Satellite Sam is a series from Image Comics. It’s a unique comic book series in that the illustrations are completely in black and white, almost like it belongs in a newspaper. Going with that style, the series covers a group of people involved in the shooting and production of a 1950′s live science fiction television show. In the first issue, the primary character, who played Satellite Sam on the show, was found dead. Since then, his son, Michael White, has been trying to come to grips with his father’s death. Michael White is also part of the show and works closely with the same people his father did.
The series continues to get darker and more adult with each passing issue. We learn that Michael White’s father had many women and would photograph them in lingerie. We also know that same of the primary employees on the show have lives driven by sex and drugs. Michael is hellbent on discovering why his dad died and who was responsible. Kara Kelly, one of the co-stars on the show, had something of a relationship with the late Mr. White. Satellite Sam #3 begins to delve into this relationship as Michael pries deeper into the darker youth of his father’s life. This series is definitely for adults due to the sexual content and language, though no nudity, at this point, has been shown.
Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin are doing a solid job overall. The series is interesting, intense and compelling. The story continues to get darker and we learn new aspects of our character’s personalities with each passing comic cell. With that said, I’m not sure I’m sold on this series just yet. First, the story is moving at a snails pace. Over three issues we’ve discovered a dead man, that the dead man liked to take pictures of women in lingerie, that the network is trying to push on without the star of the show and that one of the cast members had an intimate relationship with the late Mr. White. It took three issues to find all that out. The series is absolutely playing out like an old noir film, which is a good thing if you like that style. I’m not convinced it works in the comic book medium, though.
On top of the slow story, the illustration style is getting in the way. While I’m really enjoying the black and white, old school feel to the series, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to follow the dialogue in the more chatty scenes. The speech and thought bubbles don’t translate as well when there aren’t additional colors to assist in the breaks between objects. There are additional complications because on several occasions, the dialogue isn’t coming from a character in the scene but from the show which we will be shown a few cells later. This is a style that works well in movies and TV because we can recognize the voice and tone but in a comic book, there is no way to know what exactly is happening until we know who is speaking. I find myself jumping ahead to discover the speaker and then going back to reread what was said with the correct context.
Overall, it’s an interesting series but the pace and dialogue issues need to be resolved sooner rather than later. I’m all for unique, non-superhero stories but I need more consistency and a quicker pace. One thing I truly appreciate is that at the beginning of the second and third issues, Fraction and Chaykin put a picture and bio of the primary characters. This is a great way to review who we will be seeing and what relationships exist in the series. I hope they continue this. On a final note, the cover art for these issues, especially this one, have been fantastic. They are in color and do a great job of capturing the nature of the series in a single frame. This leads me to believe that the series would thrive just fine in standard color, which would make the dialogue easier to follow.