All that Gil Starx wants is to do is his job as a space trucker, sticking to boring and safe established pathways while he transports goods on his ship. Due to his wife’s recent death, he’s had to bring his nine-year-old son, Kadyn, along on his latest assignment; carrying old artifacts from a closed museum of space history. Gil hasn’t been able to be there for Kadyn the way he’s wanted to be, due to the demands and long space flights of his job, and their relationship has suffered as a result. When a strange and enormous alien creature unexpectedly tears Gil’s ship apart, he’s separated from Kadyn, and both father and son try to cope with the sudden jarring shifts to their reality.
Sea of Stars, Vol. 1: Lost in the Wild Heavens collects issues 1-5 of the comic, which follow Gil and Kadyn’s individual adventures after being separated. Gil mainly spends his time fighting to survive in every way he can, desperate to find his son again. He encounters one danger after another, from hostile alien lifeforms to the limitations of his own spacesuit to the still-active security system of an abandoned spaceship. Kadyn’s experience is drastically different; after surviving, against all odds, the destruction of Gil’s ship, he begins to manifest unusual powers, making him seem almost indestructible. He quickly meets two aliens that he nicknames Space Monkey and Space Dolphin, based on their appearances, who become his travel companions.
The story and writing of Sea of Stars are enjoyable enough (co-written by Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum), and I’m a fan of Jason Aaron’s work, but overall it didn’t stand out to me as being highly original, and there are a few elements I wasn’t thrilled to see. For one, the comic begins—as many unfortunately do—with the death of a female character, in this case Gil’s wife and Kadyn’s mother. (Read about the women in refrigerators trope to gain a better understanding of this prevalent issue in fiction).
Her existence (and death) mainly serves the purpose of setting up the story and some of the conflict, but she doesn’t get to be a full character on her own. I had to really go digging back through the comic to even remember her name (Gina), which is mentioned maybe once or twice at most, and I don’t feel I know any other details about her life or personality. Other than Gina, there is one female character in the story, not including Space Monkey and Space Dolphin, whose genders are not given.
Another element of the comic that left me uneasy was the alien society of the Zzazteks that both Kadyn and Gil encounter. As the name implies, the Zzazteks are very human-looking aliens with brownish grey skin that appear to be a thinly veiled representation of the Aztecs, or other similar groups of indigenous people. The entire alien civilization reads as a collection of common tropes and stereotypes of how indigenous people are often portrayed in fiction. The Zzazteks also seem to be the only characters of color in the comic, as everyone else depicted in vol. 1 is either a non-humanoid alien, a robot, or Gil and Kadyn, who are white.
The comic’s artwork, by Stephen Green with colors by Rico Renzi, is well done, and I especially enjoyed the rich and vibrant color palette of space. It helps bring the story to life, easily giving personality even to the non-human aliens. There are plenty of expansive views of space, planets, and creatures, giving the reader a sense of the enormity of the setting and of the challenges the characters are facing. Overall, Renzi’s work was probably my favorite element of the book.
Sea of Stars, Vol. 1: Lost in the Wild Heavens is rated T for Teen by the publisher, which makes sense with the content. While nothing is overly gratuitous or over the top, there are a fair amount of scary, gory, and violent moments that could be upsetting for younger readers. Blood and death are prominent, especially in Gil’s storyline—though, again, there is nothing stomach-turning or exceedingly graphic depicted.
There is a lot more to be explored in future volumes of the comic, as these five issues really just get the story going. It’s a decent but not outstanding addition to a collection for fans of the creators, sci-fi, and sci-fi/fantasy blends. The publisher compares it with Miyazaki’s works, but I’m not sure I saw the connection. Image Comics has made the first issue available for free on its website, however, so it’s easy to check out and get a sense of it for yourself. On the whole, Sea of Stars is interesting and has some excellent color work, but may not be the creators’ best work.
Sea of Stars, Vol. 1: Lost in the Wild Heavens
By Jason Aaron, Dennis Hallum
Art by Stephen Green
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: T (teen)
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)