Cody Blue and Thena Khole. Two of the most notorious criminals in the universe, each with their own distinctive modus operandi and long list of criminal activities. Cody is a planner and strategist working with an infamous group of villains pulling heists. But she’s a criminal with a conscience; one that certainly isn’t reflected in the company she keeps. Thena is a grifter who uses her growing reputation as a major felon to pull the same scam time and again. Both women are about to find themselves betrayed by those they were naive enough to trust and both are about to find themselves thrown together in the most desperate of circumstances…
Space Bandits, writer Mark Millar’s latest Millarworld/Netflix project, starts with a perfectly paced and efficiently structured opening instalment that discards exposition for action and tells us all we need to know about our dual protagonists from their exploits, actions and reactions alone. Artist Matteo Scalera’s visual characterisation is a vital component in that regard; every nuanced look between the cast or more pronounced response playing an important role in communicating emotions and motivations. In fact Scalera is a revelation throughout, jumping between the humanity of the core story and the majesty of its outer space setting with a deft touch, with Marcelo Maiolo’s colours contrasting the spectacular neon excesses of this future society with its grittier and more brutal realities.
Unsurprisingly, given the cross-media influences and raison d’etre of Space Bandits, there’s a lot here that’s about the immediate visual spectacle – spaceships based on 1980s music icons and human colonies on giant floating crustaceans in space for example – that at this moment seem almost throwaway references. But this is the first of five issues and the spotlight is appropriately on the core cast at this juncture; world-building explanations can sit in the background for the time being.
Longer-term Millar enthusiasts will note that this is from the escapist fun side of his ouevre rather than the pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you, shock value part of his repertoire and, as such, is a solid, almost textbook example of how to set up an opening issue. Empathetic cast members are introduced, premise is established, and we’re left with a cracking cliffhanger in an issue that moves along at an engaging and absorbing speed. Alongside Scalera’s kinetic action sequences and expressively rendered characters, Space Bandits is a polished debut for what looks to be a wild ride of revenge-fuelled space opera.
Mark Millar (W), Matteo Scalera (A), Marcelo Maiolo (C), Clem Robins (L) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver