It took a little bit, but I’m finally all caught up on this title. The mystery so far is rather intriguing and writer Matt Fraction has established some very well defined characters; I am rather curious to see what we can find out in this issue. Is it good?
Satellite Sam #4 (Image Comics)
I’m going to be frank here. I’m not even going to bother trying to give a quick summation here about what happened in the issue. It’s not because the story is overly complex or incomprehensible; not at all, since I followed it fine and got the gist of what was happening. The thing is that Satellite Sam actually has too much plot and too many characters.
Here’s the thing: We are four issues into the comic and we have more than ten characters in the story, all with their own plotlines and motivations. We’ve got the murder mystery of who killed Satellite Sam himself; we’ve got several other stories and plotlines that expand off the characters, the mystery, and by themselves. In fact, we’ve got some new ones recently with the recent political event and a new character trying to run for office.
There is so much content in not even less than four issues and spread over four months that there is just too much to absorb or be able to invest in fully. The comic is bogged down by trying to focus on every story bit and character and these facets be difficult to remember as well. This a story that would really be better suited for trade reading, especially with the slow pacing.
Now, does that make the story or characters bad? Not at all. Despite there being too much to take in (the comic is being a bit overambitious and reaching a bit too far), I think all of it is well written. The characters are fully realized, interesting, and have very human motivations. The storylines are all fascinating, especially with the backdrop of the 50s time period and the politics of the time (especially the gay issues). I love the time period, so the discussion of the politics, TV at the time, opinions of people, and other elements of zeitgeist really appeal to me. There’s even good dialogue and some funny bits that help the story as well. Maybe if the writer, Matt Fraction, focused more on one point instead of casting a wide net and trying to do so much, this might be a bit stronger in the writing part.
The artwork I’m so-so on. Howard Chaykin’s artwork is very good at capturing the feel, tone, and look of the 50’s. This includes the vehicles, the locations, the styles and trends, and people. It’s all there. But then there are the characters themselves. They are all very detailed and given just enough to make them look slightly different from one another, while having a solid range of expressions and emotions, but it’s just not enough. Many of them look too similar despite that and it is often difficult to keep track of who is who, especially if the reader has difficulty remembering every character (like me). For example the characters of Eugene Ford, Joseph Ginsberg, and Hamilton Stanhope have very similar facial structures and hair styles. Unless I look very closely, it’s difficult to tell them apart from one another.
Also, just a note on the word balloon placement. Due to the comic being done in black and white (which contributes to the difficulty of telling people apart), it’s hard to tell who is talking first in some scenes or which word balloons are attributed to certain characters. There are some helpful lines in black and white that point to who is talking, but sometimes the lines fall into the background as well, so that doesn’t help. It’s a minor thing, but it can make following the story difficult in some parts.
- Interesting storylines and characters.
- Detailed artwork that captures the time period well.
- There’s way too much happening to keep track of.
- The pacing is incredibly slow.
- It’s hard to tell who is who at points.
Is It Good?
Satellite Sam #4 is a good comic, but it is increasingly obvious that it is trying to do too much at once. Despite their quality, there are just too many plotlines, subplots, and characters — to the point of making the pacing incredibly slow and rendering it difficult to follow and remember everything from month to month. The artwork is decent, but can also create difficulties as well. Maybe give this a look in the trades, but right now, it is just hard to truly recommend the story despite the quality of it with these problems.