Welcome to The Pull List, a weekly column where we check out a first issue of a new series and tell you whether or not to follow the comic based only on that. Kaptara‘s a sci-fi adventure that had me asking if this was for real, if this space crew were composed of avant garde dancers, and finally, if it’s wrong to like it.
I hadn’t read the press, I didn’t know that it was touted as ‘gay Saga,’ but I should’ve known something was up when I realized issue one was titled “Space, Why You Gotta Be Like That.” Take all the associations of that title, mash it in with your average ‘crash-landed space adventure’ story, and you’ve got Kaptara in a nutshell: in look and content, it’s irreverent, goofy, sports a color palette ripped straight from Jem and the Holograms, and aims its ridiculousness way over the moon.
The first thing to strike me was how much the aesthetics of the book contrasted with the blandness of the plot’s beginning. We’re introduced immediately to the crew of a (soon-to-be-ill-fated) interstellar mission to Mars, and every crew member has their own specialty and accompanying personality quirks and there’s a musclehead and an effeminate brainlord and they clash and things–I couldn’t even register these heavily stereotyped shortcomings, because everyone was striking poses like interpretive dancers to “Super Freak”. It was awkward at first, then memorably hilarious. I mean, when they’re sitting still and squabbling amongst themselves, the book looks normal enough, but when the asteroids start flying and their ship starts going to bits, the book’s inner Broadway comes to life.
I can almost feel the creators Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals) and Kagan McLeod’s (Infinite Kung Fu) sigh of relief when the initial introductions and conventions are finally over with, and they get to amp up the color and batsh*t. McLeod’s asteroid bombardments come in rainbow streaks accented in violet and goldenrod, turning spacefaring disasters into disco flares, and emergency strobelights into space-themed burlesque backlights. The peril of abandoning spaceship and crash landing on an unknown planet that definitely isn’t Mars? Nah, it’s more like shag purple carpeting and aquamarine land-algae; it’s more like ‘I didn’t bring enough EDM on my Ipod to go with this scene’ than ‘oh gosh, did I bring enough rations, will I remember my training?’
Once our wiry and whiny bio-engineer Keith touches home on the unknown planet Kaptara, the book finally comes into its own as a self-aware, bombastic send-up of glam sci-fi, the likes of Barbarella, Flash Gordon, and Masters of the Universe. From space-pollen that renders alien languages intelligible, to a villain who sports loincloths and mammoth-skull headgear, it’s clear that the book’s beating heart probably doesn’t lie in innovative world-building.
We don’t get a whole lot of character background in this first issue, but we get enough to know that Earth hasn’t treated Keith kindly. He’s an outsider alienated from his parents, perhaps bullied for his sexuality, someone with no real ties to home at all, and who’s just crash-landed in the year 2000 in a distant star system, as seen through the lens of the 70s.
But to see how Kaptara pans out as one flamboyant nerd’s pipe dream isn’t the reason I’m going to pick up Kaptara #2. It’s the promo at the issue’s back pages, promising a cat that is also a tank… This series is going to have its way, dammit, and it doesn’t care if you’re laughing at it the whole time. The fact that that same boldness also ties into Keith’s character flaws tells me that Zdarsky and McLeod know what they’re doing.