In Review: The Last Space Race #1

A solid introductory issue to get the series started.

The covers: A threesome to find if one heeds the data from deep space. The A cover is by Alex Shibao with Natália Marques, the interior artist and colorist of this issue. This is a close-up of Sasha Balodis holding his helmet. Within the glass one can see a ship docked (?) with a partially constructed space station. The suit looks good, the image in the helmet a good tease, the colors very cool, but one should also look in the bottom left corner — a farm windmill is shown. This is Earth. Something to think about before starting in on this issue. Of note is that promotional art that was revealed for this book showed that there is much more to this illustration than shown on this cover: all of Balodis can be seen from the knees up. Why the decision was made to only focus on the helmet is unknown to me, but this is an effective cover nonetheless. The B cover is from Juan Doe (who is an exceptional artist whose recent interior work can be found in AfterShock’s Dark Ark). This frontpiece features an astronaut floating in space before a ringed planet that may be Saturn. The reader is looking at this image from the astronaut’s back, with a possible thruster in red on the character’s suit. The planet may be exploding as there are red energy lines erupting from its sides and pieces of the world are flying past the character. Cool looking cover with the colors beautiful. The final cover is the New York Comic Con Exclusive which was created by Declan Shalvey. This features a closer view of the ringed world, with said ring tilted from the upper left down to the lower left. Floating and tiny in the lower right is that lost astronaut again. Obviously this image is important to the story if it’s used twice! This cover is okay, but doesn’t feature the dynamic coloring of the B. Overall grades: A A, B A+, and New York Comic Con Exclusive B

The story: Peter Calloway begins his tale with Sasha Baldois floating in space. He assumes he has only one hour of oxygen left in his suit. He realizes he would be saving air if he wasn’t breathing, but then he wouldn’t be able to make a recording of what he’s been through. A turn of the page and he says, “On the bright side, at least I have a nice view.” This view is before a ringed planet. The story then moves years earlier as someone at a snow covered station has their monitor go active, proclaiming that an anomaly has been detected in space. This individual drops the phone, ending the conversation he was having, and bolts from the room. The story then goes to Sasha Balodis who’s involved in a very important mission. Balodis looks to be the lead of this series, who has the means and the money to make something happen. Something terrible happened in the past that upended his life and the experience haunts him. That said, the events of Pages 3 and 4 become important and have repercussions on him. Pages 17 and 18 introduce the premise of this series, with the final panel on 18 mirroring my own reaction. The last page isn’t a surprise, but it was cool to read. This issue doesn’t have a lot of action, but sets up where this story will go. I enjoyed this, even if the opening reminded me of the start of every episode of TBS’s Final Space. Overall grade: B

The art: Alex Shibao does a fine job with the visuals of this book, making the real world look true and the more fanciful elements believable. The opening of the book is a good cinematic pull back from the character, focusing on the crack in the visor. The bottom panel of the first page has the character turning slightly to the right, encouraging the reader to turn the page: very smart. The full-paged splash on 2 is epic, though the ring resembles a scribble. I can’t tell if it’s an actual collection of asteroids around the world or an actual streak of energy swirling around the planet. It looks like the latter, though I don’t think it’s supposed to be. The station that opens Page 3 looks solid and I love the posture of its seemingly sole occupant, as well as the sorry state of his sweater. Little details like that make the story seem a little more real. His reaction is also good, with the close-up of his eye emphasizing to the reader the magnitude of what’s shown. The action on the next page is fine, but was that much space needed for that final image? Everything around the character, save the monitor, doesn’t need to be shown. Better are the pages that follow with Sasha involved in a particular action. I like everything about this incident, before, during, and after it. I liked that black lines were used around the panels on Page 13, which is a subtle clue to the reader as to what’s being shown. The progression of panels on the following page are strong, with colors being a neat way to tell time. The reaction at the end of 18 is super and I was glad to see this emotion continue onto the next page, because it most certainly would. The final page is a full-paged splash, shown from a dramatic angle. It’s cool, but was it needed for the story? It doesn’t reveal anything to the reader and it’s not a surprise. Its size seemed unnecessary. Overall grade: B

The colors: Natália Marques’s colors are good on this book. The opening violets are beautiful, which serves to misdirect the reader for the reveal on Page 2. This page is dominated by pale orange and yellow, with the latter coming off as odd, but that’s due to Shibao’s artwork. The station on 3 is nicely done in cool colors until the monitor snaps on and reds begin to dominate. There’s a neat sunrise in the first panel on 5 and the colors for this vehicle and its interiors are calming blues. These change to orange and crimson when trouble comes calling. The flashback sequences have a faced red tint to increase the tension of the scene and provide a visual clue in the reader that the events aren’t happening in the present. Colors are absolutely key on Page 14 to show the progression of time and they work extremely well. Overall grade: A-

The letters: One of AfterShock’s go-to letterers is Marshall Dillon and he does another bang-up job on this title. He creates distant dialogue on the first page, dialogue, scene settings, sounds, computer text, yells, and whispers. The whispered dialogue is good, being readable but small enough for the reader to understand that’s it’s quiet speech. The scene settings are bold, giving each transition a dramatic introduction. The sounds are several and are very fun, whether read silently or aloud for added entertainment. I’m liking what Dillon does. I often do. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A solid introductory issue to get the series started: the conflict is introduced and backstory is given on the lead protagonist. It’s readable, but isn’t too exciting. I’m definitely in for a second issue and will decide after that if I continue to see where this title is going. AfterShock’s record is strong, so I’m encouraged. Overall grade: B+

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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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