The year may be 2020, but the ’80s nostalgia is in full effect. From films like Stranger Things (2016) and It (2017) to the resurgence of Dungeons and Dragons, it seems like everyone wants to go back to the time of arcades and synth-pop, and I am all for it. Unsurprisingly, the neon purple cover and premise of Stargazer #1 immediately caught my attention. And though its first issue is filled with ’80s inspired tropes, Stargazer is a tightly written story that promises heartfelt character growth and fantastic art.
This first issue follows Shae, her younger brother Kenny, and their group of young friends as they venture out into the night for stargazing and general shenanigans. But before their night begins, an alien force seemingly abducts them. We’re then pulled to present day where we’re given a glimpse of the trauma that these characters have carried ever since that night. Unfortunately for them, their mysterious captors seem to be back for one final visit. Other than a few threads that fuel the mystery, Stargazer #1 doesn’t provide much outside of its initial premise. Instead, it’s the characters, tight script, and artwork by Fuso and Simeone that carry this issue.
The story moves at a brisk pace but still allows time for some great character exploration. In just a few pages, Cleveland establishes the group dynamic and effectively captures their childhood innocence before thrusting them into a traumatically life-changing encounter of the third kind. Each subsequent page thereafter offers meaningful character development as Cleveland wastes no time building the heart of the story. Specifically, it’s the strained relationship between Shae and her younger brother Kenny that makes up the familial drama in Stargazer. Seeing their relationship from before and after the abduction, it’s clear that they both carry unresolved trauma that hasn’t gone away with age.
Adding to the tight pacing is Fuso’s art and Simeone’s colors. Fuso’s layouts during the “incident” are dynamic and easy to follow. This creates an alarming sense of urgency that only intensifies the mystery of what exactly happened. A couple of the characters were difficult to discern upon my first reading, but, overall, the artwork remained engrossing. Simeone’s stark neon purple juxtaposed with starry skies also evokes a foreboding sense of cosmic dread and curiosity of the unknown. As a fan of cosmic horror, I was pleasantly surprised by this. To top it off, Justin Birch’s clear lettering and appropriate use of boldface type makes the dialogue read smoothly.
From its cover and premise, Stargazer seems like yet another fun but ultimately run-of-the-mill ’80s nostalgia trip. However, the execution keeps the story rather fresh and engaging with tight pacing, relatable characters, and great artwork. Stargazer #1 is a perfect example of a creative team firing on all cylinders, and it’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here. There’s also a surprising sense of cosmic horror sprinkled in, and it’ll be interesting to see how far they go with it. Fans of ’80s inspired media will undoubtedly enjoy this book while those burnt out will find something refreshing about this story.
Stargazer #1 will be released on September 2, 2020.