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The first issue of Southern Cross, a new series from writer Becky Cloonan and artist Andy Belanger, got a lot of the set-up of the series underway. Southern Cross #2 is an interesting second chapter in the series because it doesn’t really follow how I expected from the first issue. The mysteries established in the first issue are continued but then new mysteries are added. Ultimately, it’s a curveball that works pretty well, even if it’s still a little hard to gauge exactly what this series is going to be.
In the first issue of Southern Cross, we met Alex Braith, who is traveling on a space freighter to the moon Titan in order to find out what happened to her sister Amber, who mysteriously died while working there. Towards the end of the issue, Alex realizes that her bunkmate on the ship was investigating Alex’s disappearance. It would seem that this coincidence would be the jumping on point for Southern Cross #2, but instead Alex find the woman missing as the issue begins. When she asks around, the crew seemed unconcerned and assume she is going to turn up. As Alex digs a little deeper, she finds out that strange things have happened to people staying in her room before, and then Alex starts to see something unexplainable and seemingly unreal, while in the room.
The first issue of Southern Cross set up like a genre mash-up, but one that was pretty realistic for a somewhat dystopian future story. However, Southern Cross moves the feel much more towards the supernatural, as there are implications that the space boat might be haunted or that there are other unexplainable phenomenon happening aboard. So Southern Cross #2 ends up feeling like more of a subtle horror story compared to the revenge thriller that the first issue would seem to be setting up.
It would be pretty different and interesting if Cloonan and Belanger move the series all around tonally, but it’s unclear yet if that’s the goal. As this is only the second issue of the title, the creators are still setting up what the audience will expect from Southern Cross. While I appreciate the unpredictability of the first two issues, I do think establishing a defined tone and direction over the first arc will help the series in the long run.
There is a lot of restraint in Southern Cross #2 and that makes the issue feel compelling. At first, it almost seems like nothing important is happening in the early part of the issue, as Alex wanders around the ship, looking for a roommate who she hardly knows. Gradually, though, the small strange things start to mount up and the feel of the issue moves from ordinary to weird and unsettling.
Belanger’s art on Southern Cross #2 is again good. He doesn’t need to set up the world of the series quite as much as in the first issue, so there are not quite as many cool drawings of space and the ship (though there are some, and they again look great). Instead, the art is focused mainly inside the freighter, and it rightly makes readers feel a little cramped and even claustrophobic, in the same way that Alex feels.
I am hoping that Cloonan and Belanger’s varied first two issues of Southern Cross are an intentional maneuver to establish the story and characters as well as make the world seem unlike it really is. It could be true that the creators are still trying to figure out what the series is, but I’m going to be optimistic for now, that Cloonan and Belanger have a plan and Southern Cross #2 is an important step on trajectory.