Published: May 11th, 2021
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts – Megascope
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Length: 176 pages
Sticking with a recent theme in my reading, Black Star is minimalist sci-fi, focusing on characters caught in a deadly conflict. In this case, my favorite part of the book was the art. The story was straightforward enough, but the main character spends all her time doing terrible things for the sake of no one but herself.
When the book opens, asteroids strike the research ship crewed by doctor Harper North and her team of scientists and it crash-lands on the planet Eleos. Everyone on the crew dies except for North and Parrish, one of her crew. Complicating matters is the fact that their auxiliary shuttle separated from the ship and deployed miles away across rough terrain. It’s a race for survival between North and Parrish, who also have a history of personal conflict.
I know I shouldn’t focus on the “likability” of a character, but the problem with North is that she isn’t compelling enough to root for even when she’s betraying her crew and doing morally questionable things in the name of survival. The book never makes the stakes of her mission clear – something about researching a local plant that might have medicinal uses – so it’s hard to use that as justification for her actions. The thrust of the story boils down to North trying to survive at the expense of everyone else.
The end result is that this is a book about a terrible person doing terrible things to someone who never did anything wrong as far as we know. The story asks you to care about a character who never feels like anything other than the villain of the piece. If you re-centered the book on Parrish’s perspective, it would be about a crew-member betrayed and abandoned by her ruthless, selfish leader.
It’s possible this book would have worked better for me if the two viewpoints were more equally balanced, but really it feels like North’s show with only momentary glimpses of Parrish’s perspective. I think I might have been willing to go along with North as a main character if Parrish also felt like an anti-hero with questionable motivations, but as it stands, she is absolutely the wronged party here.
I did like the art, which has a unique style and flair of its own, servicing the tone and setting of the story while also being unique enough to stand out. Unfortunately, the story just doesn’t do it justice, and I can’t recommend this book.
Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley.