Steven is gone. The storm has blown over, but despite the artificial blue sky, the danger has not yet passed in Outpost Zero.
Writer: Sean Kelley McKeever
Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: August 8, 2018
Previously in Outpost Zero: We gradually get to know Alea and several of her friends – Steven, Lyss, Sam, Mitchell – who are all on the cusp of adulthood and living in a small domed city on an icy planet far away from Earth. In the dome, life looks like typical, or even idyllic, small-town life. But as in any small town, there are undercurrents. Sam, who lost his parents in a bad storm, is bullied and isolated. Steven doesn’t understand why Alea is so optimistic about the future. All of this is put on hold as a huge storm cell moves in, forcing Outpost Zero to batten their hatches. The storm draws near, Sam goes to the airlock, where Steven finds him about to step outside. But as the issue closes, it is Steven who has left the safety of Outpost Zero.
A VERY HUMAN DRAMA
Outpost Zero #2 starts at Steven’s memorial service. As Alea mulls over how he could have gotten the code to the airlock, Lyss recalls funny memories of Steven. Sam talks with Steven’s parents, while Mitchell (who has been bullying Sam) looks on in silent rage. One of the onlookers comments on Steven’s selfishness of leaving the dome to die. This is an interesting character study of how different people will deal with the same incident in entirely different ways, and it culminates with Mitchell angrily stalking off after calling Steven a coward. As I said, there are undercurrents.
Alea’s parents have arranged an internship for her, but on Planning Team, not Discovery Team (as she has always dreamed). Planning Team is working on the problem of the literally tons of ice covering their dome. There also is an energy discrepancy that keeps showing up. But Alea cannot concentrate. Her mother takes her aside for a walk, and acknowledges that maybe Alea is not yet ready for this, and gives her permission to do what it takes to clear her head, and then come back ready to work.
There is a poignant scene where Sam goes to Steven’s memorial with a little robot he’s been working on, and he talks to Steven. Mitchel also goes there to talk to him, but finds Sam there and basically attacks him, saying he has no right to be there. His rage rises up, but instead of attacking Sam, he attacks and destroys Sam’s robot.
At some point later, Alea and Lyss talk. So far, Lyss has been the one who seems content to coast by with whatever life throws at her. Again, her memories of Steven are almost relentlessly happy. For Alea, even happy memories only remind her that Steven is gone, and she doesn’t understand Lyss. Then Mitchell joins them to tell Alea that she was right – Steven wasn’t a coward, but he was hanging out with someone who is (meaning Sam). Alea finds Sam and talks with him, and he eventually admits that he was not only at the airlock, but in the airlock. Sam runs off, and Alea resolves to find out what he knows.
The art in Outpost Zero #2 is just lovely. The setting is starting to look familiar. I like the contrast of the almost impossibly blue artificial sky against the darkness of the story. In a few panels, we see a variety of people, younger and older, and a variety of expressions among them. And it isn’t just facial expressions – the body language is also evocative and emotional.
At this point, the story is dealing with grief, with tragedy, with growing up, with loss, with disappointment. These are emotions that hit all of us at some point. Even depression – as Sam looks genuinely depressed and lost at this point. And behind his rage, Mitchell is genuinely grieving as well.
I like how Alea’s mother is understanding of what she is going through. Mother-daughter conflict is certainly real, but stories draw upon it so often that it can seem trite. It is refreshing to see another type of genuine parent-child relationship. It is also refreshing to see some positive interactions within this small cast of characters who have a lot of conflict and inner turmoil going on. Like the artificial sky, it is a bit of peace, but perhaps like the eye of a storm.
BOTTOM LINE: HOW DO WE COPE WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH?
Outpost Zero #2 is emotionally rich and lets us in on so many private moments. It reminds us that everyone does not react the same way, even in the same crisis, and sometimes those reactions may seem inexplicable. The future setting allows for this to be a study of a smaller group of people faced with an unusual degree of stressors. This book is well worth reading.