An Unexpected Prison

Dave Chisholm is a creator on the rise! You may recognize the name from his previous work on Tyranny of the Muse which he worked on with Eddie Wright (released on Study Group Comics) or from the solicitations for the soon to be released tale of Charlie “Bird” Parker‘s time in California in Chasin’ the Bird OR from the music he creates. Personally, I became most acquainted with Dave, his work, and the depth of his storytelling in Canopus, a four issue series from Scout Comics.

Canopus is the story of Helen, who awakes on a mysterious planet with little memory of much besides her name and that she is from Earth. Quickly she gets reacquainted with her artificially intelligent sidekick/”son”, Arthur, who helps to work her through her new surroundings. As the series goes on and Helen works to put more pieces of her life and location together she starts to remember the peril that the Earth is in, and how truly dire her mission is. As the new world she explores begins to crumble around her using her own past and with the knowledge that any danger she is in could also endanger Earth, Helen works with the little information she has to eventually not seek solutions, but understanding and hopefully her own fractured memories won’t get in the way.

Dave Chisholm comes out of the gate with the cosmic dread of this story. The book starts with the reader putting the pieces together alongside Helen as she is disoriented and introducing a seemingly barren alien world with it’s own clear field of influence. The science fiction elements of this story are all very apparent but I considered this to be a character study. Who Helen is and what drives her to continue on her quest to save Earth but also for answers is draining and that effect becomes apparent as we witness images resulting from a psyche gone askew. Not only is this a look at who Helen is and how the planet affects her but also Arthur, who at first glance occupies the role of sidekick but also clearly maintains a lot of heart (albeit synthetic) that pushes Helen further towards her goals, regardless of what that does to him or what he must witness. From planet to characters to set up and scenario, Dave writes a story that compels and draws the reader towards the conclusion by only hinting at a culmination. When that conclusion does occur, it feels like something unique and unexpected. Personally I felt true concern for Helen and what could possibly happen next.

My previous experience with Tyranny of the Muse introduced me to Chisholm’s line work and right away you can see how expressive it is, particularly in human faces. Dave has a great grasp on the joys, pains, and mundane feelings that people wear and makes sure the reader always knows what Helen is thinking though her expressions. I also liked the thoughtful way that Arthur’s face is drawn. He feels very artificial but something about the way the eyes are drawn gives him this palpable look of not being able to give the help he wants to. There’s a certain undulating rhythm to Canopus wherein Dave is able to play with visuals in ways that could trick the reader, or at least make them question what they’ve seen and how it differs from an image a few panels/issues back. That bit of visual disassociation creates this feeling like the planet (as well as anything trapped on it) feel endlessly expansive, even though we learn more about it (and Helen’s time with it) on every page. Color wise, the book has my dream palette. Dunes of purplish pink, hulking gray masses, Kirby crackle that is drawn to illuminate the page… It’s a dang pretty, albeit intentionally disorienting, science fiction story with tons to experience.

Four issues is all we get of our time with Helen and Arthur, and though I could use more I found the conclusion of this arc to be poetic. Dave Chisholm has created a story that is broad in subjects but condensed in characters and location, resulting in a well crafted story that makes you feel for Helen’s struggle and her mission for the Earth. It also has a lot to say about our memories and how important they are as a driving force. Canopus is a great edition to anyone’s science fiction library. You can buy Canopus in it’s entirety digitally or physically from Scout Comics by clicking here. I also whole heartedly recommend checking out Chasin’ the Bird (published by Z2 Comics) check out some previews from that book here!

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