When the heavily in debt crew of the salvage vessel happen upon a distress beacon coming from the planet “Lonely Orphan” which has no solar system to call home, things don’t work out the way they hoped in this sci-fi horror comic from Oni Press.
The book opens up aboard the Cortes as the crew are awakened from stasis and find that it is somehow snowing aboard the ship. Franco is told to investigate whilst others gear up to head out onto the planet to investigate the distress beacon. After following it for a while, they discover a large number of crashed space vessels and are then set upon by a huge monster that looks like a mass of organs amalgamated together. Back onboard the craft Franco talks to the pilot, trying to figure out his fears and we begin to touch upon some interesting concepts.
The first of these is what the crew term “Zom-Time”, a kind of stasis where the ship operates their bodies for it to be maintained whilst they travel long distances, the crew aren’t awake or alert during this period. Franco discusses his fears of his partner back home who, due to them spending months apart, has taken to also going into stasis but Franco fears Terrance (his partner) has spoken about “going Zom” during these periods as people in this state age slower than regular “Deep Sleep” stasis. Now, stasis is a common trait of a lot of sci-fi focusing on deep space travel, it appears in everything from Red Dwarf to Alien, but the idea of the crew still running the ship whilst being unconscious feels fairly inventive, unfortunately, its never really explored any further beyond the second chapter.
The biggest theme though is that of people’s fears being manifest by whatever it is that is the big bad within any particular media, this plays on a Nightmare on Elm Street type theme where in order to stop the bad thing happening, you have to stop being scared of it in the first place (or for Freddie Krueger, don’t go to sleep). It’s a fairly common thing, we tell our kids who are afraid of the dark that the monster under their bed isn’t real but it takes a lot of will power and time for them to overcome that fear. Rogue Planet takes this to the conclusion that your fears are real, and that they can harm you, unfortunately, again, it doesn’t explore this as well as I wanted it to, with the scary things all being the same in appearance, rather than taking on a Polymorph kind of element where it genuinely takes on the appearance of their fears.
So, concept and plot-wise, Rogue Planet feels fairly run of the mill. This isn’t always helped by the artwork. Ignoring the prior criticism of everything looking the same regardless of which crew member is being preyed upon, the character art and panel work is fairly static. There’s no dynamic flow to the page, nothing to create tension, though it has to be said that the art team of MacDonald and Filardi have an absolute field day with some of the body horror on show.
Now, this all reads back as being pretty critical of Rogue Planet, but honestly, I went in not knowing anything about it and not having knowingly read anything by its creators, so I had no expectations, to begin with, but honestly, it was a really quick page-turner of a book, that doesn’t really break any ground in terms of fleshing out some fairly cool-sounding ideas, but also doesn’t really do a lot wrong.
I was able to review Rogue Planet thanks to being provided with an eARC by NetGalley and OniPress