Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.
Amongst the Stars by Jim Alexander, Mike Perkins and Will Pickering – Planet Jimbot 2015
A trippy tale of science fiction brought to you by the talents of Eagle/True Believers award winner Jim Alexander (GoodCopBadCop, Metal Hurlant, Wolf Country) and Eisner award winner Mike Perkins (Captain America, Ruse, Stephen King's The Stand).
Amongst the Stars is a comic that's big on ideas and low on page count. It's a comic that seeks to explore the deeper questions on the meaning of life and the nature of our place in the universe and it looks to do all that in under fifty pages.
Jim Alexander's cosmic fable is split across four different narrative strands, a murder in Turin, a party in New York, the last days of a dying race on the other side of the galaxy and the love life of a disabled astro-physicist who is almost definitely not Stephen Hawking. Through each of these strands Alexander draws parallels between the interconnectedness of each set of characters. Isn't the disabled astro-physicist's attempt to connect to with his daughter just like the disabled alien's attempt to convince their partner to accept their fates?
You've seen these beats before, but it would perhaps be unfair of me to write Aleander's story off as merely Cloud Atlas on speed. Alexander's little, and maybe too short, tales do resonate with an emotional effectiveness that could easily have devolved into whimsy. It's blatantly obvious that William Holland is a knock off Stephen Hawking, but that doesn't really stop you from being drawn into the story and believing in his character.
This slight of hand is mostly pulled off thanks to Mike Perkins' excellent artwork on the book, which really reminds me of the black and white era of 90's Doctor Who strips (which I've covered in the past,) particularly in regards to the alien sequences that make a bold use of clear white space to communicate the strangeness of their culture and the way they perceive reality.
And perception really is the main focus of the book. For what little plot there is it mostly concerns the alien race's last ditch attempt to save themselves backfiring when they accidentally interface with an old movie camera. Beyond that the beats are much more primal, raising questions of where our animal brains begin and where our human souls end (or should that be the other way around?)
Once again, most of the heavy lifting is done by Perkins' art. Beyond the Stars really wants to be more of an experience than a story. It'll end far sooner than you'll expect it to, and while it will leave you with thoughts to ponder, I do wonder if the story could have done with more time. Alexander's big ideas are still only touched upon rather than examined and, as mentioned earlier, the story will remind you of far deeper, richer works that cover similar ground.
So all in all Amongst the Stars is effective at what it sets out to do, though what it does has been done more effectively, and at length, many times before.
The book also comes with a back up strip in the form of Growing Pains. If you've ever read a 2000ad Terror Tale then you'll know exactly what you're in for here. It's a short, humorously told horror story with a grim twist at the end. It's a fun and unexpected addition to the end of the book, even if it does have practically nothing to do with the main plot.
Jack Harvey 2017. Amongst the Stars (c) 2015 Planet Jimbot. Images used under Fair Use.