Writer: Mark Millar, Artist: Matteo Scalera, Colors: Marcelo Maiolo, Letters: Clem Robins
Fate and skill dance away in Mark Millar's & Matteo Scalera's Space Bandits. The 1980s-drenched space western hits the ground running with engaging characters and incredible world-building.
The heist narrative quickly gives way to revenge, in this inspiring tale, soon to feature on Netflix. Cody Blue and Thena Cole star as two of the galaxy's most formidable criminals, preceded by reputation and fortified in action and cunning. Their two tales may stretch over several parsecs, but it's just the beginning for a couple of ladies done wrong.
Millar has long been known to create effective and captivating hooks with his limited series, often translating to screen with ease. Space Bandits continues the trend, establishing compelling characters from the top on down. The narrative is tight and cinematic, flowing from one scene to the next. Pushing skillful, intricate plans against bombastic set pieces filled with vile, egregious violence.
While much of Space Bandits feels like a prologue, pieces set up to move around in a much larger story, it never loses its luster. Millar adeptly maneuvers between two primary perspectives, giving each enough room to breath without becoming lethargic. In many ways Blue and Cole feel like Millar's versions of Black Cat and Catwoman, only set in the familiar (ahem) space as seen in Cowboy Bebop or Firefly. Millar, no stranger to infusing his creative works with pop culture influences doesn't shy away here; giant luxury space cruisers, reminiscent of The Fifth Element, and named after 1980s pop stars loom across the horizon. While the kitsch is at full throttle, it is always played straight, evoking the stylings of Gaiman's Good Omens or Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Though the story mixes in many tropes and cliches of western/crime/sci-fi, it is always rooted in its strong characters. The places may seem familiar, however the faces are always fresh. Certainly, Millar is Tarantino-esque in his homages to films and text you've definitely seen before. Nothing ever feels generic, or stock. Millar uses the familiar settings as springboards for the action and reaction within the story. If Millar is writing the movie infused script, Scalera is posting the storyboards for this page to film extravaganza. Character designs are wonderfully unique, distinctive in every aspect from wardrobe to wisecracking faces. Each expression is vividly displayed. This is especially important as a large range of emotions are evident in the story. Scalera's lines are perfectly complemented by Maiolo's color. Vibrant and tacky in the just the right ways, the panels pop off the page. There seems to be a recent surge of heist-themed books and nostalgia books filling the shelves. Space Bandits pulls off the gamble and doubles down for more. These bandits, crash, smash, and grab, laying waste to the uninspired, with a wink and a smile.