Wheww. That was a close one.
At the time I was absolutely flooded with new books, ongoing books, books to re-read, etc. and I was so overwhelmed that I don’t think I even really read that first issue. I mean, I read it, but I think at the time I was so hesitant to add another book to the monthly pile that I didn’t really pay attention. Self-sabotage.
Two months later a quietly passionate endorsement by Elephantmen creator Richard Starkings prompted me to pick up issue two. I brought it home, probably read it near the middle of my pile and it grabbed me. I went back for number 3 the following week, re-read them all in one sitting and promptly fell in love. The nuanced creepiness that Cloonan and Belanger created in the Southern Cross as it traveled the stars toward the icy moon of Titan was palpable. I mean, I read that three-issue tear in a darkened room in the middle of the night and it affected me in way not unlike how great horror movies affect me in controlled environment viewings (really the only way I watch horror movies). In case it’s not obvious I like to be creeped out, scared, haunted, all that. It’s rare in an age of bombastic overstimulation, over exposition and a daily media diet that is for all practical purposes considerably scarier than any movie or comic could ever hope to be if said movie or comic is going to try and out do the world we live in. No, subtle has always been scarier and that’s never been more true than now. And Southern Cross, while not scary, is haunting. In the colloquial, “It’s creepsville man.”
By the end of the 4th issue I realized the scope of what the creators were doing with Southern Cross and began to salivate for each subsequent issue. Two months later the first arc wrapped up and the book disappeared from the shelves. That was last year and the wait proved to be the longest I’ve experienced between arcs for any book of recent memory. Well, two months ago Southern Cross re-appeared and although I’ve been chomping at the bit to dive back in I just haven’t had the time.
Until yesterday, when I spent an hour or so re-reading the first arc and then plowing directly into the new one. How’s the story holding up after the events of issue #6? I am even more in love now than I was after that third issue.
I really can’t stress this enough – this is a very, very good book. In ways we don’t really understand yet it feels like there’s a kinship in tone with the severe cosmic horror Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham gave us in their 2015 series Nameless. Only here there’s a wider view of things that has made for a very interesting and different way of disseminating the story. The second arc has swapped all but one character out for a new setting and a new perspective on the events that the crew of the Cross experienced in issue #6. There’s a bigger picture now, and then an even bigger picture behind that. Cloonan and Belanger are building to something that truly feels cosmic, yet they’re also paying attention to how that affects people on a ‘ground level’. The themes, thus far, are more immediate in this second arc, and that has changed the story but not the tone. It’s still creepy and claustrophobic, only now that’s due to the situation on Titan, that moon of Oil, Ice and Hell, where Zemi is just barely keeping a mutiny at bay, people aren’t who they say they are and all kinds of illicit, back-stabbing shit is going down. Chaos is at the door again, only this time it’s more political than cosmic until, oh yeah, we haven’t finished with that yet. It’s still there in the background, the unknown artifacts, what they’re doing to people, who found them, who wants them. We’re seeing the effects of things ripple out in ways I doubt anyone expected and this, along with the continually exceptional art by Belanger and Loughridge, are what have made Southern Cross one of my favorite two years in a row now.
Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.