Graphic novel review: Sea of Stars (issues 6 -10) by Jason Aaron + Dennis Hallum, Stephen Green and Rico Renzi

(cover image courtesy Image Comics)

If Sea of Stars issues one through five proved anything, it’s that space is as far from boring as you can get.

Admittedly at the start of one of the most imaginative graphic novels series you’ll ever come across, Kadyn, the nine-year-old son of long-haul space trucker Gil, thinks it’s as boring as it’s possible to get.

But then he touches a sacred object that’s part of a museum collection being transported back to Earth and all of sudden he’s flying through space with superpowers, in the company of a space monkey and space whale, mysteriously able to breathe in the airless reaches of cold, deep space and pursued by all kinds of people and creatures intent on using him for their own devices, whether that’s power acquisition or a meal.

Boring? Not so much, anymore.

With stultifying blandness and banality well and truly taken off the table, Sea of Stars wisely decides to put the pedal to the metal, sending Kadyn and his dad – SPOILER ALERT! – who has somehow ended up possessed by the evil spirit of the Devil King who is roaming through space ready to enslave anyone he can.

In the midst of pretty much nonstop action, full to the brim with improbable beings, marvellous worldbuilding and outrageous narrative twists and turns, Sea of Stars serves up some really poignant moments of family and friendship that give this brilliantly bonkers series some really impressive emotional resonance.

At its heart, the series is about a father and son, both mired in grief, trying to find their way literally and figuratively back to each other.

Time and again, and thwarted by some significantly weighty forces, Kadyn and Gil try to get back to each other, realising in a highly improbably situation, that they need to be with each other.

What’s remarkable about the series is that Aaron and Hallum never lose sight of what sits at the centre of their happily batshit crazy story.

While space leviathans may stalk everyone with murderous intent and demonic beings seek to shape the galaxy to their own nefarious ends, the entirety of Sea of Stars pivots on a dad trying to save his son and in return, desperately trying to get back to his father.

(cover image courtesy Image Comics)

In one sense it’s blindingly simple but in another profoundly, movingly important.

Along the way, both of them come to realise that all matters is being with each other; they had lost sight of that following life-shattering recent tragedy but as events of a deliciously expansive space opera have conspired to pull them far away from each other, they realised all over again how much they need each other.

Sea of Stars then is rich in raw, desperate, heartwarming humanity.

We may see monsters and battles writ large and they fantastically entertaining and absolutely integral to what is an astoundingly engrossing story that beggars belief with the scope and brilliance of its imaginative intent, but at the heart we bear witness to the restoration of a father-son relationship that both of them need more than they know.

Orbiting around this intense re-gluing of strained bonds are other relationships that come to matter a great deal – that between Kadyn and the space monkey and space whale who eschew eating him in favour of simply being his friend, and that between Kaydn and Dalla, an outcast female warrior of the spacefaring Zzaktek race.

Gil, who, when he is not being driven by the possessive evil of the Devil King, is helped by some important enablers of his own, also finds help in unexpected places from people and beings he would never have known about, let alone been in contact with, before the events of Sea of Stars took place.

The entire series revolves around the interconnectedness of people and creatures of all shapes and sizes, a focus which provide a rich emotional focus for a series which might otherwise be just about admittedly strange beings doing gobsmackingly over the top things.

They are there, of course, and they are massively, enthrallingly entertaining – if you’ve never see a Quarkshark explode after its swallows a phoenix-like firebird, then here’s your chance! – but at the end of the day when battles have been fought on floating space gardens and great evil has come a-calling and met its match in great good and love, what your return to is that one by simply wants to be with his dad.

As emotional throughlines go, it’s poignant as hell, and it means that Sea of Stars, with its eye-catchingly vivid artwork and expressive visual characterisation that will leave you gasping with its narrative enhancing vivaciousness, is a series to delight in and remember and to savour, reminding us in amongst the fantastical and the improbable that all we really need in the end are those that love us, know us and will always be there for us.

(cover image courtesy Image Comics)

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