When it comes to slow burn stories you need the right amount of character and surprises to keep your interest up. Just look at True Detective and you’ll see a story that may not move quickly but it has you by the balls every minute of it. That’s how Southern Cross has played out for me since issue #1, but at some point it needs to reveal its secrets. When the slow burn has been so good, though, it can be a let down when it ramps up. Now that it is ramping up, is it good?
Southern Cross #4 (Image Comics)
The story is about a girl named Alex Braith who’s on a ship called Southern Cross on its way to Titan. She’s an ex-con and only on the ship to figure out how and why her sister died. She’s been doing some detective work and at the same time experienced some weird stuff. Take for instance her bunkmate, who disappeared only to be replaced by a horrific corpse! Or was it all in her head? Meanwhile the ship’s gravity drive is acting up and we’ve seen some odd images of Alex’s sister inside the energy of the drive. Weird. This issue opens as Alex centers herself as the captain tries to calm her down.
Things get ultra freaky in this issue as the minds of our character is tormented with. At least I think so. Becky Cloonan continues to write a very strong script as the onion is slowly peeled back to reveal some horrifically odd layers. Hell, even the cover by Cloonan is freaking me out with some next level Insidious style creepy.
Two scenes in this issue hammer home why this is worth a purchase. The first is the flashback as we learn a bit more about where Alex is coming from with her relationship to her sister. It’s complicated (it always is), but her anxiety and need to make things right is solidly explained due to their relationship both as kids and later in life. The second is a freaky scene between Alex and the ship doctor. It’s straight up unnerving and plays out very well. It could have easily been paced to be a shock moment and nothing more, but Cloonan does a nice job building up the weird.
That can’t be good.
This is of course also due to some solid art by Andy Belanger. This scene where Alex freaks out on the doctor is creepy and well drawn and could have easily been reduced to a single panel and been done with it, but Belanger slowly builds the freakishness of the scene with some twisted images. I speak vaguely to not ruin the scene, but it’s a doozy. Elsewhere Belanger nails some transcendent pages as Alex loses her mind for a bit. Mixing space with demonic looking symbols, Belanger makes these moments otherworldly in a confused yet controlled way. We don’t know what the heck is going on, but damn, it must have an answer! On top of this, he continues to contain our characters in a claustrophobic sort of way. It helps make the characters feel hopeless and trapped even though they’re traveling in outer space.
In another comic this could have been extremely comedic.
Is It Good?
Another inspired issue in what is the scariest slow burn story I’ve ever read. The mystery is deep, the horror behind the veil unnerving and the characters strong. It’s the True Detective of space horror.