First published back in January of 2015, the graphic novel ‘Caliban’ was written by Garth Ennis with artwork by Facundo Percio.  The collected edition contained all six comics that were originally published between March 2014 and October 2014.

DLS Synopsis:
Countless billions of miles from Earth, the interstellar mining vehicle ‘Caliban’ and her crew continue their search for vital minerals that they can mine and take back to the exhausted husk that remains of planet Earth.

Aboard Caliban the crew while away their time in the sterile and artificial environment of the ship’s hull.  For all intents and purposes, those on Caliban are alone in the vast emptiness of the universe.  The terms of their employment are quite clear.  Should they run into any trouble in all that unchartered nothingness, then no one would be coming to help them.  They’re on their own.

Everything appears to be running as normal as the Caliban crew enter the warp, until all of a sudden their emergency alarms are screaming at them.  Everything is thrown into a nauseating flux.  The crew onboard of Caliban have no idea what’s happened.  One minute they’re entering warp, the next everything’s gone haywire.

It doesn’t take long to find the root of the disaster.  As they went into warp, they didn’t so much collide with another vessel, as they did simultaneously occupy the same space as them.  In essence the two ships were blended together.  Their hulls fused as reality did what it could with what it had.

With their systems crippled and the Caliban left drifting, those that survived the melding of ships realise they have one chance if they’re to survive this thing.  They need to link up with the other ship and somehow use its engines and thrusters to get them back home.

But the ship they’re fused to is unlike any they’ve encountered before.  Even with no signs of life on board, it’s plain to see the other ship is alien to them.  Investigating further, they locate a cargo full of strange creatures preserved in vast tanks.

But something is stirring in the endless dark corridors of the alien spacecraft.  Something that has woken, and has plans of its own…

DLS Review:
This is a slightly different graphic novel from what you might have come to expect from Garth Ennis.  Here we have a sci-fi/horror blend, somewhat akin to the likes of ‘Event Horizon’ (1997) meets ‘Alien’ (1979) meets the interstellar fun and games that was ‘Inseminoid’ (1981).

One thing that stands out in particular is the amount of scenes of just dialogue, compared with those containing any action, horror or gruesome alien shenanigans.  There’s a hell of a lot of character inter-play going on.  It all helps to build upon the atmosphere – the uncomfortable claustrophobic environment that feels smaller and smaller by the second.

From early on Ennis sets the scene of how utterly helpless they all are, drifting out there in the unchartered expanse of nothingness.  Everyone on board of Caliban is resigned to the fact that absolutely no help will be coming.  They know it as much as you do.  It’s a case of ‘get past that and move on’.  They’ve all got to work together if they’re going to have any hope of getting out of this alive.

Of course, the presence of a hibernating alien lifeform that gets into your body ala ‘Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers’ (1956) just adds to their troubles.  It takes a little while before our alien friend starts to really get involved – and then it’s only very gradual.  It’s the usual sort of alien bodysnatcher malarky – with one of their own guys roaming around the ship(s), picking them off one by one and creating all sorts of havoc.

Character-wise there’s not all that many left alive onboard the Caliban after the ships’ fusing.  Our principal protagonist is a plain-talking tough-as-old-boots engineer named Sanchita Malik.  She’s by far and away the main thrust behind any of them doing anything about their predicament.  Along with her you have her ‘lesbian’ pal Nomi, who’s basically a nervous ball of geek that gets emotional at the drop of a hat.

Then there’s Navigation Officer Karien.  It’s not giving too much away to say he’s the one who becomes the Dr William Weir character (i.e. Sam Neill in ‘Event Horizon’).  Karien’s a well-written character, with a cold, seemingly emotionless persona that works well with his sinister change.

You do get to see what the alien looks like when it’s not inhabiting one of its hosts.  It’s a very textbook ‘X-Files’ alien – with long, gaunt, green-bodied features and black shark-like eyes.  To be honest, in their alien form, they’re not particularly intimidating, and instead feel a bit classic 50’s sci-fi – and not necessarily in a good way.  This may be down to personal taste.  But having a slightly more imaginatively original take on the alien’s form might have given the story a more sinister edge.

Nevertheless, the story is certainly awash with tension and a creeping, crawling feeling of unease that runs through its pages.  The comparison to ‘Event Horizon’ (1997) is plain to see from early on.  And it only gets more so as the tale progresses.  But that’s not a bad thing per se.  ‘Event Horizon’ (1997) was a deeply eerie film.  It had plenty of potential for further exploration.  Admittedly ‘Caliban’ didn’t exactly take the idea that much further.  But in graphic novel format, with a bunch of terrified characters that are not all that sure what they’re up against, it does work well.  And it ends on a suitably (and reasonably open-ended) bleak note.

If you like your sci-fi horror dark and sinister, with all hope slowly being sucked out of an airlock by the second, then this is very possibly one for you.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 176 pages (including a six page ‘Sketchbook by Facundo Percio’).

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