By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: Honestly, why wouldn’t you get high if you’re stranded on an empty alien planet?

The Review: Because I’m nothing if not a party animal, I just read an article on the value (or vice) of sentimentality in fiction. While I get the folks who say it’s a cheap way to emotionally manipulate an audience into thinking there’s more story than there really is, I personally think it’s no evil unless it takes over the story entirely. We read for an emotional experience as much as for an intellectual one, so if the relentlessly cerebral In Search of Lost Time is allowed to exist, why can’t Becoming the Stars?

Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to think of all this having just come from Sandman: Overture #3, which can only be described as abstract, and then plunge into Cyclops #3, which is almost pure emotional indulgence. There definitely is a plot at work: the Summers men experience an inexplicable malfunction mid-flight and crash-land on a barely habitable planet. This is the prelude to bigger developments ahead, I’m sure, but for now, it’s all about Chris and Scott bonding in a deeper way.

That means the truth about Chris’ condition has to come out, of course. Scott’s not dumb enough for his dad’s back-alley deals to get past him, and he naturally concludes some kind of drug addiction is at work. Once that misunderstanding is put right, it leads to a necessary conversation on something both Summers probably have been avoiding: why Chris never came back. Despite Chris’ shamed honesty on the matter, Scott can’t help twisting the knife a little: “You’re our dad. Of course we needed you.”

In a way, Chris is lucking out here. The older Scott didn’t reunite with his dad until well into his adult years, meaning a much longer period to stew in, and when they did meet, Chris was still a devil-may-care pirate who seemed less mature than his own son. With young Scott, it’s only been some years since Chris was taken away, so the sting of his abandonment is easier to remove. Chris is also wiser and more sensitive now than he’s ever been; narrowly escaping death does that. Not only is forgiveness in reach, but redemption also, and that’s an even bigger gift than his second lease on life.

Besides, that lease seems set to expire pretty soon. With only 24-27 days’ worth of nano-serum to keep his resurrected body functioning, the story has transformed into a tragic, extraterrestrial Swiss Family Robinson. Call it shameless sentimentality if you will, but it’s very easy to read and empathize with the heavy emotions at work here. Upset about the number of days left to them, Scott says, “That’s not enough time.”

“No, it’s not,” Chris says, putting his arm around Scott. “But at least I get to spend them with my son.”*

Thankfully, the grief of the latter half of the issue is balanced by the spirit of adventure in the first. Scott and Chris’ interaction is full of good-natured ribbing, sparked between Chris’ cockiness and Scott’s straight man personality. “Have to admit,” Chris says as Scott drags him from their smoking ship, “your old man’s one hell of a pilot, right?”

“Yeah, he crashes with the best of them,” Scott replies dryly.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a smart-ass?” Chris asks with a weak grin.

“Just my dad, but nobody listens to him anyway.” If anything, this exchange shows some equally important growth in Scott since getting his dad back. When have you ever heard Scott described as a smart-ass? That’s a sharp contrast to his normally uptight bearing.

Make no mistake: Dauterman is a find and a keeper. His figures have incredible dimension, yet they never looks forced or trained, like the product of an art school valedictorian. Lush and detailed as his lines are, they always keep their free-flowing nature. His visuals would be gorgeous in themselves, but they’re enhanced by a fantastic eye for storytelling. Just take his choice to draw Chris’ past in the campfire between him and Scott, as if each lick of flame draws up another memory, which is so much more dynamic an image than if Dauterman had drawn it as a conventional series of flashback panels. Sotomayor’s colors are equally as potent, rich in cyans and magentas and so many other colors not of this Earth, which is as it should be in a space adventure.

Conclusion: There’s nothing intellectual about the love between father and son, but it moves you in no less profound a way.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * And if those lines don’t get you to tear or choke up a little, you’re a monster.

– Hope the Summers won’t be driven to eat the local fauna. Those alien grazers look nasty.