From the evil space empire with a rigid caste system bent on genocide, to the elaborate and over-the-top execution methods, Lightstep #1 is working with some classic tropes of the space opera. The new five-issue limited series from Dark Horse is a treat for genre fans. However, a wider audience can still find plenty to enjoy.
Lightstep #1 is the comic book debut for writer Miloš Slavkovic. It’s an impressive premiere, though not without nitpicks. For example, the author does a great job at introducing us to this world and its mythology. However, that exposition comes at the expense of character development.
We don’t know much about our protagonist, January Lee. The reader understands she is undergoing some kind of internal conflict regarding the society and her relationship to it, and we get some existential rumination to go along with it. What we don’t get enough of is why the reader should care. We don’t really know enough about January Lee at this point to get fully-invested in her story. That would be fine, if the story were a bit slower-moving, but the pace doesn’t match the pathos.
Looking at it more broadly, fans of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy can draw a number of parallels with Lightstep #1. We have a society of gene-obsessed and brutal, yet effete elites that ruthlessly terrorize and destroy their inferiors. The book doesn’t delve into radically new territory, but it succeeds at what it attempts overall.
As I mentioned in my review of Outer Darkness #1 from Image, embracing genre tropes is not a bad thing. You just need to know how to employ them properly so it doesn’t come across as cliché. There are points where Slavkovic is in danger of crossing into that territory. However, he manages to stay within the lines. It’s a strong start to what I hope will develop into an even more impressive story as the series unfolds.
Slavkovic pulls triple-duty here as a writer, artist, and colorist, which is a bold move for a first comic. But, given he is an artist by trade, the work in Lightstep #1 is as impressive as you’d expect.
He does a great job at giving us an alien, yet still believable setting for the story. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the backgrounds, and each panel has a sense of liveliness to it.
Lightstep #1 works with a bright, pastel palette throughout. It was a good choice, as the entire book comes across like a rococo painting. The choice of colors helps to give the society an impression of being elite and regal to a fault. The only points at which we get a break from the oppressively-bright colors are in glimpses of the lives of commoners, highlighting the different worlds in which these people live.
I’d hesistate to say that Lightstep #1 is great, but it could be the beginning of a great series. I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds, and I recommend you check it out, too.