Who killed Carlyle White? This is the question posed by Satellite Sam from Image Comics. Set in New York City in 1951, Satellite Sam follows a live television science fiction series on the Le Monde Television Network. Carlyle White, the actor who plays Satellite Sam, was murdered in a flophouse. His son, Michael, who also works on the television show, tries to figure out who killed his father by looking into Carlyle’s mysterious past.
The story and backdrop are original
The monotone art fits with the story
Art style is flawed
Some characters are indistinguishable to others
Previously in Satellite Sam: On the set of a new episode of Satellite Sam, Carlyle White does not show up for work. While Michael fills in for his father on the show, Carlyle is found dead in a flophouse. At the crime scene, photos of scantily clad women are found underneath the bed. Michael recognizes one of them as Kara Kelly, one of his father’s co-stars; a born-again Christian. He goes to Kara to confront her about the photo. Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph Ginsberg is struggling to keep his television network together. Since Satellite Sam is his most popular show, he attempts to keep everyone on the show in line since most of their contracts are up by the end of the year.
WHO KILLED SATELLITE SAM
Matt Friction continues his 1950’s murder mystery with Satellite Sam #3. When Michael confronts Kara about the photo, Kara tells the story of her relationship with Carlyle White and their trip to Mexico. The events leading up to her eventual evangelical awakening are done through flashbacks. In previous issues, the characters had very little characterization to attach to their personalities. Kara’s flashback is the first time a character opens up to the reader. The flashback is intriguing, but not original. It is also confusing since it is divided by other events that happen in the present time. The back story would be easier to understand if the flashback was continuous instead of segmented. Still, through Kara’s story, Michael sees his father in a better light, a good person whose murderer is worth revealing. Matt Friction uses a ton of dialogue in Satellite Sam. It allows the reader to gauge a character’s personality without narration or exposition. However, the large amounts of dialogue make it harder to keep track of the characters other than Michael, Carlyle, and Kara. Luckily, the introductions in the beginning help establish some background characters. One unique aspect of Satellite Sam is the 1950’s television technical backdrops. Matt Friction does an excellent job selling the stressful environment of early television studios to his comic readers.
BLACK AND WHITE
Howard Craykin’s black and white artwork is a nice tribute to the monochrome television serials. The artist takes a great risk employing this style. It pays off since it fits with the overall pulp-mystery tone of the story. However, the style has its flaws. For example, it is hard to discern age in this series. Michael and his father look the same age. Carlyle’s hair color is white, which can symbolize blond hair rather than gray and make him seem younger. Meanwhile, Michael’s glasses age him more than his younger looking father. Although some of the characters are indistinguishable to others, the introduction in the beginning helps keep the story together. The photos of scantily clad women are great bookend pages for this issue.
BOTTOM LINE: A FLAWED BUT ORIGINAL COMIC SERIES
Matt Fraction and Howard Craykin have created a unique murder mystery comic using a 1950’s television studio as its backdrop. So far, the story is at a snails pace in getting to any resolution. However, it seems to be getting better as more character backgrounds are revealed. Although flawed, the black and white artwork is a great fit to the comic. Overall, it is a solid comic, but needs some work.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!