Ryan Cecil Smith, writer/artist
Closed Caption Comics, May 2011
Buy it from Ryan Cecil Smith
I know, I know, “Physician, heal thyself,” but I was skeptical of the need for another altcomix take on space opera. Closed Caption Comics member Ryan Cecil Smith is at his best when he’s riding his preoccupations into uncharted territory, be it his high-camp horror-manga riff Two Eyes of the Beautiful or his wild “bicycling action as you like it!” adventure “Koshien: Impossible.” But anthorpomorphic alien races, laser guns, intergalactic law enforcement agencies, worldbuilding, and knowingly arch dialogue are a commonplace even in revisionist circles. Would Smith bring enough new ingredients to the table to get me to eat it? I needn’t have worried. Taking advantage of a larger trim size and pretty high quality printing for a minicomic, SF gives Smith an expansive canvas on which to deploy a take on sci-fi swashbuckling that’s…quietly silly, if that’s even possible. His line feels light and frothy here, a fluid thing that flows along with the propulsive action sequences (a shootout in a hospital is particularly bombastically staged) and the charming character designs (aliens variously evoke the creature-people of Lewis Trondheim, James Kochalka, and Chris Wright, while our hero Ace of the Space Fleet Scientific Foundation Special Forces has a giant mountain of hair that wouldn’t look out of place in Dragonball-Z, a demeanor akin to one of Naoki Urasawa’s indefatigable ultra-awesome do-gooder detectives, and a laser gun that would give that dude from Berserk and his sword a run for their collective money on any Freudian analyst’s couch.) Zipatone-style shading gives the art dimension while obviating the need for Smith to vary his lineweight overmuch and thus lose some of its elegance. And as simplistic as it is, the story even manages to be engaging, with its tale of a boy orphaned by terrorist space pirates and taken under the wing of the galaxy’s greatest gang of good guys — if I didn’t have this exact fantasy while in grade school, I had one so similar that it hardly makes a difference. Surely the mark of a successful exercise in genre is that whatever pleasure the reader derives from seeing generic tropes exploited or subverted places second behind simply wanting to see what happens next. That’s where I’m at with this one.