COMIC REVIEW: Sage Escape: Mars Gambit #2

The story so far: It’s 3042. We have post-humans and a multi-dimensional council; nefarious corporations and cybernetic police. We have Sage, who is a refugee searching for the truth to why her village was massacred. We have a bright science-fiction comic book from the mind of writer and artist Damian Simankowicz. Issue #1 ended with Sage returning to Earth from Mars and as captive of the bounty hunter, Raamon. So what can issue #2 of Sage Escape: Mars Gambit bring?

Unlike issue #1’s opening akin to a video game, this time we’re advised that there is ‘Danger on Earth’ and ‘Desire on Mars’. Raamon is taking Sage into custody, but when she shows him a collection of Salesmens’ (the cybernetic police) skulls, he begins to believe her story. There’s an odd painting of the area’s political leaders looking terrified, and then our protagonists are being chased by the hive-minded Salesmen.

Meanwhile, on Mars, an ‘off worlda’ is rattling cages in the slums and Imogen Cray is getting friendly with her lover. Back on Earth, Sage finds a trader has been collecting the surviving children. A battle ensues with the Salesmen and a mechanical being resembling Death comes through a rip in reality to save the day, explaining anomalies in the timeline. Our heroine escapes with the trader and the children only to find out a shocking truth.

As with issue #1, the ideas in Sage Escape: Mars Gambit #2 are better than the execution. Simankowicz has some decent thoughts and puts a nice spin on some clichés. The hive-mind cyber-police being called Salesmen is a cool way to describe the type of society that has evolved. It is a shame, however, that within a couple of pages, Sage has to explain the hive-mind concept to Raamon (and hence the reader) twice. The inter-species same-sex relationship (Imogen and Soo Mi) is a good stab at showing that the only inequality is between rich and poor. The introduction of the mecha-Death character is an unexpected and intriguing diversion, and I look forward to seeing what Simankowicz has in store in the next installment.

There are some decent moments in Sage Escape, but as a whole comic book, it doesn’t quite hit the spot. After consideration, while the quality of the writing doesn’t match quality of the concepts, I think it is the art that puts a dampener on this comic. The problem with this type of art and/or rendering is that everything is bright and shiny. It doesn’t add any texture. A scene, for example, in the Martian slums is supposed to be, well, slummy, but though it is strewn with drugs and empty pizza boxes, there’s no grime or grunge evident.

And there’s the problem with the characters. Sometimes the heads look like they’ve been planted on bodies almost as an afterthought. This seems more noticeable than in issue #1. Also, some of the actual drawings just look odd and out-of-proportion. Too many curves, bulges and muscles sticking out all over the place. Whether this is a deliberate style choice or not, I don’t think it works and is, at best, distracting. And of course, there is so little emotion in Sage’s face, when she is talking about her family’s skulls being somewhere in the Salesmens’ collection, she looks neither angry nor upset. Not believable, unfortunately.

I think Sage Escape is trying to do something different, but must go down as a worthy failure. It is cool that Simankowicz has his passion and is trying to do something with it (the comic, the website, etc), but I think he’d be better off with a co-writer with more comic book experience and more traditional art techniques, which wouldn’t distract from his world.


Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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