Comics Features

REVIEW: 50 Signal, Issue #1

Written by Mark Russell

Space travel is humanity’s greatest achievement and the source for many great works of science fiction. The universe is a vast place we know nothing about, but even with all the possibilities and potential for exploration, space travel must be a lonely place. However, 50 Signal does not concentrate on the negatives but on the wonders and adventure to be found in space. Nick Gonzo, a Leeds-based writer and artist, who has previously created such comics as Harvey Spig, The Tree, and Punk Rock Apocalypse serves as both writer and artist.

As the press release describes the comic’s premise, 50 Signal is about the solitude of space travel, told from the perspective of a vat-grown astronaut. Since he isn’t given a name in the issue, we’ll just call him Spaceman. Raised by machines, Spaceman is pretty content with his purpose in life. In fact, he loves it. He has his own rocket, which may or may not be sentient and possibly organic, as Spaceman says she used to sing to him, and it appears as a weird creature. Spaceman spends most of the comic explaining his mission outline – he is stationed around a planet’s equator and when a mission comes in, he goes to investigate, document, and salvage anything that needs preserving.

Throughout the comic, we see him visiting planets with a variety of strange yet familiar creatures and environments. Apparently, Spaceman has seen a lot in his time so very little surprises him – a man of experience. The main plot rolls in when he investigates life signals coming from within the corpse of a giant creature, whose corpse leaves a surprisingly haunting image. Though that might be because I have watched Attack On Titan a hundred or so times. He sends his rocket off to patrol, and ventures into a hollowed out bone expecting to find a colony. Instead, he finds a strange cycloptic robot who claims to have been expecting him…

My favourite element of this comic has to be the art style. It is simple and almost childlike but has plenty of rich detail to it as well. The writing is good, and surprisingly, open to interpretation. It is possible that Spaceman’s rocket may not actually be alive as he describes it, but just what he has created in his mind after being in space for so long. Either that, or I am putting way too much thought into this. Spaceman himself is an interesting character, completely content with his origins without angsting over it; and enjoys his job, exploring space and having adventures but being used to the experience without having the technobabble-filled dry dialogue seen in Star Trek. And thanks to the art style, Spaceman look a lot like Mr. Ben from the old British kid’s show.

In terms of flaws, I admit the robot’s font dialogue is a little hard to read and the plot twist, if it was meant to be one, is both funny and a little confusing. But beyond that, the first issue of 50 Signal is off to a promising start. If it is going to explore space with a balanced mix of wonder, adventure, and mystery, then I say it is a winner. The comic is being published by Madius Comics, run by Nick, Robin Jones, and Brad Holman.

Are you interested in reading 50 Signal? Is the type of space travel story that you would enjoy? Sound off in the comments section below or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell