If you’ve ever spoken to me for more than five minutes, you would learn that I absolutely adore space. I’m oddly comforted by stars, planets, and celestial bodies, and how it’s been around longer than any of us have been alive and will, no doubt, outlive us.
Existentialism aside, I love the endless possibilities of space as a setting for a story; it only takes a second to Google “stories set in space” to see how many people found value in it, and how many wonderful stories got to be told thanks to its setting. Killer Queens #1 is a welcome addition to the family.
Story and Characters
Created and written by David M. Booher (Canto, Powerless), Killer Queens follows Max and Alex, two friends and former assassins for hire. After a pretty fun diner fight, the issue follows the two heroes as they accept their first job that doesn’t involve assassination; they are hired to save the son and daughter of an ambassador, the humanoid Xixa, from a fascist dictatorship ruled by the Rhinocorns. If that wasn’t a lofty enough job, Max and Alex are also being pursued by a talking monkey, Captain Bieti, whose ship they stole — I mean borrowed.
Though this is only the first issue, we get a good overview of Max and Alex’s personalities: Alex is no-nonsense, goal oriented, sharp-tongued, and unlucky in love, meanwhile Max is a quintessential spacefaring hero, a wisecracking flirt who is mean with a laser gun when he has to be. These two play off each other well, and it’s clear that they have been close for a long time. It will be interesting to see if we learn more about their backstory and how they became friends and work associates in later issues.
I will add, though, while I understand that this is the first issue and that there is more story to be told, Max and Alex were a tad one dimensional with their only personality traits being sharp-tongued and flirty, respectively. A large portion of Max’s dialogue was focused on how much he was attracted to men which, while that said a good deal about him as a character, got just a tad dull after the fourth or fifth time. Like I said, I would love to see more development for these two in later installments.
Art & Visuals
The art style for this comic is stellar and fits the tone of the book perfectly. Claudia Baldoni (True Blood: French Quarter, Grimm Tales of Terror) drew a world that is deliciously retrofuturist where the past and an imagined present collide. There is a real sense of nostalgia in the illustrations where it looks like a comic book you would read in the ’50s or ’60s imagining what the future would look like, where there are flying cars and readily available laser guns, but ’50s-style diners still exist, they just happen to be floating in the middle of space now.
Baldoni did something very interesting with the outlines — they’re incredibly thin and everything has an air of sketchiness to it, like the comic was made with outdated technology, adding to the novelty of it all. The outfits have to be my favorite designs, though. Alex sports a racy red spacesuit with unnecessary shoulder pads and ringlets and a high ponytail while Max chooses a shirt and pants combo that shows off his guns and…other assets. Alex’s spacesuit is a staple in retrofuturist aesthetic and looks like a protagonist straight out of a pulpy, campy comic book of an older era; I can imagine her on trading cards that kids would pass around at school.
The backgrounds and action scenes are beautiful to look at as well. Colorist Harry Saxon (Vagrant Queen & Test, Sex Death Revolution) added to the future nostalgia feeling permeating the comic, where the colors, while saturated, are also muted slightly, like the book is a well-loved, well-preserved antique that hasn’t lost any of its luster. The action scenes were super fun to witness, each punch, kick, and blast emphasized with an impactful onomatopoeia; I could just imagine a trumpet sting accompanying each hit. The lettering by Lucas Gattoni (Twin Worlds, Ithaqa) is dynamic as well, though there were times I had difficulty tracking the speech bubbles to determine who was talking because they were out of panel or the line connecting bubbles and characters got too swirly or too thin. Perhaps that was more of a ‘me’ problem, but for those that have a similar issue, know you’re not alone.
However, it must be said that, for being a story set in a place as rife with possibilities as outer space, nearly everyone we’ve seen so far has been conventionally attractive and thin or muscular. Aside from Bieti and his henchmen of bipedal otters, every character is humanoid. I imagine that, having a criminal past in space, one would encounter any number of interesting creatures, but no, just humanoid figures so far. Additionally, there have been no people of color introduced in this comic, and while there are people with green and pink skin, that’s not the kind of “of color” I’m thinking of. Again, we’re in space. Anyone can exist in space.
Killer Queens is an Own Voices work with an all-LGBTQ+ creative team which is truly wonderful; many people worked hard to make this book happen and to tell a story of two queer people in space with beautiful, campy art, and that is something I can never take away. However, I find myself wishing there was more depth and breadth to this first issue, something that could have gone just beyond a fun space romp with two gay protagonists.
We got a teaser of it in the last couple pages, fascism is either on the rise or endemic in this universe, but I wish we saw more evidence of that somehow instead of just a line in the teaser and a line in the book itself. While I understand that one can’t fit everything into the first issue, seeing bits and pieces of the threat scattered through the book would have made it just a bit more impactful and suspenseful for me, like how different species are treated versus the more humanoid ones. I kept looking back at the teaser and how “super gay” the protagonists were, and the rainbow font in the title, and the flirtatious nature of one of Max and how Alex has an ex-girlfriend, and I went, “okay…but is this it?” Do I think that the only way to explore and write about LGBTQ+ lives is through seriousness and doom and gloom? No, not at all. Do I think there could be a lot more to say and focus on in this book besides the orientations of the protagonists? Yes, absolutely.
Additionally, for a story that prides itself on being LGBTQ+ affirming, I found myself feeling incredibly left out as I was reading it. Now, David M. Booher says himself in an afterword that “everyone in the LGBTQ+ community takes their own journey.” It would be impossible to try and include the lived experience of everyone in the community, but as a Black bisexual femme who is cis on a good day that doesn’t have the body type of Naomi Campbell, reading a comic set in space, I felt deeply unwelcome in this world. All I can hope for is that, in later installments, the world these protagonists live in grows bigger to include more faces and voices.
The first issue left on a wicked cliffhanger, so it will be interesting to see who our characters encounter next and how they weasel out of trouble.
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