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Battlestar Galactica #2 raises the spectre of the merits of reviewing modern comic books one issue at a time. Back in the days when multi-issue arcs were far less common, you could take a single issue as a single story, and evaluate it as a complete narrative. But in these days of trade paperbacks and simmering plot lines, reviewing a single chapter or act of a story becomes more difficult. This issue is a good example of that, as I can’t quite tell if I wound up confused by its end because of information that will become clear over the course of the arc, or whether writer Cullen Bunn‘s script is just kind of baffling.
After a first issue that, while leaning heavily on the continuity of a TV series from 1978, remained clear and easy to follow, we get a second issue that performs a deep dive into a series that I vaguely remember at best. As a result, there are elements introduced here that have me thinking, “Nope, have no idea who that person is or what they’re talking about.” There are some editorial captions that let me know which nearly forty year old episode a particular specific plot point was drawn from, but never did they actually, you know, clarify anything. I was glad to learn that the motivations, previous fate and true identity of Count Ibis occurred in an episode called “War of the Gods” but it would have been nice to know what the hell any of those things actually meant. Even Wikipedia didn’t clear it up. And if your plot relies upon your audience knowing intimately what happened in a 37 year old hour of television, then maybe a rewrite is in order. Because some readers will be die-hard fans, some will be people like me who enjoyed the show but haven’t seen it in years, some will pick it up because of the reboot with no other exposure to the concept. You’ve got to make the story work for all of us.
And it’s too bad, because all the elements that are new, that don’t rely on anything more than the most basic “Battlestar Galactica” knowledge, work really well. The dark and sinister danger the crew finds themselves in has genuine atmosphere and menace, which plays to Bunn’s strengths as a writer. Those aspects intrigue and ensure that the narrative continues to move with energy and purpose, building to an effective cliffhanger. I just wish there weren’t other moments that utterly baffled me, that Bunn had taken time to sketch prior continuity out a little more clearly.
The art by Alex Sanchez is an improvement on the previous issue, and I thought the previous issue’s art was pretty good. The style is less indistinct than it was, with greater individuality given to characters and a better command of atmosphere and mood. The space battles are handled well, and Sanchez’ approach creates an issue that has more of a horror vibe than I was expecting, which works surprisingly well.
In the end, I hope this issue is a blip in a story that has a lot going for it. Otherwise, this book will never grow beyond a niche audience of devoted fans into something larger. 5.5/10.
Battlestar Galactica #2 will be released Sept. 14, 2016.