By Davey Nieves
Story: Ed Brisson
Art: Damian Couceiro
Color: Michael Garland
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Given the rash of criminal activity celebrities get away with dominating headlines today, Cluster feels like a timely commentary on current events. Ed Brisson’s story follows the semi-celebrity daughter of a politician, Samara Simmons. We pick up Samara’s story in the middle of her hitting rock bottom as she’s arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence after the accident she causes kills someone close to her. While someone like her in the real world might get away with simple community service; in Brisson’s dystopian future any crime that involves weapons or the death of another person is an automatic life sentence in prison. In a world where laws are absolute, appeals take the form of a 15 year military service suicide mission.
Prisoners who sign up for the program are taken to Midlothian, a habitable planet the government has gone to war over against an alien race known as the Pagurani. Just when the circumstances couldn’t get any bleaker, prisoners are equipped with a “punch” in their chest. When sent on missions, the device must be checked into the prison within 24hrs or the prisoner will excruciatingly die from internal organ liquification. By the end of the first issue all hell breaks loos on Samara’s first mission and she along with a group of prisoners find themselves in a race against time to keep their insides from turning to strawberry Quik.
The opening chapter of Cluster is a bit predictable but solid all around. Brisson lays a lot of exposition down in these pages but manages to keep it from crossing into boredom. We still don’t see the reasons to root for Samara, but the premise is interesting enough to warrant a return for issue two. Hopefully as the series goes on and the supporting cast become more fleshed out Samara’s redemption story will add more layers to the character.
Damian Couceiro’s art continues to evolve from his previous work on Full Moon Fever and Murder Book. His sequentials are on point and the hard boiled action scenes are superb. Where his work could be ramped up is in the character designs themselves. A story like Cluster is a world that’s being designed and an artist should take big chances when illustrating on that type of scale, which is an issue for the creative marriage of writer and artist to tackle.
Cluster is an intriguing premise that strives to combine the hopelessness of a prison movie with the action drama of survival story. Issue one doesn’t execute to it’s full potential but succeeds enough to see if they can work out the kinks in the next chapter.