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Has Nobody Here Seen Avatar?: Deep Gravity #1

Written by Paul Hudder on Saturday, August 02 2014 and posted in Reviews

Has Nobody Here Seen Avatar?: Deep Gravity #1

Boldly going where countless stories have gone before.

Science-fiction has a long history of really smart people doing really dumb things that lead to really horrific outcomes. This being just one of many things it has in common with its genre, Deep Gravity has found it's place and fits nicely amongst the scores of others like it. Plotted by Mike Richardson, co-written by Gabriel Hardman & Corrina Bechko, with art by Fernando Baldo and colors by Nick Filardi, this new series about space exploration and poor decisions is groundbreaking in how extraordinarily typical it is. 
We start off with our unlikely Everyman/hero mechanic Paxon (nothing says futuristic space-romp quite like names with X's in them). For unknown reasons, he's volunteered to work for a big-time space exploration corporation. The Maelstrom Science and Technology Corporation is the sole company contracted by the government to traffic scientists to a newly discovered planet called Poseidon (it's mostly water). When Paxon and crew land, we're introduced slightly to the flora/fauna (flaurna?) of the planet and told that they're extremely dangerous. Paxon finds out first hand just how dangerous they are as Greg (a personal friend of Paxon) is attacked by a tree/hydra alien with, wait for it, acid blood. We then learn the reason Paxon signed on with Maelstrom is a tough as nails, undershirt-wearing woman, Michelle, who would rather explore the countless worlds in the galaxy, rather than being tied down to one (metaphors!). The issue ends with some run of the mill, is the corporation really a shady operation? Will Paxon and Michelle reunite? Who the hell thought it was a good idea to transport alien life-forms back to earth (hello, Alien: Resurrection/ The Lost World)? Oh, and what will happen to the crew now that gravity has ripped the ship in twain?
Yes, the story here from Richardson, Hardman, and Bechko isn't anything new and exciting. This issue itself is a laying of groundwork on an already established genre. I'm tempted to call it cliché, but Hardman and Bechko do do some pretty good work at establishing characters, their roles, and the alien world around them. Paxon, Michelle, and Maelstrom do fit into pre-molded archetypes and that does hinder some of the room for growth, but this is just the first issue. Things could change drastically in the next one and all of my theories about how this series is going to play out could be wrong. I just honestly don't really see that happening. In reality, the next four issues will probably be a tale of survival in the face of impossible odds with a reluctant leader (Paxon) having responsibility foisted upon his shoulders. There will be disagreements, people will die, and secrets will come to light. In the end, things will either be abundantly optimistic or soul-crushingly depressing. How will they get off the island planet? That doesn't matter so much as the journey. That overwhelming cynicism aside, it'll be interesting to see what kind of aliens the team has yet to dream up. 
The art is definitely the stronger side of this comic. Though it does partake in some of the genre staples (see: Michelle's tank-top and bad attitude) the visuals of the alien creatures are pretty cool and interesting. The scenes in the ship also contain a nice bit of detail with computer screens and air-vents that give it a bit of a filmic vibe. It's a nice way that it embraces it's genre-ness. On the weaker side, the expressions of the characters are a bit of mixed bag. Baldo is really quite great at making characters look just utterly pissed off. Throughout the book we have various characters, especially Michelle, with a facial expression that just screams “I am so over this shit right now”. And it's great. Relatedly, “Oh shit!” moments come across rather well too. When Greg is being attacked by the cloak worm, when the giant elephant looking thing breaks out, and when the red alert on the ship goes off, the main reaction is wide-eyed slack jaw across the board. To be fair, these are all moments when one would expect that reaction, but at the same time, the uniformity of the faces kind of detracts from the (ahem) gravity of the situations. Filardi's colors on the other hand are all very well done. Different parts of the ship have different hues that make them feel set apart. The hibernation room is stark and kind of bright, while the bridge and the cargo hold are darker and a little more industrial. The sky on Poseidon has a soft texture to it that is reminiscent of Earth's but the colors are a bit more washed out. But that kind of faded and a bit gritty look is what gives the panels so much energy.
Deep Gravity does have some things going for it. The art is really quite nice and the scripters do a fair job with what they're given. But it's hard to get past the feeling that this has all happened before. Science-fiction is supposed to be about change and radical difference. While it's true that a fair amount of it is all pretty uniform and familiar, that's no excuse to rehash the greatest hits into one story. The series still has a chance to throw a curve ball and have things turn out to be completely unexpected, but all of the surprises so far have been extremely the opposite. There are better sci-fi stories out there that are doing different and interesting things. Deep Gravity relies on tradition and tropes rather than trying to do anything radical and exciting. There's a chance it may improve in the future, but I'm not holding my breath.


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