I've seen accusations of gratuitous sex scenes, but I'm not sure that's entirely accurate. Sex is part of the power play these characters are involved in. There certainly is a lot of oral sex (more implied than explicit), which also offers blackmail possibilities. Presenting the story in black and white suits the subject matter very well. Obviously this won't appeal to anyone who dislikes Chaykin's art, but I was drawn in by both the setting and the mystery. I expect to go on to the two other collections.

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