Advance Review – Outpost Zero #1

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Outpost Zero #1 cover, credit to Image Comics

Outpost Zero #1 – Sean Kelley McKeever, Writer; Alexandre Tefenkgi, Artist; Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

I know what you’re all thinking – What’s DC Superfan Ray doing reviewing an Image book? Well, before beginning, I should mention that I’ve been a fan of – and friend of – writer Sean McKeever for over ten years. In many ways, McKeever was a writer ahead of his time – after making his debut with his small-town indie drama The Waiting Place, he became best-known for his work on all-ages, character-driven Marvel characters. These included the boy-and-his-robot adventure Sentinel; the character-driven fish-out-of-water college drama Inhumans (still the best use of these oddball characters over a decade later); and most famously the teen-romance take on Spider-Man, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. Any of these feel like they would have been big hits now that comics are realizing there’s money to be had in audiences besides lifelong Wednesday Warriors (like me). McKeever wound up taking a break from comics after runs at both Marvel and DC on more editorially-driven titles including Teen Titans, so when he announced he was coming back with an original concept at Image, Outpost Zero, I couldn’t have been more excited. He’s kindly provided an advance copy so I can get the word out early here at GeekDad.

The first thing that stands out to me about Outpost Zero #1 is how, despite its sci-fi concept, it has far more in common with The Waiting Place than any other McKeever work. This first issue is largely about place-setting and introducing its characters, and it does it in ways that could take place anywhere in the universe. The main subplots in this issue include:

– A teenage daredevil sneaks into a dangerous location with her best friend, looking to show off – and promptly manages to break her arm.

– A boy who lost his mother years ago in a natural disaster is haunted by her loss, which leads him to behave in erratic and self-destructive ways.

– A daughter of ambitious parents fails an important test that has a negative impact on her future prospects, leading to an angry explosion from her father.

Outpost Zero at dawn, credit to Image Comics

These are all plots that could be taking place in small-town America – but they’re not. They’re taking place on a Terraforming Outpost in the far reaches of space, where a generation of teenagers is growing up in a life they didn’t choose – isolated, confined, with their whole life planned out for them before they were even born. They’re one of many outposts around the cosmos now, as humanity sets out to find a hospitable place to expand their reach. Outpost Zero is not one of the more promising locations, surrounded by a frozen, tempestuous landscape where the biodome is never too far from an apocalyptic disaster. While McKeever’s writing is undoubtedly the star attraction here, artist Alexander Tefenkgi is a great find. He’s got a slightly anime-inspired vibe, but not exaggerated. He reminds me a bit of Mike Norton, a former McKeever collaborator, in style. He manages to make the landscape stark but fascinating, and the characters distinct and expressive.

The promotional material refers to Outpost Zero as “the smallest town in the universe”, and that’s a great hook. There really is no difference when it comes to the ennui these teenagers are experiencing in their hometown, save the cosmic storms. We’re instantly hooked into the stories of daredevil Alea, cautious Steven, arrogant Mitchell, practical Lyss, and haunted Sam. While there’s a much larger story going on around them, involving the threats facing Outpost Zero as its shoestring existence is threatened once again, the issue never loses sight of the human lives that populate the biodome. The story shifts dramatically towards the end, as the possible threats become very real and one kid makes a possibly life-threatening decision. If I had to find something to quibble about with this first issue, it’s that the action near the end feels a tiny bit jumbled, and the ending is a bit abrupt, but it does nothing to dampen my anticipation for the next issue. Outpost Zero #1 combines the best of Sean McKeever’s character-driven writing style with a fascinating world with a great opening hook, and it’s already my – and, I hope, your – new Image Comics obsession.

Outpost Zero #1 is a must-buy.

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