Review by Ian Keogh
Space Boy creator Stephen McCranie has a talent for dropping surprises out of nowhere. Sometimes they’re bombshells affecting everything, and sometimes they’re smaller delights such as Amy trying on a moustache for a few pages. As intended, it looks ridiculous, but no-one saw that coming.
After what happened in Space Boy 4 Amy’s concern is Oliver. She instinctively knows he doesn’t mean what he said about their not being friends any more, and isn’t going to be repelled by his ignoring her. What readers know that she doesn’t is the certain danger of continuing to investigate. Much of the remainder is taken up with relatively mundane activities, but the tension hanging over them now makes for far more effective storytelling than when similar scenes ran in the earliest volumes.
Until now what’s been going on with Oliver has been by some distance the more interesting aspect of Space Boy, despite the high school drama being prioritised, but that’s now changing. How Amy feels has been well displayed from the start, but now her classmates are taking on greater substance, and that’s welcome. There’s a deliberate mystique to Oliver, but most of Amy’s friends are nice people. The other exception is Cassie, who seems well-intentioned overall, but is manipulative and controlling, and that comes homes to roost, which is why hers is the cover portrait this time round.
When this is incorporated into the second Space Boy Omnibus it’s accompanied by an essay in which McCranie discusses the visual themes used in the series. One is apparent on the sample art. He frequently uses a viewpoint looking up to the sky, whether the conditions are cloudy or sunny, night or day, bright or rainy. It’s presumably something to do with the eventual revelations, as we’re still a way from them here.
How the story develops gives McCranie a chance to experiment a little more than usual with artwork, and the results are an eye-catching change from the usual loose style. There’s much to digest here, and look to Space Boy 6 for the fallout.