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Sattelite Sam & Descender


By Matt Fraction (Author) and Howard Chaykin (Illustrator) Image Comics (Publisher)

In the days of black-and-white television, the independent DuMont Network struggled to survive in competition with the major alphabet networks. DuMont’s most popular program was a daily fifteen-minute children’s science-fiction series, Captain Video and his Video Rangers. While Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin’s Satellite Sam is set in a thinly fictionalized version of that network and program, make no mistake, moms and dads: This is very adult entertainment. Fraction’s cinematic script, full of jump cuts and flashbacks, is a festival of sexual perversions. Throughout his career, veteran comics artist Chaykin has displayed a penchant for depicting oral sex. Fraction’s script gives Chaykin multiple opportunities to do just that. Satellite Sam exhibits both creators’ strengths. Fraction is a formidable story teller. His complex plot never flags and he ties it all up and brings it all home in the end. Chaykin is one of the most distinctive artists working in the comics medium and his singular style, particularly in period-appropriate black and white, is perfectly suited to the material. Satellite Sam, originally a fifteen-issue comic books series, is collected in a three-volume graphic novel set. A deluxe hard-cover compilation is also available. There will be a sequel.


By Neil Gaiman (Author), Kelly Jones, Charles Vess and Malcolm Jones III (Illustrators) DC Comics/Vertigo (Publisher)

Jeff Lemire, responsible for the beautifully haunting and ethereal Underwater Welder, returns with aplomb to Descender, a science fiction effort. And illustrator Dustin Nguyen is an absolute master of his craft; his using soft watercolors to tell a story about a highly advanced technological future is a welcome change from the usual slickness of sci-fi books, and provides the reader with a dreamlike world that is nonetheless under constant threat of attack. Giant robotic beings called Harvesters have wiped out a great deal of life on the planet Niyrata, resulting in all robots being culled. Ten years after the first attack, humanity is still searching for answers. Readers are introduced to a core group of characters, including Dr. Jin Quon, a human scientist, and Tim 21, his (now illegal) robot creation. The story quickly jumps ahead in time; Dr. Quon has been in disgrace ever since the robot culling, and Tim 21 has been in stasis on a distant moon for the decade following the Harvester attacks. It becomes apparent that, as one of the last surviving robots, Tim’s circuitry may hold the key to understanding the Harvesters and to protect mankind in the almost certain event of renewed attack. The story is wonderfully engaging, especially told through the eyes of Tim. His childlike empathy and enthusiasm echoes his more famous Spielbergian A.I. counterpart, but with none of the saccharine pathos. The story promises many wonders, and its success lies in the combination of Lemire’s world-building and Nguyen’s illustrations. The warmth in a technologically advanced alien world is wonderfully evident, and gives the reader an emotional anchor to the story and its characters.

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