The Pull List: Pisces Starts Off Lost in Space

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. I read the new space-horror title Pisces from Image comics, which felt like speaking to someone bent on spacing out to a spot three inches above your head.

Pisces #1, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe (Rat Queens) and drawn by Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered) is an abstract read, by which I mean it lets drift a handful of disparate plot points into zero gravity, hoping that they’ll constellate of their own accord. The series follows Vietnam War vet Dillon Carpenter, who’s been assigned a mission of utmost importance by NASA. The series’ description and press releases promise body horror hijinx and psych thrills further down the line, but until then, you’re going to have to put up with the disorientation of plot weightlessness.

As yet another sci-fi title hoping to re-envision the meaning of space exploration, Pisces has tight competition out there so far, not least of which are titles like Kaptara, billed baitingly as the “gay Saga,” or Grant Morrison’s interstellar Lovecraftian adventure Nameless. These are all unique titles in so many respects, but they do share a desire to explore the stars with a new vision of the dark frontier, either as a symbol of human imagination (the former) or as a fountain of inexpressible horror (the latter). Next to titles like these, Pisces struggles to get its point across. And that’s compared to a Morrison title, for Pete’s sake.

The opening narrative punches were overshot, then meandering; issue #1 introduces us to Carpenter’s failures as a father with blood, shouting matches, and name-calling, before devoting the rest of the book to Dillon’s horrific war experiences, with a vague thematic connection in Dillon’s irresponsibility and cowardice. It sets the groundwork of the character in that way but fails to meaningfully integrate the book’s larger premise–don’t be too surprised to find yourself flipping back to the cover to make sure you’re reading the right book.

That being said, there are certainly hints of the interstellar plot, communicated beautifully by Carpenter’s designs: the book closes on particularly beautiful images of Dillon on a Vietnamese beach at dusk, with the seawaters reflecting an inky pool of stars and void. Visual cues like these provide a much-needed expansion of the issue’s scope, and helps establish space as the supremely overarching backdrop to all of Carpenter’s tiny, mortal tribulations.

It’s clear that Pisces wishes to reach for something more profound out there in the dark yonder, and I’m not at all doubting the value of the book’s ideas to come, but that’s precisely my annoyance with this first issue: there’s nothing to grab hold of at present. In the absence of interviews and series descriptions, this first issue does little to reel a reader in.

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