REVIEW: ‘Space Bandits,’ Issue #1 (of 5)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Space Bandits is the new science fiction, cyberpunk limited comic series from Image Comics and Netflix from the mind of Mark Millar. The latest Millarworld comic follows two women, Thena Khole and Cody Blue, who two of the universe’s most wanted. The extra cool thing? Each of them is the leader of their own criminal operations. Both women run heists and cons across the galaxies.

Space Bandits #1, written by Mark Millar, with art from Matteo Scalera, colors by Marvelo Maiolo, and letters by Clem Robbins, is an 80s inspired neon dream of cyberpunk science fiction. In this premiere issue, we get to see our two leads, Thena and Cody. Thena is working to pull off a con with her boyfriend and Cody is fleecing an entire ship of clueless honeymooners. But the cons themselves aren’t the story, the betrayal of the women by the people they trust is.

The story is tight and as a first issue it sets up the revenge plot in a way that makes me connect to each of the women. In each of their instances, which are vastly different, I felt for them. I was even angry for them. Even in just one issue, Millar has made two protagonists that I directly connect to. Even better, each of the women have their own unique style and identity.

We’re first introduced to Cody. She’s sitting in the middle of a giant ship filled with rich honeymooners. After knocking them out, the loot is hers and her team’s for the taking. Instead of jumping with guns blazing and causing casualties, Cody opts to be a scalpel and not a sledgehammer. She’s effective and she knows exactly what she’s doing. However, instead, the gang around her would rather kill and take, leaving them to see her and “too soft,” leading to the betrayal.

Thena, on the other hand, while extremely capable in both fighting and conning, is also love-struck and naive, trusting her boyfriend over everything else. Thena’s characterization is a tough one to nail. Writing a character as naive can sometimes turn them into a trope, leaving them void of agency. That being said, Thena is capable, and clearly isn’t going to fall for and tricks again.

To be honest, both women start in a place where their choices are guided by their morality and their trust. Seeing their trust exploited is a narrative mainstay of revenge stories that can be hit or miss, and in Space Bandits #1, it hits. I’ve bought into these characters and their stories and I’m ready for them to get even.

Scalera’s art is wonderful with equal amounts of dystopia and 80s hair metal. In some of the action sequences, I’m reminded of the 80s and early 90s science fiction anime. The ships and galactic scenes are wonderfully illustrated but Thena and Cody are my favorite parts of the art. They beautiful, fierce, and not hypersexualized. Their faces have range, their body movements are natural, and I really a need a real version of Thena’s sneakers.

It may seem small, but like artist Jen Bartel does in Blackbird, Scalera has drawn outfits that are to die for and that distinguish the women from the worlds around them. Their clothes also work wonders in brief action sequences which use their distinctive silhouettes to show movement and adds layers to the scenes.

Maiolo’s colors are saturated perfectly, and the way he changes from full color to two-tone in the scene featured above makes the comic come alive. The color palettes for each of the women’s stories before they meet are also distinctive, lending to differentiating them from each other in background and aesthetic.

With all the praise, I do need to note that a lot of the dialogue is a little stiff, but that’s something I’m sure will loosen as the story progresses and we get to seem more direct interaction between our leads. Overall, Space Bandits #1 is a superb start to what is likely to be a big revenge adventure.

Like most Netflix joint comics, Space Bandits is a limited series, set to run for five issues. With that, it’s also important to keep in mind that it is listed as an adaptation and that a Netflix has confirmed that it will be joining other Millarworld projects like Jupiter’s LegacyEmpress, and Huck on the streaming platform in the future. This has me extremely excited for the following issues and ultimately has me ready for action, emotion, and more killer scenes.

Space Bandits #1 is available wherever comics are sold July 3, 2019.

Rating: 4.5/5