The universe can be a vast and empty expanse. The twinkle of stars. The occasional asteroid belt. Everything can seem so far away.
You probably know Jason Aaron from his largely popular Thor and Avengers runs, Southern Bastards, or Scalped. To call his work “edgy” may be a bit of an understatement at times. You may know Dennis ‘Hopeless’ Hallum from All-New X-Men or Spider-Woman. “Gritty” and “action-packed” may be some of the last descriptors on your mind. Now, in Sea of Stars, they’ve decided to switch things up a bit. Kadyn and his dad have been through a lot recently, especially after the death of Kadyn’s mom. Both seem to be searching for something to cling to or a bit of normalcy, but unfortunately, fate has something much worse in store. Suddenly, Kadyn and his dad are thrust into their own separate stories. Both are set up to have a distinct feel in future issues, and both seem to be trying to communicate different messages.
Sea of Stars #1 is a beautiful and cosmic space journey from beginning to end. The deep blues and purples from Rico Renzi help put you in space with them and capture the beauty of the void. They come off as electric on the page and it really helps keep your eyes glued to the art. The art appears to be very influenced by Jack Kirby and does a great job of conveying two different perspectives. You get a “nothing special” attitude from the eyes of a dad who’s seen this all before, but an amazing and childlike wonder from the eyes of nine year-old Kadyn. Stephen Green does a great job making the artifacts in the back of the spaceship seem enormous and plays with depth and perspective incredibly well.
There are some weird language quirks sprinkled throughout the issues that make you raise an eyebrow to the dialogue in skepticism, but for the most part, our two protagonists feel authentic. This could be your dad or your son in this situation. In some ways, the issue gives up a family vacation vibe. A father just trying to get from one place to the next and a son bored out of his mind who never signed on for this in the first place. Oh, the memories it’s sure to bring back. If you’ve ever been about nine years old and forced to go on a family road trip driving through the Midwest with nothing but corn to stare at for miles, this is how Kadyn feels right now. He just wants something exciting to happen. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
Meanwhile, life is tough for a single father, and this books shows that. It’s not like Gil wanted to subject his son to these levels of boredom, but he couldn’t leave Kadyn home alone at this age. Besides, maybe it could be fun with just the two of them. Gil’s doing the best that he can and it’s hard sometimes to be left to raise a nine year-old so suddenly. Kadyn’s a good kid who just wants to explore this very cool spaceship, but when Gil’s concern for safety gets in the way, Kadyn says one of the most hurtful things a nine year-old in this situation can say: “Mom would’ve let me.” It cuts deep and makes you pause for a second. Children are very complex, and they con be very hurtful, but you love them to death anyways. Kadyn just misses his mom and it’s easy to understand that, but it doesn’t make the line hurt any less.
This is the picture you get from the first half of this issue. It’s a glimpse at life on the road, but in space. It’s easy to imagine how some of these sentiments could feel familiar to those in the trucking industry. After all, Gil does have his own ham radio-like device and the ship is named “The Porkchop Comet.” It’s a bumpy journey, but it’s also a genuine one, and things seem to be moving along until… “Oh my holy lord.”
The second half of this issue is simply a whirlwind. As a space monster attacks and everything is thrown into disarray, your heart gone out to both of them in what must be a worst-case-scenario situation. For a father, losing you child is the worst thing that could happen, and for Kadyn it’s pretty difficult to think of something scarier than getting separated from everything you’ve ever known in the vastness of space. The action sequences in this scene are gripping and leave you on the edge of you seat, and they are also depicted beautifully. Stephen Green manipulates depth and gravity to convey both the danger and the weightlessness especially well, and Rico Renzi adding the brilliant and alarming reds to two of the most intense panels really helps heighten the danger.
In total, this is a very interesting experiment within the comic medium. Now that they’re separate, these are two very different stories and it’s hard to predict whether or not they are going to mesh together properly. This was intentional, as Aaron wanted to tell more of a Miyazaki coming-of-age adventure, while Hallum wanted to tell more of a gritty survival story. Aaron’s Miyazaki elements definitely shine through a bit more towards the end thanks to a funny but possibly dangerous space lemur and and a giant flying space whale. Both provide some much-needed humor after an intense separation, and both seem to have more to them than initially meets the eye. As a whole, it’s difficult to discern how separate they wanted these two stories to feel, as the writing feels relatively uniform besides Gil’s beautiful monologue towards the end, a brilliant showcase of lettering by Jared K. Fletcher. There isn’t a drastic stylistic, mood, or art change that lets you know how different these journeys are going to be. Perhaps it’s supposed to feel like one story; however, prior coverage suggests otherwise. Either way, we won’t get a better idea until the next issue.