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'Southern Cross' brings the horror of 'The Shining' into outer space

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Southern Cross Cover
Image Comics

A spaceship is a terribly good place to set horror stories of all stripes. There’s the objective terror of it all—there’s just so much that could go wrong—but there’s also a subtler, more disconcerting horror that can find you deep in space, with nothing but cold metal between you and the starry abyss.

It’s that latter sort of horror that Becky Cloonan (The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, The Mire) and Andy Belanger (Kill Shakespeare) are hoping to give readers in Southern Cross, their forthcoming series from Image Comics. Set aboard the titular Southern Cross, a tanker bound for Saturn’s moon Titan, the story concerns Alex Braith, a former convict on her way to claim her sister’s remains—and hopefully, find out what happened to her.

“Family is a theme,” says writer Becky Cloonan. “So is loss, grief, and how these things change us for better or worse. So while the book sets up a lot of questions, the big revelations are what happens to Alex Braith as she learns the answers. It’s about how everything that happens to us, good or bad, shapes us.”

Alex Braith, as you’ll see in the preview pages below, also has her own personal history to deal with. According to Cloonan, a big part of Braith’s journey has to do with rising above her past and refusing to be defined by the mistakes she’s made. Since the past will hang heavy over the events of Southern Cross—both through Alex’s history and her search to find out what happened to her sister—it seems like a perfect setting for a ghost story. “I don’t want to give too much away,” says Cloonan. “But yes. Ghosts.”

As for the Southern Cross itself—named after the creative team’s favorite Black Sabbath song—artist Andy Belanger describes its design as “equal parts modern urban fashion and lo-fi sci-fi,” drawing inspiration from late-70s and early 80s sci-fi horror films, as well as Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott’s seminal work on genre touchpoints like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien.

“The most important thing for me is the ship is as much a character as the characters,” Belanger says. “It’s my Overlook hotel. I want the readers to feel like they are right there with Alex creeping around the ship.” He notes how the ship’s design will play a role in the series’ horror. “This certainly isn’t a gore fest or torture circus. We are really trying to capture that classic psychological horror. Things feel off, bending, unnerving in the artwork and layout … Around every corner is a riddle and down every hall could be oblivion!”

Since the series is ongoing, there are definitely plans to go beyond the titular oil tanker—but it will remain important. “The first six issues are set onboard the Southern Cross, for the most part,” says Cloonan. “I want people to really get to know the ship and its crew—future issues will be set all over: Earth, colonies on Mars, oil rigs on Titan, asteroid mines… All dealing with the fallout of what happens on board the Southern Cross in this first series.”

Southern Cross will take off on March 11.

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