Southern Cross Vol. 1

Becky Cloonan: story/covers; Andy Belanger: art; Lee Loughridge: colours

Image Comics, 2016

The Southern Cross is a tanker/personnel carrier headed to Titan, a refinery moon of Saturn. Alex Braith is on her way there to investigate the death of her sister. Titan is a dangerous place, but Amber Braith was an administrator, not a miner. Alex thinks some of her shipmates may be shady, but things really take a turn when her cabin mate disappears. The woman had been sent to investigate Amber's death, and Alex becomes increasingly convinced that she will find her answers on the ship before reaching Titan.

So it's a sci-fi murder mystery, at least at the beginning. Like any good mystery it reveals its clues gradually. It turns out that there is a piece of alien contraband at the center of all of the events. The full revelation of its function changes the story into an alien contact story. It appears that the second story arc will involve the investigation of Alex's disappearance--not her adventures on Titan, despite the direction the story was headed in through most of the volume.

It's an interesting, unexpected twist, which will definitely bring me back for Volume 2. It certainly won't be because of sympathy for these characters. They are an extremely unlikable bunch: crude and unsavory at first meeting, then weak and crooked once we get to know them. Alex is barely more relateable than the rest. She's on a good mission, but she is cold and quick to anger. The only character that seems normal is her sister Amber, who we see in flashbacks (also revealing that Alex wasn't a good sister, which explains part of her obsession with solving the mystery).

I know Belanger's work mainly through the IDW series Kill Shakespeare. His character designs here are similar: well suited to these hard, unsavory types. He also gets to stretch out on the outer space images and especially on the ship interior. Cloonan frequently employs scenes where the characters converse while walking through the ship. While they can occasionally be hard to follow visually, it does give an opportunity to see the ship without extra narrative. Both creators have fun with the little world-building end pages, which feature ads for miner's boots and such.

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If anyone doesn't know, the name is from a southern hemisphere constellation, which is depicted in the O on the cover. It's represented on the Australian and New Zealand flags.

I recognized the name of the constellation, but hadn't given it any thought beyond that. Nothing is made of the connection in the story, at least that I can recall.

Now I've got Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Southern Cross" stuck in my head.

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