John of All Trades – Review – Cluster

The Worst Comic Podcast EVER is very excited to announce that we will be reviewing/previewing new issues and trades from BOOM! Studios and that starts this week with a fantastic sci-fi thriller.

Cluster_TPB_coverTitle: Cluster

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Written by: Ed Brisson (Sheltered, Batman and Robin Eternal, Sons of Anarchy)

Art by: Damian Couceiro (Murder Book, Sons of Anarchy)

Colors by: Cassie Kelly & Michael Garland

Price: $29.99  – 210 pages

Publication Date: April 27th, 2016 (collecting the eight issue miniseries from 2015)

The protagonist of the scifi story Cluster is a young woman named Samara Simmons and she has been sent to prison for a crime that she totally did. I mean she is 100% guilty of the crime and she feels 100% guilty for the consequences. In this future, humans have begun to colonize other worlds and prisoners can commute their sentences down to 15 years by serving humanity to help defend colonies and worlds being terraformed. Samara is sent to the world of Midlothian and she just wants to keep her head down, do her time, and maybe, just maybe redeem herself through her service.

Yeah, no one on Midlothian got the memo. To ensure that prisoners don’t try to escape they are injected with a ‘punch’. Essentially it is a device that will kill a prisoner that doesn’t return to the prison within 24 hours of being sent out. As you can probably imagine, this creates a scenario in which there is indeed a race against the clock and pretty early in the book as well. It is just then, when you think you see exactly where the story is going to go that the whole thing takes a left turn. And a great left turn at that. It turns out that nothing is exactly as it seems, particularly among the powers that be.

This series has elements of the Dirty Dozen, the Suicide Squad, the Great Escape and Alien all thrown together but the characters and the setting make it all work and it ends up feeling like something new. Brisson does a great job of giving us a manageable cast. We can relate to the characters to varying degrees as one might expect with prisoners and their guards. Even more impressive is the way that Brisson paces the plot. Several times in the book I was pretty certain how things were going to go and he would manage to pull the rug out from under me and then I would have to see what would happen next.

Couceiro’s artwork does a perfect job of balancing the fantastic of an alien world and alien races with the most fundamental aspects of human nature. Anger, joy, hatred, exhaustion and many others are rendered fantastically and they tear you between wanting to absorb the artwork and wanting to turn the page and get more story.  The layouts completely support the pacing, slowing you down in quiet moments and then racing you through the action. The colors by Cassie Kelly or Michael Garland (depending on the issue) complete the alien landscape of oranges, yellows and browns making the world strange to us but not psychedelic. The bright exteriors serve in stark contrast to the dark interiors of the prison, control rooms and hidden bases.

I truly enjoyed this trade and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of hard-boiled sci-fi action-adventure!


Categories: John

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