One of my favorite things to do when I go to comic conventions is to discover new artists and writers. And that is how I first discovered Cleopatra in Space. The very first con I attended, Heroescon 2011, Mike Maihack and Cleopatra were there. At the time, Mike was doing Cleopatra as a webcomic and had a couple of minicomics out that collected the webcomics. And I fell in love with Cleopatra at first sight. The story and the artwork are absolutely fantastic, so it is no surprise that Graphix offered Mike a chance to do a Cleopatra series. If, like me, you’ve read the webcomics, be assured that while this is still the Cleopatra that we know and love, it is an entirely new story and we get to see her from the very beginning and fall in love with her all over again.
In the far distant future, there is an ancient prophecy which says that someone from the distant past is destined to save the galaxy from the evil Xaius Octavian, a tyrannical despot. That someone is Cleopatra, the once and future queen of Egypt. For now, though, she is a young princess in ancient Egypt who prefers to skip her lessons and have fun and play with slingshots—until the day she finds a mysterious tablet that takes her into the far distant future so she can save the galaxy. Although Cleopatra has much to learn about the past and the future, with the help of her mentor Khensu, a talking cat, she may just have what it takes to save the galaxy. Until that time, though, Cleopatra is your average student at Yasiro Academy: doing homework, making friends, avoiding detention, and just being your average teenage girl who is handy with a laser gun. The part about saving the galaxy may come a bit earlier than either Cleopatra, Khensu, or anyone else ever expected, and we can only hope that she’s ready.
Although Mike’s writing and storytelling keep me coming back for more of Cleopatra, it’s his artwork that caused me to fall in love with her the first time. Mike’s style of art is to not depend upon color to bring his characters to life, but instead use varying line widths to build and create the character. And what this means is that even in a black and white drawing of the characters, they have a grace and fluidity that makes them come alive. They remind me of some of the pencil tests of early Disney films and cartoons, where the characters dance upon the page with just a few lines. It is not something that I see often these days, and that is what makes Cleopatra stand out to me. The color, of course, only enhances the characters, giving Cleopatra soft brown eyes that sparkle and show her vibrant and intelligent personality. I also enjoy that fact that Mike varies his page layout, often overlapping panels on top of one another or ignoring the panel lines altogether to create a more cohesive layout. This enhances the quality of the story and gives the reader something different to look for.
One of the best parts about this comic is that Cleopatra is not a dainty “sit on her hands and let others do the work for her” type of queen. Instead, she is a kick-butt, laser-wielding, energetic kind of girl that likes to do things for herself. Even more than that, though, what she tries does not always work. She fails (and Mike is not afraid to show those failures) because Cleopatra is a teenager, which is an important factor in the story. It makes it easy to relate to her and understand why she does what she does. We’ve all been in similar situations (well…at least the being a teenager part), so we understand the flux of emotions and hormones and trying to prove to others that we can do anything we put our minds to. And that is something that comics, and books in general, need more of these days: a character who can make mistakes, learn from them, and grow. It is this type of writing that keeps me on the edge of my seat wanting to know more.
The one downside to coming to the end of this volume is that I need that second volume already. I need to know what happens next! Where do Cleopatra and her friends go from here? I, for one, look forward to the next volume in Cleopatra’s adventures and I can not wait to see where their journey takes them. Fans of Zita the Spacegirl will thoroughly enjoy Cleopatra and her friends. And it might make them wonder…could Cleopatra and Zita be related?
Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice, Book One
by Mike Maihack
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12