The Southern Cross is a tanker/personnel carrier headed to Titan, a refinery moon of Saturn. Alex Braith is on her way there to investigate the death of her sister. Titan is a dangerous place, but Amber Braith was an administrator, not a miner. Alex thinks some of her shipmates may be shady, but things really take a turn when her cabin mate disappears. The woman had been sent to investigate Amber’s death, and Alex becomes increasingly convinced that she will find her answers on the ship before reaching Titan.
So it’s a sci-fi murder mystery, at least at the beginning. Like any good mystery it reveals its clues gradually. It turns out that there is a piece of alien contraband at the center of all of the events. The full revelation of its function changes the story into an alien contact story. It appears that the second story arc will involve the investigation of Alex’s disappearance–not her adventures on Titan, despite the direction the story was headed in through most of the volume.
It’s an interesting, unexpected twist, which will definitely bring me back for Volume 2. It certainly won’t be because of sympathy for these characters. They are an extremely unlikable bunch: crude and unsavory at first meeting, then weak and crooked once we get to know them. Alex is barely more relateable than the rest. She’s on a good mission, but she is cold and quick to anger. The only character that seems normal is her sister Amber, who we see in flashbacks (also revealing that Alex wasn’t a good sister, which explains part of her obsession with solving the mystery).
I know Belanger’s work mainly through the IDW series Kill Shakespeare. His character designs here are similar: well suited to these hard, unsavory types. He also gets to stretch out on the outer space images and especially on the ship interior. Cloonan frequently employs scenes where the characters converse while walking through the ship. While they can occasionally be hard to follow visually, it does give an opportunity to see the ship without extra narrative. Both creators have fun with the little world-building end pages, which feature ads for miner’s boots and such.
Remender and Opeña introduce a new fantasy world here, a strange combination of Western and high fantasy elements. A bit reminiscent of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West, but only in the general Western/apocalyptic vibe. The titular God of Whispers has a gift: he can offer anyone their heart’s desire in exchange for a psychic connection. He can see what his agents see, hear what they hear. So paranoia is rampant; everyone feels like there are spies in their house.
Adam Osidis is dying, and his family is disgraced. He must choose between joining a desperate order of magical warriors and mercenaries in their bid to free their world of the evil God, or accepting the God’s promise to give him everything he’s ever dreamed of. He is a member of the Mosak, a race in which everyone has a particular magical gift. His is revealed as a kind of calling of the dead through their blood; one of his companions is named Patchwork due to her ability to stitch together a body from disparate parts (a talent revealed when she was chapped up and thrown into a pile of her dead family members); and so on.
There is a lot of world building in these first issues–including text pieces that introduce several of the issues–but there is plenty of action, as well. I have to say that the fight scenes can be hard to follow, with all the magical visuals. But there’s no denying Opeña’s distinctive character designs. That action culminates in the Seven taking the God prisoner. If he is killed outright, all of the millions of people psychically connected to him would also die. So what looked like a revolutionary action against a tyrant becomes an odyssey to permanently remove him from power. The tyrant is not without power, or allies: in fact it appears that two members of the company may already have been eliminated by the end of this opening arc.