Last month Avatar Press launched a new series, by Garth Ennis and Facundo Percio, that dealt with horror in a space opera setting. The first issue took a while to find its legs and get going, but by the end of it, had turned into a really interesting story. This was my first time reading anything by Garth Ennis, or Facundo Percio for that matter, and since the first experience was a good one, I was on board for this series, to see how the story would continue to develop, and what would happen to all these varied characters, each of whom had a really interesting backstory it seemed.
Caliban #2 is all about building up the suspense and horror of what happens when two ships collide in warp space. One, the Caliban, is much , much smaller than the other, an alien ship of unknown origins, and this creates some interesting narrative points that further the mystery of what is happening. With more than half their number dead, the crew of the Caliban is racing to get some answers and get out of the mess they’ve found themselves into. The writing and the art here are both just as good as they were in the previous issue, and this is a good follow-up to that I think.
If there’s one thing that gets to you about this issue is that Garth Ennis certainly doesn’t restrain himself from creating a pure horror moment, the kind that makes you want to jump back in your seat when something happens in these pages and all of a sudden you have a hungry lamprey-octopus thingy vomiting its young in your face. I mean, I jumped back at that scene and that speaks a lot for Percio’s skills as an artist, but Ennis certainly sets up the entire moment. I am reminded very much of the movie Prometheus (review), when the scientists are exploring a cave and they run into a bunch of face-huggers. If it looks dangerous, don’t touch it!
But then, that’s part of the charm certainly. And its not just that Ennis plays up the horror elements so much, he also plays up the violence, which can get pretty brutal, as the final two pages of this issue show. Out in the darkest reaches of space, with two ships locked in a crash-embrace that threatens to destroy both ships, and you have an alien cargo hold full of more alien specimens? Well, that’s the setting for some really weird, horrific stuff, especially if you can’t find anyone that could be part of the alien ship’s crew.
And one thing that bears mentioning for sure here is that Ennis has jam-packed this issue with some really interesting characters. Karein, the Captain, San, McCartney, Nomi, all of them have a story to tell and their reactions to their predicament tell you a lot about this characters. Each character contributes to the overall story and while at times it feels like Ennis is dealing with an unmanageable cast, he still manages to make everything flow together really well, so that you aren’t lost at any point and can easily follow along.
While the whole space horror shtick has been done to death before, in various mediums, Ennis’ own contribution stands apart largely because of how tightly-plotted the story is and because the characters are all interesting in their own way. You could say that Ennis doesn’t waste any page-space on narrative frivolities. He focuses on the characters and tells the story through them, building up this unique setting in every panel that you can read. That’s worth quite a bit.
As with last time, Percio is the penciller here with Sebastian Cabrol providing the inks, Hernan Cabrera providing the colours and Kurt Hathaway providing the letters. In a slight bit of improvement from last time, the artwork in this issue is much more detailed and atmospheric than before. And the best scene is definitely the splash page with the scene showing off the alien cargo hold, with all the preservation canisters. Another would be the scene I mentioned above with regards to the lamprey-octopus. Now that was a fun page, you can be sure of that.
Overall, a good follow-up to a good first issue.
More Caliban: #1.