Last time, Alex Braith solved the mystery behind her sister Amber’s murder, an unknown artifact discovered on the mining colony of Titan. It has the ability to summon ghosts and…things not of this world! Alex tried to warn Captain Mori, but the insane Doctor Wells showed up, stabbed the engineer, and caused the Southern Cross to hurl toward a wormhole. In this issue, the Southern Cross continues its trajectory toward certain doom. Alex and Captain Mori must find a way to save the passengers and find out the dark nature of the artifact.
As always, the art is top notch. With Andy Belanger’s retro-style illustrations and Lee Loughridge’s mixture of somber and neon colors, Southern Cross has the gritty claustrophobia of classic horror/sci-fi ala Alien and Event Horizon. In this issue, the team takes the art up a level. As the Southern Cross hurls toward the wormhole, frightening images of ghosts, tentacles, and mysterious symbols appear. The wormhole itself is a gaping giant that constantly changes color and pulsates like a living creature. Its suspiciously eye like appearance and dominance of panel space gives the reader an eerie feeling of being watched and engulfed along with the ship. This otherworldly presence the wormhole possesses likens it to the elder monstrosities of Lovecraft. The Lovecraftian influence is strong here and suggests bigger, even scarier things to come for the Southern Cross and its crew. If you like your horror trippy and of the eldritch persuasion, Southern Cross has got you covered like fresh, hot blood spatter.
Becky Cloonan’s writing continues to shine. The characters are strong, especially the protagonist Alex who manages to be both outwardly tough, yet simultaneously scared. Doctor Wells gets a spotlight as a madman. He stabs the Southern Cross’s engineer to death and rambles about “the Great Devourer” that is awaiting them all. One wonders if the artifact did this to him, and raises a bigger question: is it tied to the wormhole? If so, what is its motivation for causing so much madness? Its these mysteries that evolve with character interaction and dialogue that keep the story going and free of boredom.
Action is fast-paced without feeling over the top, and the atmosphere maintains its creepiness from panel to panel. Unfortunately, as a conclusion to the first story arc, Southern Cross #6 feels lackluster. Cloonan has introduced a lot of interesting elements to Southern Cross to make it more than a typical haunted house story (or, in this case, haunted spaceship). There is world building, mystery, and eldritch horror elements that suggest a bigger picture going on than what the reader is seeing. Although the fusion of all these elements in previous issues sometimes felt disorganized, they evolved along with the plot and made a steadily paced reading experience. In Southern Cross #6, however, the conclusion seems rushed. It continues to evolve the big picture, but the plot feels like it’s just going from point A to B. This feeling could just be the result of publication delay. Excitement for a comic can simmer despite build up in previous issues. In any case, the conclusion is epic and suggests bigger things to come for the series.
Despite its flaws, Southern Cross #6 is a great read. Trippy horror art from Andy Belanger and a creepy plot worthy of Lovecraft makes it one of the most unique comics in both sci-fi and horror. With what looks like more to come in the second arc, Southern Cross is a cult classic in the making for Image’s extraordinary catalog.