Station #1 Review

I saw a few interesting things today as I went to my LCS (local comics shop). Firstly, there were a few more people there than usual, which was fantastic. I guess most of them heard about the place from the Supanova expo. I love it when people discover comics for the first time. I firmly believe that there is a comic, or series, or writer, or artist out there for everybody. You just gotta find it. Secondly, I saw Supanova’s guest artists, Howard Chaykin and Joe Jusko there too, chatting it up with the employees and getting there photos taken. Topics discussed included TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno’s lactating nipples and Punisher War Journal’s Jigsaw story arc conclusion coming in September. (Click here for the alternate cover. You’ll go ape for it!) But comics are a minefield. Many of my friends feel initially daunted when going to the LCS for the first time. Where’s the latest Superman issue? What are all these surnames doing on the covers? What in the world is a TPB? It’s a confusing world. Well, fear not, I’m here to help. Starting from the review below, I’ll be attempting to guide you through the muddy waters of the comic book universe. Look for new pages, and a new category, entitled, New To Comics? for articles and reviews for the newbie. By the way, TPB is a Trade Paper Back, a hard cover collection of a previously published series, much like a DVD box set of a TV show you’ve seen before, but with extras and no ads. See, you’re learning already.

Space is a great setting for stories beyond straight sci-fi. Films like the original Alien, Solaris and last year’s Sunshine showed us that it isn’t always extra terrestrials that are the greatest threat. Paranoia and claustrophobia can play their part in creating terror too. With astronauts cut off from their loved ones and the strange sensation of zero gravity, normality is thrown out the window.

Station from relatively new publisher, BOOM! Studios’ continues this tradition. The first issue of a four part monthly series kicks things off with a bang. Well, not a bang really, but an immediate sense of desperation.

The international space station is a gleaming example of scientific advancement and a unified humanity. That is until the latest batch of multi-national astronauts take up residence in its cramped quarters.

It’s not long before Nicolay the cosmonaut is murdered. Not in a brutal manner, but certainly an effective one; rendered with such despair as he floats away. Dedicating two pages of almost blackness to this pivotal plot point works extremely well. Nicolay is captured by the endless space, and there is nothing his colleagues can do but watch his terrified face get further and further away. Nicolay’s death was, of course, no accident, and of all the people on the station, his work was the apparently the most earth changing.

As Dr Karen James, one of the astronauts remarks, “That’s the thing about being on a space station. There’s no place to hide. Everything comes to the surface sooner or later.” And it appears the murderer on board has only just begun their work.

Writer Johanna Stokes comes from TV, and her character work here is excellent. With only three issues left to tell this story, she has her work cut out for her, but she’s off to an intriguing start. At this point, the killer could be anyone. There are genuine chills here with a moody pace. Leno Carvalho’s artwork fits well in this context. Realistic in the style of Ultimates artist Bryan Hitch with a mix of 90s Aquaman penciller Jim Calafiore, with a good eye for the technical details of the station and the expressions of the increasingly desperate people aboard it. A whodunit in a floating sardine can is a brilliant premise. So far this series lives up to it.

TobyMac: Alive and Transported DVD/CD

TobyMac LivedcTalk helped me become a Christian. I used to mock their cheesy and outdated Christian Television Association ads over a decade ago, then I saw their Welcome to the Freak Show live concert on VHS and couldn’t believe they were a Christian band. Surely Christian music had guys in braces playing harps and singing, “Hallelujah,” all the time. Right? Wrong-thankfully. I loved that album and listened to the tape so many times I destroyed it. Then when Jars of Clay, Newsboys and delirious came along all my misconceptions about Christianity were swept away. Contemporary Christian music has been an integral part of my life since.

dcTalk’s last album of new material, 1998’s Supernatural, was certainly a fitting swansong from the groundbreaking boys, and the demand for an immediate re-union was high. I don’t think many people expected TobyMac to be the most successful solo artist after the split. With the soaring voices of Michael Tait and Kevin Max “that guy that does all the rapping” had to work hard to get noticed. But he did, and it paid off.

With his three solo albums (Momentum, Welcome to Diverse City and Portable Sounds) each better than the last, and his own label Gotee Records, he continues to shine in the hip-hop arena.

Alive and Transported is his first live DVD/CD. He looks as young and as energetic as he did when he first made an impression on me all those years ago. With the hits from his albums, plus dcTalk’s anthem, Jesus Freak, this 20 song collection won’t allow you to stop grooving. The CD and DVD collect the same songs, but the DVD has a nifty bonus; an almost one hour long doco on the man himself as he discusses life, touring, family and the sometimes mundane, sometimes extraordinary ways he met his current band mates. Toby’s voice sounds more powerful than ever and he never loses a beat throughout the concert’s entirety on memorable beats like Boomin’, Made To Love and Extreme Days. It must be exhausting, but moved by the adoration of the huge crowd and his passion for Christ, the guys just keeps rocking, and rapping. It doesn’t have the fancy multimedia of a U2 show, or the fancy footwork of a Justin Timberlake show, but these guys (and girl) know how to party.

The DVD needs big speakers and a big TV to really show the power and enthusiasm coming from the stage. The editing adds much colour and motion to the event and it is a feast for your eyes as well as ears. Though he has had moderate success in the mainstream music scene, with songs being used in TV ads and films, Toby doesn’t shy away from his Christian roots. He’s not ashamed of the gospel, and like his friend and collaborator, the equally awesome Kirk Franklin, he spills out spiritual authenticity along with his creativity. One of the greatest blessings of being a believer is that we have music like this, that honours God and gets your body moving.
And, just so you know, I used one of his songs on the Supanova Perth video seen below. Like me, you may just be surprised that there’s no harps and Hallelujahs here, but you won’t be disappointed. Give it a shot.