Live television broadcasting in the early 1950’s. Smokers, drinkers and businessmen, the world of Satellite Sam. This brand new adult comic book series from Matt Fraction, Howard Chaykin, and Image Comics follows employees of a science fiction television show in New York, 1951, done in a Noir style. Everything is in black and white, leading to the darker, harsher tone of the series. The series begins with our characters in the middle of filming a live episode but something is wrong. It appears that a very important actor hasn’t shown up for work yet and time is ticking. As the episode progresses, several businessmen are left to decide how to deal with the missing character needed at the end of today’s episode. Meanwhile, a lot of business talk is thrown into the mix because apparently a lot is happening in the world of cable television and these guys think they’ve got the best out there.
The issue is definitely stressful since every character is constantly agitated and anxious. I found myself feeling tense just by reading. By the end of the issue we do find out where our missing actor is and it feels like that will be the primary focus moving this series forward as a mystery, detective style story, in a sense. Overall, I like the story and I even like the dynamic of the characters but I found it tough to read just due to the format. Since everything is in black and white, it can be difficult to see where the speech and thought bubbles are connected and that makes it difficult, at times, to discern who is talking and in what order. As the issue progresses, this became easier but there is definitely a learning curve and I think it could be made more clear.
Exciting is probably the best word to describe this launch issue. On top of the pressure to find the missing actor, the episode is still rolling and we are getting ever closer to the scene where this actor is needed. So, while some characters are desperately looking for the missing man, others are coming up with a backup plan while others still, are in the process of acting on live television. There is certainly a lot going on and it can be difficult to follow but I think that some of this is intentional. I believe that were are supposed to feel a little off kilter, lost in the same confusion the characters are finding themselves in.
Overall, this new series is unique and compelling. I’m so used to the standard superhero genre, that Satellite Sam is a welcome break from fantasy back to reality, well, of the 1950’s. The end of the issue leaves a lot open to speculation and I do not wish to spoil anything here but Fraction and Chaykin have created a very complex world. There is definitely a lot more going on than a simple sci-fi show and placing the series in the 1950’s opens things up for your classic gangster and detective stories. Even with the at times confusing dialogue due to format, Satellite Sam #1 is a must read for anyone looking for a unique, fresh and adult level comic book series. I look forward to #2!
“Stay tuned for next time, on Satellite Sam!”
Chaykin's artwork hurts my eyes. I'll be passing on this one unless it replaces him. He, much like many of his generation, should have bowed out gracefully decades ago. Oh, well.
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