Cartoonist: Dave Chisholm
Publisher: Scout Comics
WHAT IS IT?
This is the second issue in a four-issue miniseries. Canopus is so many genres wrapped in one: Thriller. Horror. Science-fiction. Character study. It's all of them and none of them at the same time. But at face value, it's a mystery surrounding our hero's amnesia and identity, as she's trapped marooned alone, in space.
You definitely get an evocation of solitary space thrillers, like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Moon.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
(MAJOR SPOILERS FROM ISSUE #1 AHEAD)
Issue #2 picks up where we left off from the first issue...Helen jumping into a black hole to find her long since presumed dead father.
Canopus has shown the reader in the previous issue how it has twisted Helen’s psyche while on the desolate star. With Arther at her side, Helen continues to work through her past trauma while exploring the star and, much like issue #1, discovers triggers that only seem meant for her.
Helen still needs to locate the materials needed to leave Canopus and return to save the Earth, but can she move past her anger and resentment to trust Arther? Is Helen able to reach her father? Or will Canopus continue to wreak havoc on Helen’s mind?
First of all, wow. There is so much to unpack with this story. The art, the writing, and the details in which Chisholm went to create this incredibly complex main character who is just...human.
Helen is not your typical protagonist. She does not contain any of those cliche characteristics that leading characters have. She is blunt, short-tempered to the only other individual that supports her, and extremely raw as she continues to take everything Canopus throws at her.
As our fearless Yeti leader said in his review for issue #1, this story is every bit a character study. You can dissect Helen’s character portrayal in many different ways. You can analyze what isolation does to a person, how death and loss impact children at a young age, how betrayal can lead to trust issues, or when you have something taken away from you and cannot understand why this is happening.
These are extremely raw feelings and emotions that are explored in Canopus, which features some twisted triggering agony for Helen.
There are a couple of twists that occur in this issue that if you really think about it, adds some incredible depth to the pain that Helen has experienced in her two previous relationships.
I recently read an interview that Chisholm did with Fred McNamara over at “A Place to Hang Your Cape," where he discusses how he lays out his stories using a “three-panel-per-tier system." As Chisholm states “The first panel sets it up, the second one digs deeper, and the third one allows for a payoff.” Viewing the story from this perspective makes me admire the layout even more and adds value to these payoffs in the third panel.
Neil Gaiman once said in “The Annotated Sandman” that when writing your comic, Alan Moore taught him how to leave the last panel of a page to keep the reader wanting more. Setting up that page-turning panel so the reader is excited to see what comes next is important to ensure the reader finishes your story. Chisholm easily accomplishes this with every page and always has me on the edge of my seat.
One thing that really caught my attention was how intense Helen is depicted in moments of extreme distress. Especially noteworthy are the added lines and shadowing in her face that illustrates how serious or upset she is.
The positioning of characters talking to be able to highlight how they are feeling is important in a story, and Chisholm is well aware of this, executing positioning perfectly within.
Arther is such a complex character in a life where Helen has always sought out that constant person of support. Everyone in her life has left her alone, one way or another. The feelings of resentment and anger that build up inside her are painful to read. However, Arther, a being that Helen does not remember nor wants to be around, is someone who is there Helen, despite her best efforts to drive him away.
Those double-page flashback spreads? Woowee! Being able to show specific moments in a character’s life while simultaneously placing smaller static memories to amplify their moments of sadness, loneliness, and happiness is no small feat, and Chisholm makes this seamless.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I...I got nothing here honestly. I try to put at least something here in my reviews, even if they are a little nit-picky. Legitimately, this book is amazing.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
This was my first foray into Dave Chisholm’s work and if it is for you as well, do not hesitate to grab issues #1 & #2 and then prepare yourself for the penultimate issues in this short series.
You can see the amount of work, time, and research Dave put into creating this story. Canopus will make you reevaluate how you read comics.
So seriously, go grab Canopus. Right now.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Instrumental by Dave Chisholm
Maxwell's Demons by Deniz Camp & Vittorio Astone
Limbo by Dan Watters & Caspar Wijngaard
If you like the art:
Zero Jumper by Patrick Mulholland
Moonframe by Nick Bryan & Lucas Peverill
Trillium by Jeff Lemire
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dave Chisholm – Cartoonist
Multitalented: Wrote, illustrated, and lettered this entire comic
Music Lover: Has a doctorate in jazz trumpet
Award Winner: His music has received many awards and accolades, and I have a feeling his comics will, too
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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