Maybe eighteen months or so ago, I saw a copy of SPACE: 1999 – AFTERSHOCK AND AWE on the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble. It was sealed up in plastic so I couldn’t exactly flip through it to see if the story caught my interest – I was part of that generation that missed SPACE: 1999 in televised syndication in the mid-1970’s, but – as an ardent fan of practically all things Sci-Fi – I’d caught a couple of episodes in passing when it aired about the TV dial since those days. I’d followed many of the Sci-Fi trades of that era (i.e. that pre-internet civilization, kids), so I was marginally up-to-speed on the “controversy” surrounding the Gerry Anderson program; still – as I hadn’t seen enough of it – I honestly had no opinion of it myself. At that time, I chose to pass on the graphic novel.
A few weeks ago while I was exploring Amazon Fire TV, I stumbled across SPACE: 1999 as a suggestion following another program I’d just concluded. I took the leap, ordering up the pilot … and the rest, as they say, is history.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to my last paragraph for my final, unadulterated opinion. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
For the uninitiated, SPACE: 1999 was a Science Fiction program produced in the mid-70’s exploring the crew of Moonbase Alpha. The premise in a nutshell is that man’s stockpiling of nuclear waste on our only satellite serves as a catalyst for an eventual explosion that propels the moon out of orbit and moving into deep, deep space. Instead of a starship, the program had a ‘moonship,’ and the stories of the crew ranged from tales of survival, invasion, and terror.
Naturally – as the late 60’s era classic STAR TREK ruled the roost in TV syndication in those days – Sci-Fi fans were kinda/sorta split on what to make of SPACE: 1999. So much of their collective effort had gone into demanding a new Trek series (one was on-the-boards but through circumstances it morphed into what inevitably became STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE), and I think maybe the feeling at the time was that they couldn’t openly embrace another TV show for fear of losing sight on achieving their first dream, that being a return to prominence for Capt. Kirk and crew. Also as 1999 had been sold into syndication right out of the gate – whereas Trek had its infancy and initial reputation from being on network TV – I tend to suspect that it wasn’t as easily found on the dial. Due to this and other reasons, 1999 rode down the middle of critical opinion, some liking it, some hating, but many others just not knowing what to make of it.
Now that I’d found it and explored a handful of what are largely revered to be several of its first season classics (I won’t even touch the debate regarding the show’s second season), I picked up that copy of AFTERSHOCK AND AWE (yes, it was still there). Having just finished it, let me assure you that I am in AWE of it.
Essentially, it’s two graphic novels culled together around the series’ pilot, though there are indications that scribe Andrew E. C. Gaska consulted earlier drafts of the script in order to produce this version. Where the recounting of the televised events end, the creators pick right up with an all-new tale, one exploring the events taking place on Earth after our moon was sent hurtling away and out of our solar system. While heavy on biblical prophecy, AFTERSHOCK is a brilliant apocalypse tale, a vision that borrows elements from the show’s canon and spins them in some wildly effective new directions, though I was a bit distraught with how much of a downright skank Commander John Koenig’s near-miss of a wife turned out to be.
These two scripts work brilliantly together, helping first to re-establish the program’s central characters from a more cerebral perspective in the minds of the reader and then to shake up the status quo by exploring the greater universe of possibilities that helped shape who they were before they found themselves on this great journey into the unknown. Separately, they’re quite good, but together they’re practically ‘required reading’ for anyone with even a modest interest in what was and what could still be in a Sci-Fi property that deserves another look.
Building on Gaska’s script, the visuals by Gray Morrow and Miki are at times derivative but never disrespectful to the unique 70’s appeal of the program. Once the story turns to Earth, the art duties are taken up by David Hueso and Miki; they continue to build on that original artistic scheme, but they deliver a jaw-dropping look at the unfolding Apocalypse with more pomp and circumstance than one expects from a big-budget cinematic blockbuster. Trust me when I warn you: the End of Times never looked so good!
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. If you were even a casual fan of SPACE: 1999 throughout its two televised seasons, then you owe it to yourself as well as all of fandom to run out and pick up a copy today (or, better yet, save a tree and get it digitally) of SPACE: 1999 – AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. What Gaska/Morrow/Hueso/Miki and Archaia Black Label have achieved here is nothing short on epic: sure, there may be a few narrative blemishes that don’t go down as well as they should, but otherwise what you get is a pitch perfect re-examination of the fictional events that set this greatly underappreciated series in motion from two completely exciting perspectives.
Now, Hollywood … where’s THIS reboot?!?!
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