Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Review: SATELLITE SAM #1
IMAGE COMICS – @ImageComics
WRITER: Matt Fraction
ARTIST: Howard Chaykin
LETTERS: Ken Bruzenak
COVER: Howard Chaykin with Jesus Aburtov
32pp, Color, $3.50 U.S. (July 2013)
Part 1: “The Big Fade Out”
Howard Chaykin was one of the signature comic book creators of the 1980s. He is practically a legend for his highly-influential science fiction series, American Flagg! (one of the greatest comic books of all time). Chaykin also produced two visually-striking, but controversial revamps for DC Comics, The Shadow and Blackhawk.
Now, Chaykin joins prolific Marvel Comics scribe Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, Iron Man) for Satellite Sam, a new comic book series published by Image Comics. Written by Fraction and drawn by Chaykin, Satellite Sam is an ongoing black and white series and murder mystery set in the 1950s during the Golden Age of Television.
Satellite Sam #1 opens in New York City, 1951, specifically the building that is home to upstart television network, LeMonde. Inside, cast and crew are in the middle of a live broadcast of the late-afternoon, kiddie sci-fi program, “Satellite Sam.” However, the star of the show, Carlyle White, is a no-show.
Meanwhile, LeMonde’s head honcho, Doc Ginsberg, is trying to gather investors for a nationwide expansion. Carlyle’s son, Michael, is about to take a big step in his television career, but then, daddy is found dead in a filthy flophouse. Now, Michael White has to stay sober long enough to clean up the mess his father left behind and to solve the mystery surrounding his death.
Some months ago, I received a press release from Image Comics announcing the arrival of Satellite Sam. I have to admit that I am interested in any project that involves Howard Chaykin, especially when he’s drawing it. I don’t really care about Matt Fraction, one way or the other. Still, I was excited to receive a PDF copy of Satellite Sam #1 from Image.
The following is a two-paragraph selection from Image’s press release announcing this series:
"It's a detective story, a history of television, and a record of addiction, sex, and depravity during a time when the antiseptic shine off Ozzie and Harriet obscure what was really happening in the world,” said writer Fraction. "And these are just a few of the many joys that come from telling a story about television while it was being invented as a mass medium in New York City.”
The creative team researched television's early days in preparation for the series, getting a feel for the era and for the people who lived real lives while inventing an idealized — and fictionalized — image of families and relationships.
What is discussed in those two paragraphs, I didn’t really get from reading Satellite Sam #1, which is not to say that the first issue is low quality. This first issue is really a prologue, but it promises some intriguing hints at what lies ahead.
What this first issue offers in full is a chance to see Howard Chaykin the artist and storyteller at work. He is one of the most imaginative page designers ever to work in American comics. His sense of graphic design impresses. His skill at art direction and set building (as content within his art) rarely produce comic book art that is not a wonder to behold.
Honestly, Satellite Sam is not Chaykin’s best work, but it is still quite good. In coming issues, we will see if Fraction’s ambitions deliver an ambitious story or yet another tired-ass tale about the darkness behind idealized, shiny White America.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux