Writer: Anthony Cleveland
Artist: Antonio Fuso
Colorist: Stefano Simeone
Letterer: Justin Birch
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
Release Date: May 6, 2020
Diamond Code: MAR201974
Song: Stargazer by Thievery Corporation
Growing up in the mid-to-late ’90s, it was never too mischievous to tell your parents that you were going out to do one thing and actually doing something else. In fact, it was easy. Kids were right at the cusp of the internet and at the time the only ones with cellphones were adults, and even then, they weren’t camera phones nor did they have GPS to track your location. So it wasn’t too far off to say that kids would often be off by themselves, with little supervision and in certain towns, that was okay. For the most part, kids often moved in groups and when asked by parents what they had occupied their time with, more often then not, it would be a bit of bent truth. Usually, it would be “no harm, no foul” but in this particular case, the truth itself is clouded and what did or didn’t happen can’t eve be remembered by those involved.
The beginning of Stargazer surrounds one fateful night in Birksville, Colorado, in 1999, where 4 friends go out to look at the stars and peruse the pages of a strategy guide of a video game they have yet to beat. Shae, her younger brother, Kenny, Hailey, and Adriana weren’t up to too much trouble, it was just a little fib to get together to plot on how they were going to beat the game they have been slaving away at. Kenny, the youngest of the group, enthusiastic to the idea of actually stargazing, was a bit disappointed when no one else but he wanted to actually do so. We get a quick glance at Shae and Kenny’s relationship here during a sincere moment of brother and sister. The moment is cut short when Kenny expresses that he’s hungry. It’s here the issue takes its turn. Adriana realizes that she’s mistakenly taken her older brother’s book bag when she pulls out a full sheet of Acid tabs instead of the hot dogs she packed for the night’s meet-up. Not knowing that by merely touching the acid tabs, the kids were inadvertently dosing, a strange thing happens and tragedy strikes. Without giving away too much of the issue, the issue flashes to the present day, where we see the adverse effects of that night and what it’s done to those involved.
All the tones of a good sci-fi mystery are here. The opening of the story hits us with a big “WTF” moment when something is found in the middle of an African desert that has NO business even being in that hemisphere and when the turn of the issue hits, it’s done so in true sci-fi fashion with a loud sound and a flash of light. It all almost plays out like a really good episode of the X-Files, minus the monotone monologue from Agent Fox Mulder. It’s apparent that Anthony Cleveland (Show’s End, Silver Skin) is a child of the ’90s like myself and I can appreciate that. From the girl’s obsession with the strategy guide to the DARE class reference, I get flashbacks of sitting in my DARE class with my friends, looking over EGM Magazine, figuring out how to beat Resident Evil 3. The adult relationship between Shae and Kenny is one of love chained together with guilt and it will be interesting to see how it develops from Shae’s end, as well as how the other girls will be effected in the issues to come.
The art by Antonio Fuso (WYRD, Survival Fetish) and colors by Stefano Simeone (Read Only Memories) seem to be a match made in comic heaven. The emotional color tone and color spectrum used in each setting are fitting given the climate, the emotion, and the message being conveyed. The subtle little hits of 90’s nostalgia continue here with the Spitfire shirt and the Disco Volante shirt in both the past and present timeline, as well as the nerd nod in the form of a d20 diagram on the cover of the strategy guide. Even Justin Birch gets in on the fun with the newspaper clipping with Roger Leir’s name on it.
As a sci-fi fan, I appreciate the little extra steps that everyone on the team has taken in this issue. It’s gonna be great to see where they take it as the story unfolds. Whatever these guys have planned, it’s needless to say these guys have me more than excited. From the beams of light to the dark corners of a conspiracy theorists basement, I’m here for all of it and if you’ve been waiting for a great sci-fi mystery, Stargazer has the makings for a great one.