In Review: Satellite Falling #1

The best new book of 2016. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: A threesome to find and bring in, dead or alive. The Regular cover, the one being used to accompany this review, is by interior artist Stephen Thompson and interior colorist Lisa Jackson. It’s a shot of lead character Lilly walking a concourse of citizens on Satellite. This is a tremendous collection of aliens of several shapes, sizes, and colors. The look on the human’s face and the weapon she’s bearing shows that she means business. And that business must be pretty serious, given how much space she’s been given by the creatures. I was immediately drawn to this book because of this cover and it resulted in my picking it up, perusing it, and purchasing it. The Subscription cover is by P.J. Holden and focuses on two faces in profile: Lilly and Mr. Stulfosh. This is an actual scene from the book from Page 4 when he’s yelling at her for her inability to engage in small talk. He looks absolutely ferocious as he bellows at her, while the look on her face silently tells the reader that she doesn’t care about anything he’s saying. In fact, it looks like she’s upset at what he’s saying. This isn’t going to end well, is it? The final cover is by June Bringman and it’s the Retailer Incentive cover. This features a full figure of Lilly standing on the right, her gun visible in her hand, and to her side are two busts of two aliens and a large alien from the waist up. They are surrounded in a doted blue line, almost as if it’s showing the path the woman will take to capture all three. Nice layout, great aliens, excellent image of the protagonist, and the pale colors pull the reader in to examine it more closely. Well done. Overall grades: Regular A+, Subscription A, and Retailer Incentive B+  

The story: Lilly narrates the opening five pages revealing that she’s the only human on Satellite, she’s there to forget about her partner Eva, humans have become xenophobic and stay Earthbound, and she’s working as a cab driver. When she delivers her latest fare to his location, Mr. Stulfosh says, “Hmpf. I expect to make conversation with the help. Small talk! You’re about as interesting as a wooden log! Stupid bigoted humans…Here. I’ve got a tip for you, human. Talk next time!” He throws his credits at her in anger as he walks away. Lilly realizes she was foolish and should have talked to him to learn more about him. After he gets some distance, she turns on her holographic projector, turning her image into one of Stulfosh’s species. Before she finishes her narration to dead Eva, she says, “I hunt people for money, Eva. My real job…I hunt as a different being always. No trace. No evidence.” Lilly-in-disguise then pulls her gun and follows Stulfosh down an alley. This a great introduction to this setting, the lead, and her motivations from writer Steve Horton. The reader then follows Lilly to the location that’s paying for her latest catch where she establishes a relationship with an individual there that becomes intimate. Nice surprise with a character in the sixth and seventh panels on Page 8. Lilly’s comments at the bottom of that page begin to make her very similar to Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. The souring that occurs on 10 – 12 are great, showing Lilly’s limits and the lengths others will go to use her abilities. Where Lilly ends up seems like something found in a pulp novel of the present day, and that’s an absolute strength to this story: this is a modern day thriller, sent in the far future with one human trying to make her way on her own. The individual on Page 17 is designed to create a reaction in the reader and definitely creates one in Lilly. What follows next will either be the smartest or stupidest thing she’s ever done. Things are tense on 19 and get pushed into overdrive by 20. It’s going to be a painful thirty days waiting to see how this is resolved. I’m really liking this story. Overall grade: A+

The art: The setting is a major character of this book. This book would crumble if the visuals were not able able to accomplish what Horton’s story demands. Luckily, Stephen Thompson is an exceptional artist and this is a completely formed, incredibly detailed world. The opening panel introduces the reader to Satellite, orbiting an unknown world. The next panel shows a stick shift in a vehicle that would completely fit in with the present world. However, in the third panel Thompson has established several things: Lilly’s appearance, Eva’s appearance, the futuristic vehicle they’re in, and the passenger in the backseat who’s completely alien. The final panel on the page shows the passenger to be talking, with Lilly completely indifferent. This is storytelling told in images, with the narration putting an extra spin on book. Pages 2 and 3 are an extremely detailed look at the varied structures of Satellite, with several vehicles also shown. A reader will be completely swept up into this reading experience by the end of third page. The effect of Lilly’s holoprojector being activated is terrific. The alley she and her prey are walking through is littered with a runoff, papers, and a drunk: this looks like any alley set anywhere, though this one is obviously an alien environment. The next setting is a complete change in design and use, with it being absolutely clean and neat. The individual Lilly speaks with there is an exceptionally designed character, whose look has many interesting facets. Page 9 starts with three small panels that add some great background to Lilly, preceding the culmination of a liaison. The transformation on 11 is great, and the emotion coming out of both characters equally good. The events that follow this look amazing, though I do wish that no computer blur was done in the second panel on 13: it’s unnecessary, as the panel that proceeded it didn’t need it; the effect is a distraction to the visuals. This is only one panel and I cannot condemn a book on one panel. This book looks amazing and Thompson’s name is now one whose work I will actively seek out! Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Tremendous colors on this book from Lisa Jackson. The first panel is a beautiful sunrise on the metallic structure and the odd, alien violet hued planet. Lilly’s orange hair makes her an instant source of focus for every panel she’s in, and her blue jacket only magnifies that attraction. Employing pale violets for the city gives it an instant alien feel. Whites, greens, and peaches creates a touchstone for a reader to identify with his or her own surroundings. The coloring in the second panel on page 5 is great, and it is used for a much more subtle effect on Lilly’s vehicle in the bottom panel. The blues on the character introduced on Page 4 scream his position, and his eyes are wonderful liquid violet. The blues and grays of the final setting nicely create and oppressive environment, with its workers dressed in similarly drab colors. The final page’s roses raise the tension considerably. Jackson is on fire with this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Stalwart IDW letterer Neil Uyetake is responsible for narration, dialogue, and transmissions (all three are the same font) and sounds. All are crisp and clean to read, though I wish the first three fonts were differentiated by their look and not their colors or balloons. Overall grade: B+ 

The final line: The best new book of 2016. A book that captures the feel of a classic thriller while set in a wholly alien environment. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A

To learn more about Satellite Falling and other books from IDW Publishing go to http://www.idwpublishing.com

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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