By: Paul Cornell (story), David Lapham (art), Giulia Brusco (colors)
The Story: If the conspiracy theorists catch wind of this, their heads just might explode.
The Review: This series has come a remarkably long way without drawing clear lines in the sand between the protagonists and the antagonists. By the seventh issue, almost any other title can’t really avoid having hero and villain confront each other directly. This title in particular has a lot of enemies for Arcadia & Co. to choose from: Dr. Glass and his military connections; the all-seeing nerds, the Bluebirds; and of course, the aliens themselves.
It speaks to the special quality of Cornell’s story that even without direct encounters between these groups (save for Arcadia and Dr. Glass’ strained civility post-hypno session), Saucer Country has had an amazing amount of tension. It all has to do with Cornell’s choice of context. Placing our hero in a position of such power and exposure, you might say that whoever she meets and whatever she does, whether confrontational or not, she’s at risk. There’s a nameless, unseen threat in this title, and it comes from the judgment of the American people themselves.
Lest you forget, however, that we have some very visible characters actually gunning for the protagonists, this issue reminds you some folks in this world have known about the E.T. long before Arcadia’s close encounter. It seems a mistake for Cornell to write yet another exposition-heavy issue right on the foot of the last one, but he does have a knack for showing and telling at the same time. He uses narration to fill in the gaps between the action, a guide to events, instead of in a dictatorial sort of way.
And look, the story of the Bluebirds, the angle from which they approach UFOs, is just plain fascinating, in large part because it feels so different from the perspective we usually get on these things. Arcadia really impressed with her measured, pragmatic response to the alien threat, but now we see her as totally defensive compared to the other interest groups in play. The Bluebirds want to seek out the visitors on their own terms. They are not intimidated by the supposed technological superiority of these beings, and even plan to take advantage of it.
In some ways, this issue finally confirms what it is our characters are dealing with. Whereas before, we had a fine line between delusion and reality, what with hypno-induced memories, “truths” told by visions, and a lot of paranoia and urban legend, the Bluebirds managed to come away with tangible evidence, albeit a small one. These are intelligent people; they know what they’re holding is “[t]he item that proves our hero went to some magical place—like in all the best stories.” That, together with the wonder and courage that accompanies the revelation, and suddenly you wonder who the real heroes in this series are.
At first glance Lapham displays a casual looseness of style similar to Ryan Kelly’s. It’s almost relaxing to look at this kind of art because it doesn’t feel so fixed or poised. Even though Lapham clearly obeys the traditions of perspective and proportion and what certain things should look like, he twists all those rules just a little bit, to get you to come at the image from a different angle. The sequence of Joe Bermingen parachuting through a sky full of crossfire, enemy aircraft, and falling stars is grounded, but abstract enough to be eerie.
Conclusion: If nothing else, Cornell always delivers a fascinating story, forcing you to receive a story in entirely new, usual ways—even if he deprives you of action for two issues.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – “Houston, this is Tranquility Base on Azure—there is an Easter Bunny.” How the heck does Cornell make a line like that work? How? How does it feel so creepy?