Chained naked in cell #592, Michael Blackburn launches an audacious escape attempt as he strives to understand how this off-world colony came to be.  Join him as punches his way through this gritty dystopia in Cemetery Beach #1 from Image Comics.

Cemetery Beach #1 ReviewCEMETERY BEACH #1

Writer:  Warren Ellis
Artist:  Jason Howard
Letterer:  Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: September 12th, 2018
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Cemetery Beach: In the 1920s, a group of industrialists and scientists launched a series of converted bathyscapes manned by intrepid astronauts in an effort to set up an off-world colony.  Amazingly, they succeeded, and now the powers on Earth want to know exactly what is happening there.  Their point man?  Agent Michael Blackburn.  Find out what he discovers in Cemetery Beach #1.

IT’S ONLY PULP, BUT I LIKE IT

You know when you see the number 529 emblazoned on the wall of an interrogation cell in the opening panel that the world we are being introduced to isn’t full of sunshine and love.  Michael Blackburn, seemingly a bit of a hayseed even though he is the point man of an effort to understand this previously unknown off-world colony, comes across as amiable and loquacious, to the astonishment of his interrogator.  Blackburn uses the time to convey to the reader sufficient exposition to set out the world we find ourselves in – industrialists and scientists from the 1920s funded and designed a scattershot space program that actually succeeded, setting up at least one human colony on an unknown planet.  And now the powers on Earth want to know all about them.

Blackburn arranges his escape and then finds himself a guide in the shape of Grace Moody, a clear anti-authoritarian figure.  An exciting chase scene constitutes the rest of Cemetery Beach #1, which is where the story really ignites after the placid opening.

The unnamed colony is clearly ruled with an iron fist.  The iconography of the uniforms of the men (and other than Grace, it is only men we see, from the grotesquely fat (and naked) form of President Barrow, to the men chasing Blackburn and Moody) in this police states is unmistakable – old-school train driver caps clearly link back to the trains running on time in fascist Italy in the 20s and 30s.

Ellis spends the opening pages setting up this world, and Howard conveys its grittiness and seeming backwardness in panel after panel.  You know you’re getting an info-dump when the hero blatantly spends several panels conveying the gist of the early space program, and the desire for those left behind (Oldhome, as President Barrow calls it) to understand what has become of the brethren who abandoned Earth a century ago.

It’s all done with a nice economy and before too long the action begins, with Blackburn shedding his easygoing naivety to reveal the ruthless agent lurking not far beneath.

BOTTOM LINE: A SOLID START

Cemetery Beach #1 is a solid start with an entertaining central mystery that will only expand and deepen as the series rolls on.  The real hero of this issue isn’t super spy Michael Blackburn, or his plucky co-lead Grace Moody, but instead, it is Jason Howard’s kinetic, muscular art.

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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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