The Sweetness #1 Smuggles in the Retrofuture

Comics Reviews
The Sweetness #1 Smuggles in the Retrofuture

Writer: Miss Lasko-Gross
Artist: Kevin Colden
Publisher: Z2 Comics
Release Date: June 22, 2016

THE SWEETNESS 1.jpgThe first issue of The Sweetness opens with a scene familiar to any science fiction fan: a group of spacesuit-clad aliens arrives at a human settlement (in this case, a diner) and menaces the locals with ray guns. Violence ensues. But in this case, the scene’s narrative function isn’t to prepare the reader for a long series of skirmishes, but to illustrate an aspect of the world: humans and aliens must avoid contact or face unpleasant consequences.

The rest of the issue introduces the crew of a cargo ship carrying a dozen cryogenically frozen people venturing out from Earth: Scout, the free-spirited pilot; Nelly, the ship’s liaison to its destination, a penal colony; and new guy Bachmaan, who appears way in over his head. The story follows a long tradition of science fiction focusing on the less glamorous side of space travel. The quarters are cramped, tensions run high and illicit activity abounds—Bachmaan becomes increasingly unnerved over the course of the issue by the contraband he’s agreed to smuggle.

The Sweetness #1 Interior Art by Kevin Colden

A nicely lived-in quality permeates the issue, due in part to some idiosyncratic choices—the opening is set in Metuchen, New Jersey. (Specificity never hurts.) Certain small details read a little strangely, however: narrative captions show both Nelly and Scout’s thoughts, but there’s only one from the latter, and it isn’t a particularly insightful glimpse into her inner life, making it unclear why it’s there at all. In the case of Nelly, her narration helps show another side of her character, revealing her as the most perceptive member of the cast so far, and establishing that she’s able to view multiple layers to a given situation. It’s a welcome contrast to the threats made to her (the only major character of color in the cast so far) by a number of grim-faced white guys earlier in the issue.

The Sweetness #1 Interior Art by Kevin Colden

Kevin Colden’s art establishes body language and facial expressions nicely, including Nelly’s wariness and observant qualities, as well as Scout’s happy-go-lucky tendencies. In Bachmaan, Colden captures a number of moods, from unnerved to nauseous to sinister. The world building flows with a retro-futuristic look, from the spacesuits worn by the aliens in the opening sequence to the Fast Loris, the shipping vehicle at the center of the plot, which resembles the Eagle 5 winnebago from Spaceballs grafted to a small zeppelin.

The Sweetness #1 Interior Art by Kevin Colden

Over the course of the issue, new facets of each character are revealed—in some cases, increasing the reader’s sympathy, and in others, revealing a more ominous side. It’s a promising beginning, bridging crime fiction with a welcome strain of science fiction, and expansive enough in its tone to include both irreverence and unnerving power dynamics.

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