IDW’s Saucer State #1 continues the story from the previous Saucer Country series, and is a mixture of politics and aliens. Is it good?
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Part of the challenge with any first issue is that the writer has to make it an accessible beginning for new readers, even when the series is a follow-up to previous work. On that front, writer Paul Cornell does a decent job here. I haven’t read the Saucer Country series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing vital information as I read this issue. Between an opening recap page and the context of the rest of the issue’s events, I felt like I had a strong enough handle on the lore of this world to follow the story with ease. The overall narrative structure of the issue is strong, as the scene shifts all feel smooth and well-executed. The trek from point A to point B makes sense, and the issue ends on a good cliffhanger.
Unfortunately, the actual content of the narrative isn’t all that interesting. Most of the issue follows human characters, specifically politicians, and none of the cast members are particularly likable or intriguing. The main character, the in-world president of the United States, was previously abducted by aliens, and now struggles with flashbacks and doubts regarding that experience. The writing makes it clear that said abduction is supposed to be a big deal, but the execution here doesn’t grip me. I don’t actually feel any sense of anxiety, trauma, or dread, and as a result I found it difficult to emphasize with the character. This same problem extends to the rest of the cast. They all fulfill their roles in the plot and feel like they’ve been included for a specific reason, but none of their personal dramas are particularly suspenseful or emotionally resonant.
Then there’s the matter of the aliens…they aren’t present. There’s a handful, very briefly, and the promise of more to come, but overall there’s very little alien action in this issue. I understand that the first issue has a lot of important exposition notes to hit, so I wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of aliens if the human drama we got was thrilling in and of itself. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Ryan Kelly is on the art, and his work here is fairly lukewarm. It’s not bad per se, it’s just not memorable. There are some nice panels, and Kelly’s skill is evident, but the script he had to draw up is just a lot of humans talking, and his work doesn’t do much to elevate the forgettable plot. Overall, both the art and writing feel like they’re lacking in flavor. The issue comes across as wanting to be a mixture of political drama and space horror, and neither genre’s trappings are effectively channeled here.
Saucer State #1 is disappointing less because of what it includes and more because of what it omits. The narrative structure and art are solid enough, but the details in both are lacking in style and flair. I don’t feel like I have a sense of any of the characters besides familiar archetypes, and I didn’t get any indication of what sort of unique takes future issues might bring to the alien concept. Ultimately, this is a first issue that doesn’t build much momentum for the ones to follow.