Comics/Graphic Novels

Comics in Spaaaaaaace

Jenn Northington

Director, Editorial Operations

Jenn Northington has worked in the publishing industry wearing various hats since 2004, including bookseller and events director, and is currently Director of Editorial Operations at Riot New Media Group. You can hear her on the SFF Yeah! podcast nerding out about sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not working, she’s most likely gardening, running, or (obviously) reading. Find her on Tumblr at jennIRL and Instagram at iamjennIRL.

Space is my favorite, and not just because it’s the final frontier.

Captain Picard, Shake It So gif
I was exposed to Star Wars and Star Trek both at an impressionable age, and it seemed clear that that space was where you had adventures of the non-dragon kind (which was my other favorite). (Although now that we have Jupiter Ascending, we have space AND dragons, so basically everything is the best.) Other civilizations! Laser weapons! Ansibles and FTL travel and alien technologies! New cultures and species, some of them who very much want to kill/probe/enslave you! The possibilities seemed endless then, and still do now — and the comic world has always done its best to contribute to those possibilities.

space comics covers collage 1

Womanthology: Space cover art by Renae De Liz

Corporate Espionage in Space: Southern Cross, Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger

I am going to keep mentioning Southern Cross until everyone is reading it and talking about it with me. Cool? Cool. There’s so much to love about it: the rough, cranky heroine who is trying to make good; the enigmatic Captain, whose alliances are still unclear four issues in; the possibly-supernatural-but-really-who-knows-what-is-actually-going-on action; the color palette that channels the cold of space itself.

Read it if you like: Battlestar Galactica; the Alien franchise; noir.

All the Worlds, All the Species: Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I know y’all are already reading it, but it’s impossible to leave Saga off a list of my favorite space comics. More than one reviewer (and the creators themselves) have remarked on its similarity to Star Wars in the gritty, lived-in feel of the ever-expanding universe. And Vaughan and Staples do Star Wars one better by digging into moral complexities; there’s no pure good and evil here. The shifting alliances, historical and personal reveals, action, and non-stop emotional rollercoaster of the plot (seriously, they are killing me with every issue) make it a must-read.

Read it if you like: Star Wars; Firefly; to have your heart repeatedly ripped out of your chest.

Space Grab Bag: Womanthology: Space, Jennifer Guzman et al

Why have one type of space story when you can have a smorgasbord? The three issues collected within (containing 19 different stories!) explore, respectively, The Moon, aliens, and ships, which are three of my favorite space things. Get ready for a huge range of storytelling and art styles, and incredibly diverse interpretations of the prompts.

Read it if you like: The Moon; aliens; ships.

space comics covers collage 2

Military Madness: Ody-C, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
If you require regular doses of blood and guts combined with an epic hero’s journey, look no further. Fraction and Ward took Homer’s The Odyssey, swapped the genders all ’round, and threw it into outer space with amazing results. Fraction’s enchantment with the source material is clear both in the language of the comic and in the incredibly detailed world-building (the gods are some of my favorite characters). Ward’s art has been often referred to as psychedelic, and always referred to as stunning.

Read it if you like: celestial manipulation; Starship Troopers; sex and monsters.

Space Jail: Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro
It’s probably already on your pull list (right? Right??), but you can’t talk about space comics without Bitch Planet. DeConnick and de Landro have taken the exploitation film genre and turned it inside out. Our unlikely heroines are exiled on a prison planet for various offenses against the (literal) patriarchy. Men are 100% in charge in this futuristic tale — but that doesn’t mean the women aren’t fighting back.

Read it if you like: Orange is the New Black; Lockout but with better gender politics; Barbarella; a diverse main cast of characters; feminism.

Intergalactic A.I.: Descender, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
I’ve only read the first issue of Descender, but it’s got me planning to buy the trade when it comes out. Let me gush about the art for a second, because next to Ward’s work on ODY-C, this is my favorite depiction of space in a long while. I’m a sucker for the sketchbook-and-watercolors style Nguyen employs; it makes each panel atmospheric and surreal, just like space should be. And Lemire’s writing chops are in full effect. You’ve got your barely-collaborating different societies and governments; you’ve got your abandoned robot super-boy and his robot dog; you’ve got your grizzled, fallen-on-hard-times scientist who just might have to save the worlds.

Read it if you like: the Terminator series; dreaming about/living in fear of the Singularity; Star Wars.

space comics covers collage 3

Breaking the Prime Directive: Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher Further Faster More Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez
As any Trekkie knows, the Prime Directive strictly prohibits interference with the development of alien civilizations. And, despite the incredible difficulty Captain Kirk has with this concept, there are good reasons for it. Carol Danvers may not actually know about the PD (does the MU contain Star Trek reruns? Discuss.), but she faces a similar struggle in Higher, Further, Faster, More. Her efforts to assist a civilization in clear peril not only aren’t helpful, but could end up making things work. Just goes to show, you have to ask before you dive into someone else’s problems.

Read it if you like: Star Trek; ragtag bands of rebels; diplomacy through punching.

Because Obviously: Groot, Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger
Groot! I am Groot. I am Groot, I am Groot — Groot. I am Groot? I am Groot! Groot groot groot, groot groot groot. Groot.

Read it if you like: Groot.