I'm a sucker for great father-son stories and it can be difficult to find them in comics considering how many fathers (and uncles) die in superhero origin stories. Sea of Stars #1 doesn't just set up a tale to trod this well-worn territory; it fills the narrative with the mundane realities and specific conflicts that make the relationship at its heart ring true. It's the story of Gil, a recently-widowed space trucker, and his nine-year-old son Kadyn hauling some artifacts between planets when disaster strikes. The exact nature of that disaster and its consequences mark out a special genre niche for Sea of Stars, but the father-son story is at the heart of every page no matter how wild things get.
Writers Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum and artist Stephen Green conjure a world that pulls from both science-fiction and fantasy. Green's settings and outfits all provide the aesthetic of more grounded science-fiction. Space suits are not modeled for fashion and the ship itself appears like one would imagine a working vehicle might (if grafted onto technology we only dream about today). There's a blue collar sensibility to the whole affair that keeps the troubles of Gil and Kadyn grounded, and the potential threats of space travel feeling very dangerous. This is the Mos Eisley style of sci-fi realism though, one that's more focused on tone than the hard science of interstellar travel. As Sea of Stars #1 continues, it's clear that this story is much more invested in character than getting every detail right and the fantastical flourishes offer up a great hook for the series going forward.
While there are surprises, they shouldn't be so surprising as to pull readers out of the story. Colorist Rico Renzi makes space a place of wonder from page one, as he loads the void with violet hues to complement the black and white we see at night. Splash pages are dazzling with this palette applied. The darker color choices maintain the mystery and isolation of the setting, but never threaten to lose the magic often associated with the cosmos. This sense also brings one of the most relatable conflicts between Gil and Kadyn into sharp relief, as the former marvels at the stars and his son is left bored. That mixup of perspectives, one in which adult patience and childlike enthusiasm leave generations talking at cross purposes, is easily relatable.
These sorts of conflicts aren't exaggerated either. There are no tantrums or exposition dumps as the pair bounce off one another in their long journey. Instead, there's a natural tension developed through a quick departure or slightly cruel rebuttal. It's the sort of thing that children and parents engage in regularly, but is rarely captured with much confidence in fiction. Within the first half of the book, these two and their relationship feel real and relatable. Parenting experience and a subtle script are likely to thank for realizing something so common, yet so difficult to portray.
Those seeking a spacefaring adventure will no doubt be pleased by Sea of Stars #1; it's a beautiful first issue that delivers some jaw-dropping action and twists before the final page. However, the more intimate father-son narrative paired with that action is a rarer thing in comics today. It is an articulated, fully-formed relationship from the very first page and one that's bound to capture reader's hearts along with their imaginations. That's the reason to pick up Sea of Stars and, hopefully, will remain a reason to stick with this striking new series.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published by Image Comics
On July 3, 2019
Written by Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum
Art by Stephen Green
Colors by Rico Renzi
Letters by Jared Fletcher
Cover by Stephen Green