Having read plenty of Mark Millar comics, particularly his recent creator-owned work at Image, it feels like he wants to put his own spin on films like Back to the Future and Harry Potter in comic book form, leading to works like Chrononauts and The Magic Order. And since Millarworld was purchased by Netflix in August 2017, it’s not surprising that these comics will be adapted for the streaming service, such as an upcoming web television series of The Magic Order that will be executive produced by James Wan.
Millar’s latest is a return to the cosmos with the most generic title you can think of: Space Bandits. Said bandits are Thena Khole and Cody Blue, each the leader of their own criminal ops that run heists across the galaxies. But when both women are betrayed by their crews, Thena and Cody get acquainted with each other during their prison time and plan their mission of revenge.
From a criminal mastermind being betrayed and left for dead by her male muscle, to a violent outlaw left stranded by her con-artist boyfriend, you understand the mechanics right away, so you’re left with a plot, which is very predictable and doesn’t pull any surprises. That is not to say that the comic is without enjoyable moments, and that largely comes down to its two female protagonists, who are your basic cool anti-heroes, each with their own particular set of skills. Millar doesn’t go to great dramatic lengths and perhaps tries a little too hard to give them a heart of gold, including a left-field choice in the shape of a happy ending.
No doubt that Millar has a divisive fan base and I think part of that has to do with the fact that sometimes his attempts at edginess can often just come across as juvenile. There is a good section in Space Bandits that takes place in the “Rob and Charlie”, a registered sex vessel that is the perfect place for the overused sci-fi cliche of space floozies. As out-there some of the imagery can be, it felt like Saga did this before and was more playful. However, I will give points for Millar by setting the climax in a planet ruled by an elderly but tyrannical princess who gifts her people through the sick pleasure of blood orgies.
In this space adventure that features a number of telepaths – including Cody, who has a telepathic link with a Nibiruan white lizard – and spaceships that are named after today’s celebrities like Lionel Richie, Millar seems to be world-building as he’s going along, even if the pop-culture references are out of place. That said, it helps that Black Science‘s Matteo Scalera shows off some outlandish settings where there may be an element of the familiarity, and gives it a sci-fi twist that is visually stunning, such as The Crustacean, a prison on top of a giant dead lobster. As Millar loves to write violent action sequences, Scalera draws such scenes that are inventive and bloody, along with Marcelo Maiolo’s coloring that punctuates certain moments.
If Space Bandits gets adapted into a Netflix series like many of Millar’s other works, there will be better films and shows about space bandits to check out. Like its title, Millar and Scalera’s comic is an okay but generic read.