It’s far too late to pass this off as a “Gut Reaction” as I usually like to bill comic book reviews, but nevertheless this is the long overdue review of Super Galactic Space Explorers from Ink’d Well Comics. It’s written by Jay Paulin with art by Ariel Marsh.
This comic feels like it’s from another time, and I’m going to explain that comment in full detail right now.
Indie comics have gone through many, many transitions over the last 30 years or so, but arguably their most successful era was the boom in black-and-white indie comics that happened in the wake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After it’s success there were lots of other indie companies that popped up producing very similar things, in similar styles. And they all sold like crazy, regardless of content, bought by comics enthusiasts trying to get a head start on the next big thing. Of course a boom like that can only last for so long, and the bottom fell out.
Here’s a brief list of the sheer amount of titles that come to mind: Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters • Barnie the Invisible Turtle • Guerrilla Groundhog • Ex-Mutants • G.I. Rambot • Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves • Fish Police • Troll Lords • Sultry Teenage Super Foxes • G.I. Jackrabbits • Shadow of the Groundhog • Reagan’s Raiders • Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils • Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos•Bucky O’Hare.
Of the comics that came out at that time, some were blatant cash-ins with no attempt at creativity (Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters), while others were legitimately good titles that simply took advantage of the boom in the medium to get their product out there ( Troll Lords, Bucky O’Hare).
Despite being published darn near 30 years later, Super Galactic Space Explorers seems to have come straight from that time: a great indie comic with a title that has that same 4-word scheme that seemed to work so well after TMNT. From a story department as well it crafted in a very compressed way, like the stories at the time were. It’s refreshing and it’s good and it’s right for all ages.
And that’s where the similarities differ. Back in the day the main publishing houses marketed their heroes as all-ages and it was up to indie publishers to bring us a grim, realistic alternative. Now mainstream comics are all dark and grim and sexy, so the indie world is filling the gap again by publishing a story I was happy to buy a second copy of and give to my friend’s six-year-old.
And it’s insanely marketable. I hope this comic and franchise does well. If it doesn’t, I think it’s all bad timing. In the early 90s there would have been a tv show and toys and everything else of this by now. And i think it would do very, very well.
But onto the book itself. It’s a sweeping story about anthropomorphic cats in space, fighting an evil cat lord that was sent to space by humans and now wishes to make all of humanity pay. As I understand it the idea was conceived by Ariel Marsh and then given to Jay Paulin to write so that she could do the art chores (I may be wrong). And I have to say, this is Ink’d Well Comics’s best comic to date. It also shines a light into the narrative style of Jay Paulin.
Allow me to illustrate via example: a few years ago, after the success of The Dark Knight, David Goyer was given the writing duties of a horror film called “The Unborn.” I saw it in theaters, and it was truly awful. Not one part of it made sense. I didn’t understand how one writer could produce something so good then something so bad. One reviewer online commented that he suspected Goyer was a good “idea man:” that he could come up with good idea but needed other authors to realize them. When left alone, he flounders.
I suspect it’s the opposite with Paulin. I think he’s at his best adapting the idea’s of others, and it shows here in SGSE. His other 2 solo offerings, Faces and Infantasy, are both good, but there is a little bit of “what were you thinking when you came up with this.” That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to be. They are wonderful comics. But they aren’t “stories” by my definition. They’re like character studies. They are very GOOD character studies, but when I buy a comic I want a story. SGSE is a great story, and I think that in Ariel Marsh he has discovered his Kevin Eastman, as it were. I expect great things from these two.
The only issue I have with volume one of Super Galactic Space Explorers (spoilers) is that it ends on a cliffhanger. A terribly dark cliffhanger. Everyone knows that, in sci-fi, the second installment ends on a dark cliffhanger. Been that way since The Empire Strikes Back, likely always will be. I would have loved an ending to this segment, and I’m worried they’ll lose people because of it. I hope not though, because it’s a great book.
Here’s hoping Volume 2 comes out soon.
Never Look Back