Boom Studio's Cluster
I can’t really tell what exactly the draw is. It may be the ever growing excitement for the newest Star Wars movie, or it could just be my lifelong love of all things sci fi, but whatever it is I have really been impressed with the amount of good sci fi stuff coming out lately. One of the first things I reviewed on Nerdbinge was Salvagers, a sci fi book I found on Kickstarter, and since then I have done an Image title called Drifter. These two books I have reviewed I gave enthusiastic thumbs up and sorry for the spoiler but Cluster won’t be any different.
Cluster is a Boom Studio book that is created and written by Ed Brisson, illustrated by Damian Couceiro, colored by Michael Garland, and has a bunch of other artists that worked on varies different covers and colors for the covers. The art is nice and pleasing to look at, all of the characters are distinct and unique in their own way. Even though the artists are different Cluster reminds me of another Boom Studios book called Black Market. Overall the art is excellent and on par with the industries best.
Cluster starts off with a character named Samara Simmons getting arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence and public endangerment causing bodily harm. I know, a mouthful, but better to know what she is facing that going in blind, besides it has to do with the plot as the next few panels insinuate that there was a passenger in the burning wreck behind her. The entire opening scenario is done in three pages and only the last page has any of the dialog. I like the way the book starts because it instantly creates empathy for Samara and draws the reader in with the events leaving us wanting us more.
After Samara is arrested she wakes up two years later from a cryogenic sleep in a ship that is about to dock on a prison planet where the prisoners are used as soldiers to fight against an alien population called Pagurani that want to colonize planet themselves. The planet Midlothian and the prison Tranent is a fifteen year sentence, minimum, and the prisoners are fitted with a device that prevents them from escaping. They call the device a punch and it basically equates to a twenty four hour pass off the prison compound but after the twenty four hours is up the punch releases something like acid that eats away at the prisoners insides. Brisson sets up the exposition and explains what he needs to explain through a believable set up that helps to move along the story well. Within the first ten to twelve pages we have been introduced, at least briefly, to most or all of the main characters and have the jist of the story arc explained without it being blatant exposition. As a writer I feel like hiding the exposition is actually one of the hardest things to do while build a world and I think this goes double for extensive sci fi worlds. Sometimes sci fi worlds can get vast really quick leaving the reader dumbfounded or overwhelmed, but Brisson avoids this scenario very well.
After the general introduction of the scenario Brisson lightens up a little and introduces some of the other prisoners that will be accompanying Samara on her first mission. The prisoners are a rag tag bunch and all of them have a strange, quirky, or funny vibe to their personalities, but of course they all fit well together. Not that the exchange they share would support that fact but Brisson makes it work. They all start to argue and fight causing the guards to have to break up the fight which sets up the next part of the story.
The fight lands all of the prisoners involved on the first fighter ship out to search for Pagurani and of course the first trip out wouldn't be memorable without some action. The fighter ship carrying all of the main protagonists gets shot down and blown up leaving everyone stranded. Brisson leaves us with the crew stranded and wounded with only twenty three hours to get back to Tranent before the punch goes off and ruin’s their day. I like the hook for issue two because it actually leaves off at a reasonable spot in the story. We get a great introduction to the world and the protagonists but it leaves us wanting more, like a good story should.
I make no apologies for my sci fi bias but I have to give this book its due respect. It’s well written and illustrated, and it gets the job done without bombarding the reader with intricate details of a world that isn't really well defined. I can’t wait to see what happens to the group on their journey back and I’m interested in the plight of the people on planet Midlothian as well as the Pagurani. Brisson lets us know what we need to know and does it slyly enough by weaving it into the story itself. I have read many books in my life time and the true test is summed up in a question, “Will I buy issue two?” And for Cluster I have to say that the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”