What starts off as a fairly by-the-book tale of a space fighter squadron packed with misfits turns into something more complex and seems to get out of the author’s control by the beginning of its second act. While Denis Bajram’s art is absolutely gorgeous and I appreciate any attempt to get European graphic novels to a winder audience, there’s some flaws in this that are pretty insurmountable for me.
In general, I don’t mind it when science fiction plays fast and loose with science itself, but actually having a character spouting out increasingly convulted theories about what’s happening every ten pages or so grew incredibly tiresome, especially as they made no sense after a certain point and the ultimate resolution didn’t really reflect any of them. It’s technobabble in its purest form, words just piled on top of one another because it seems like they’re supposed to be there to say it’s science fiction. (You know, the spaceships kind of tipped me off there.)
The writing is really bad in several places. I’m talking “Oh hey, there’s something! Let’s go investigate so the plot can move forward” sort of blatant moments that stick out like a sore thumb. This isn’t Paul Benjamin’s translation at fault here: the plot just rears its head up and bends the story to its will in a completely non-organic and very clumsy manner that reminded me of a video game plot more than anything else.
There’s also a distinctly European machismo that infects the work, one that leaves me cold. There’s a rape scene that’s treated with all the tact of one of the books’ space battles, and while there is comeuppance, the path to it is convoluted and requires a greater-than-usual suspension of disbelief (and a willingness to endure one of the most played-out of dramatic clichés, delivered straight from the Guiding Light writing room.) I’ve noticed this very ham-fisted handling of sexual assault in other works from creators based on the continent (Hi, Jodorowsky!) but there was something just singularly galling about this incident and how it was treated by the cast.
Plotwise, I’m actually fairly intrigued by what the book offers up: a war between two parallel realities that begins with a misunderstanding, but the way the story is being told is extremely offputting. I’m not given a reason to care about any of the characters, as they’re all razor-thin stereotypes (the brave, headstrong hero; the female commander with an overbearing father figure; the scientist who’s too impressed with himself; the coward who tries to make something of his life) living in a world that’s positively fetishistic about the military. I don’t give a damn what happens to the people in the center of things, a crippling failure on the part of Bajram.