Monday, April 28, 2014

Opening Contract - Satellite Sam #1-5

In a comic about the early wonders of moving pictures, the static image still retrains its power and primacy. This week I’ll be taking a look at Satellite Sam #1–5 by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin from Image Comics.
The story for Satellite Sam, set in 1951, follows the fortunes of Michael White, son of television star Carlyle White. Carlyle plays the titular hero in the LeMonde networks sci-fi show. When Carlyle turns up dead, Michael has to step into his shoes on the acting front, navigating the murky politics of the burgeoning medium of television. In addition to this, Michael also attempts to uncover his father’s sordid past in an attempt to discover what lead to his eventual demise.

Issues #1–5 of Satellite Sam all begin with a central, lone image. Sometimes these images are flag bearers for what comes next, but others are firmly nestled in the gap between what’s presented as truth and what remains hidden.

The first issue begins, suitably enough, with a shot of a television set displaying the show’s opening title card, along with an announcer building the viewers (and the readers) anticipation for the coming entertainment. The panel performs the function of its television counterpart by drumming up anticipation for what’s to come. The panel also serves as a microcosm of the issue’s plot itself, based as it is around the impending arrival of the show’s main character in the show’s narrative as well as Carlyle’s arrival at the set, due to him running late. This duality is one of the motifs that begin to emerge more and more as the first issue, and the series, continues.

In this way the panel also serves to establish a set of rules for the series as well as tying nicely into the issue’s climax. Firstly, there’s Chaykin’s black and white art, which not only establish the look of the series but a sense of time and place. But the TV screen itself is a panel within a panel, suggesting from the off there are at least two realities in play here. The supposed truth, and its distorted reality. Carlyle’s arrival never happens, but Satellite Sam’s does (in the ‘rejuvenated’ form of Michael). Again, two realities – a plot point in the show’s narrative about the fountain of youth masks the reality of Michael’s death.

The issue ends with Michael lost and confused amongst a pile of photographs of scantily clad women, all previously locked away within a hidden suitcase owned by his father. Panels within panels, exposing another hidden layer of reality.

Issue #2 begins with a shot of a billboard welcoming visitors to California, before shifting to a flashback scene between Michael and his father during a trip to the West coast. The billboard is another panel within a panel. In the scene, Michael’s father refers to a plan to move the TV operation out west, a move that perhaps might have saved Dumont, the real life counterpart that the comic’s LeMonde network is based on. The billboard itself is playful, with the blonde bombshell adorning it looking back towards us suggestively. In a way it connotes the images that Michael found at the end of the last issue, giving this opening panel a new meaning. The glossy, tame reality the billboard presents, becomes corrupted by the hidden reality of Carlyle’s past.

At Issue #2’s close we get more mirroring with a splash page depicting a close up on a photo of one of Carlyle’s former conquests, and his former Satellite Sam co-star, Kara. She’s posed in a similar manner to the woman on the billboard, looking at us over her shoulder, though dressed much more seductively, exposing the reality of sex in advertising. Two realities brushing oh so close together.

Issue #3 begins with a publicity still from the Satellite Sam show, Michael and Kara’s characters beaming at camera. We’ve already begun to learn about Carlyle’s hidden past, but this issue begins to peel back the layers on Kara’s too. Whilst the issue opener still fits with the ‘panel within a panel’ trope set up by the preceding issues, it also explicitly highlights the differences between the reality it presents and the one we, and Michael, have come to know.

We then go from looking at the publicity still before turning the page to see the sexually charged photograph of Kara that closed out the last issue, before then moving onto a third shot of Kara in the present with her current ‘born again’ outlook on life. Three different realities in quick succession, separated by time and space, but sitting next to each other on the page. It may not be flashy, but this is something only comics can do.

In the same issue there’s a flashback where Carlyle tells Kara why he takes the photographs, explaining that they capture a moment in time. All of us decay as we move forward through life, but the photos of us remain the same. Image as a reminder of the past. Image as a marker for the lies we tell, an artifact of the past manifesting itself in the realities of the present.

Issue #4 opens with a shot of a shelf full of Christian paraphernalia, and a picture tacked to the wall of Jesus. This perhaps only gains its full resonance with the issue’s climax. This is a close shot of the photo of Kara as she looks back towards us. We’ve already seen the demons of her past laid bare on the page - a woman prone to fits of self destruction and wild abandon. There’s the suggestion then that religion equips some with the faculties for redemption or recovery. Or, it could be suggesting that it’s merely another form of advertising, selling us righteousness so we can feel better about ourselves, our insecurities and our paranoia.

The first panel of Issue #5 breaks from tradition slightly, depicting Michael in front of a cork board full with his father’s photos as he reads their names aloud. Panels within a panel within a panel. Names given numbers, reduced to clues and pictures to be catalogued and organised. This issue’s opening panel suggests the past’s hidden truths are finally starting to gain a foothold in the present.

It makes some sense then when this same truth is extended to the issue’s final sequence as Michael speaks a truth out loud, a truth about his father’s demise that he now suspects. This line of truth is given several panels to breathe, affording it the space it deserves before we zoom out to a New York City going about its business. A small truth lost amongst a city and nation criss crossed with the lies being piped into its living rooms.

The opening panels of Satellite Sam’s first arc are purposefully subversive, showing us that the lies we propagate, the lies we tell ourselves and even the ones we’re tricked into believing, will find us eventually. But not before they brush up against us, against our present reality, taunting us for believing, taunting us with their hidden knowledge before they bring everything crashing down around us.

Related Posts


Darren James Burnside said...

Hey, I write an online superhero novel, you should check it out sometime, it'd be cool if you could do a review, I'd like some critique.

oakleyses said...

air max, kate spade handbags, rolex watches, tiffany and co, jordan shoes, prada outlet, gucci outlet, christian louboutin, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses, coach outlet store online, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, ray ban sunglasses, prada handbags, burberry outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, coach factory outlet, michael kors outlet online sale, kate spade outlet, oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet, air max, chanel handbags, louboutin, burberry outlet, nike shoes, longchamp handbags, longchamp handbags, michael kors outlet, louboutin shoes, louboutin outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, tiffany and co, polo ralph lauren, tory burch outlet, michael kors outlet, coach outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet

oakleyses said...

lululemon outlet online, sac hermes, air max, nike air force, new balance pas cher, sac burberry, nike tn, longchamp, ralph lauren, air max pas cher, nike blazer, ray ban pas cher, true religion jeans, ray ban sunglasses, true religion outlet, north face, oakley pas cher, hogan outlet, sac longchamp pas cher, vanessa bruno, vans pas cher, hollister, michael kors, michael kors pas cher, converse pas cher, nike roshe run pas cher, timberland, true religion outlet, sac guess, hollister, true religion jeans, air jordan, mulberry, north face, louboutin, michael kors uk, polo ralph lauren, nike free pas cher, coach purses, polo lacoste

oakleyses said...

soccer shoes, nike free, ghd, herve leger, asics running shoes, abercrombie and fitch, mcm handbags, mont blanc, wedding dresses, nike air max, mac cosmetics, reebok outlet, celine handbags, babyliss pro, nike huaraches, north face outlet, abercrombie and fitch, giuseppe zanotti, new balance shoes, nike roshe, birkin bag, p90x, nike trainers, ferragamo shoes, jimmy choo outlet, soccer jerseys, beats by dre, nfl jerseys, bottega veneta, chi flat iron, valentino shoes, north face jackets, instyler, insanity workout, nike roshe run, longchamp, vans shoes, lululemon outlet, air max, hollister

oakleyses said...

abercrombie, gucci, swarovski crystal, air max, swarovski, marc jacobs, thomas sabo, baseball bats, coach outlet store online, sac lancel, pandora charms, juicy couture, rolex watches, louboutin, timberland boots, pandora charms, pandora jewelry, vans, supra shoes, links of london, iphone 6 cases, montre homme, hollister, ralph lauren, juicy couture outlet, toms shoes, converse, oakley, converse shoes, hollister clothing store, air max, wedding dresses, ray ban, karen millen

oakleyses said...

michael kors outlet, louboutin, michael kors outlet online sale, louboutin shoes, rolex watches, michael kors outlet, air max, polo ralph lauren, tory burch outlet, longchamp outlet, tiffany and co, ray ban sunglasses, coach factory outlet, kate spade handbags, nike free, chanel handbags, kate spade outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, polo ralph lauren outlet, prada outlet, michael kors outlet, tiffany and co, burberry outlet, jordan shoes, coach outlet store online, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet, michael kors outlet, gucci outlet, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, nike shoes, christian louboutin, longchamp handbags, longchamp handbags, coach outlet, louboutin outlet, ray ban sunglasses, air max, prada handbags

oakleyses said...

hollister, ray ban pas cher, north face, true religion jeans, sac hermes, hollister, michael kors, polo lacoste, polo ralph lauren, north face, coach purses, converse pas cher, louboutin, true religion outlet, sac guess, lululemon outlet online, true religion outlet, sac longchamp pas cher, oakley pas cher, air max, new balance pas cher, timberland, sac burberry, air max pas cher, nike free pas cher, nike air force, ray ban sunglasses, ralph lauren, air jordan, vanessa bruno, nike blazer, hogan outlet, true religion jeans, mulberry, nike tn, michael kors uk, michael kors pas cher, vans pas cher, longchamp, nike roshe run pas cher

oakleyses said...

lululemon outlet, insanity workout, asics running shoes, giuseppe zanotti, nike air max, birkin bag, nike free, p90x, hollister, nike trainers, instyler, longchamp, abercrombie and fitch, babyliss pro, north face jackets, mont blanc, ghd, jimmy choo outlet, beats by dre, mac cosmetics, air max, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, vans shoes, nike huaraches, valentino shoes, bottega veneta, mcm handbags, wedding dresses, abercrombie and fitch, chi flat iron, soccer jerseys, new balance shoes, nfl jerseys, nike roshe run, celine handbags, nike roshe, herve leger, reebok outlet, soccer shoes

oakleyses said...

swarovski, ralph lauren, hollister, air max, juicy couture, toms shoes, vans, timberland boots, hollister clothing store, oakley, pandora charms, juicy couture outlet, wedding dresses, links of london, pandora charms, karen millen, louboutin, gucci, air max, converse, thomas sabo, supra shoes, swarovski crystal, pandora jewelry, montre homme, baseball bats, marc jacobs, ray ban, coach outlet store online, converse shoes, iphone 6 cases, abercrombie, sac lancel, rolex watches

Wlp W said...

mcm bags, uggs outlet, true religion, louis vuitton, adidas superstar, christian louboutin, polo outlet store, new balance, michael kors, ugg australia, wedding dresses, nike store, michael kors uk, watches, ferragamo, jordan shoes, louis vuitton, nike store, tory burch, p90x workout, cheap nike shoes, instyler, pandora canada, ralph lauren, swarovski, michael kors, abercrombie, toms outlet, louis vuitton, replica handbags, hollister, longchamp, nike roshe run, ray-ban sunglasses, cheap michael kors, tommy hilfiger online shop, louboutin outlet, ray ban outlet, nike air max, beats headphones, converse shoes, oakley, christian louboutin,

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.