Canopus is a mind-bending science fiction from Scout Comics where the main character, Helen, wakes up alone on an alien planet without any of her memories – and she’s over 300 light years from Earth. Canopus Volume 1 collects issues 1 through 4 and is written and drawn by creator Dave Chisholm, with color flats by Dustyn Payette.
In a story that navigates past trauma and moving forward, Chisholm previously mentions “trying to find an understanding of how I can be better at forgetting and moving past these things, transgressions or whatever, from my past and finding peace in the fact that I don’t have to do that.”
Helen wakes up on a desolate world, staring up at the bright star Canopus in the night sky. She is dressed in an advanced spacesuit, with an “in-suit navigation system” that communicates her position on the planet and also what’s wrong with her newfound ship. Despite the confusion, she attempts to fix things and make sense of what’s going on.
That is until a walking, talking robot named Arther appears on the ship soon after she boards. Even stranger, this robot knows her and immediately refers to her as “mom.” The mind-twisting moments continue to take place as Helen must track down supplies to begin repairs to her ship, all while continually feeling isolated and abandoned despite having a robotic companion by her side. The struggle of not knowing anything is palpable and the journey to understand her predicament takes a heavy toll.
Helen quickly wonders if she’s “losing it,” because she can’t remember anything and nothing seems to make sense. Piece by piece, though, she slowly begins to remember the reason she’s on this distant planet and the sense of urgency quickly builds as she pushes forward to complete her mission. As she journeys for supplies, a dizzying sense of who she is comes back in waves of traumatic memories; all while having to navigate the dangers associated with a world teeming with nightmarish qualities where all you can wonder is if there’s anywhere to hide or if escape is even a reality.
Canopus is a Uniquely Splendid Sci-Fi where past struggles define one’s existence
Canopus is an intense, emotional rollercoaster that leaves you on the edge of your seat from the start. Dave Chisholm gives us a splendid look at what friendship might look like, while highlighting how determination and pushing through past anguishes can leave us feeling alone and permanently scarred. We see Arther only want to follow and support Helen, while she must determine how to push forward despite the realization that both the uncertainty and truth are unbearable.
Chisholm’s storytelling is succinct in translating the many emotional components laid out within, such as the main character’s confusion surrounding her lack of memories and the emotional state when dealing with such traumas. Helen’s state-of-mind does not deter her from finding the truth. Once she learns about the ultimate goal of saving Earth from a deadly world-wide catastrophe, finding a way off the planet is an integral part to the character’s persistence. This story, and her willpower, makes it impossible to avoid feeling something when reading this story.
The pace of Canopus from page one is very well-balanced. Even with the unnerving sense of isolation, traumatic memories, and not knowing what might jump out and attack her and Arther on their quest, it’s a story where this consistent drum of “having to find a way home” is always there, keeping our attention and always leaving us on the edge of our seats. You flip through each page, one after the next, until you’ve read it all in one sitting.
Canopus defines Science Fiction with Amazing Art and Style
Chisholm’s artwork presents a grand scale of the planet that Helen’s found herself stuck on; from what it looks like, with an endless sky of stars, to large rock formations, and the distance between everything that makes you realize this place is big. This larger-than-life location is so far away from home that the distance alone gives you a feel of what being trapped inside of a sci-fi movie might feel like. The cover artwork also highlights the adventure you can expect to find throughout its pages, as Helen and Arther look out toward the great unknown.
Not only does Canopus give you a “lost in space” vibe with its visuals, Chisholm presents a puzzle box of images as the character literally unwraps memories that have defined her life. This approach gives Canopus an incredible design, where present-day panels feel structured, while flashbacks have a full-page spread of variously sized panels where they either overlap or have even spacing. This style helps you understand what a flood of memories might feel like for Helen and why her responses are so intense.
The facial expressions in Canopus are outstanding. Helen’s bulging eyes convey so much emotion, from confusion, fear, rage, sadness, and it always feels sincere. It should not go unstated on how important and magnificent these eyes are to the storytelling. There is so much going on underneath the surface of who Helen is as a character, and these brilliant expressions from her eyes are simply phenomenal. Arther, who is a seemingly smooth surfaced robot without a nose or hair, also plays a role in providing significant facial expressions, while also sharing wonderful insight into the overarching theme of attempting to move beyond past struggles.
Canopus also lends to some wonderful action sequences that lean into that sci-fi wonder. From Arther’s ability to alter his size to help fight some of the monsters creeping in the dead of space, to vibrant blues buzzing from Helen’s weapons, or underground caverns to get lost in, this story leans into these moments where the next level of increased tension is waiting just around the corner. In a place where there might not be any hope of escape, the story continues with that theme throughout, which gives readers a true sense of “What will happen next?”
Canopus will not disappoint Sci-Fi Adventure Seekers and Self-Healing
Chisholm has crafted something extraordinarily special with Canopus. In the real world where life can be daunting, Helen’s lingering doubts from what she does or doesn’t know is painful to watch and it feels all too real within these pages. This gives you a true sense of connecting with Helen and Arther as they traverse this lonely landscape where hope doesn’t necessarily seem like a viable option.
Canopus is perfect for fans who love science fiction! It resembles the long, arduous journey associated with Interstellar, while still pulling at the heart strings when those astronauts make such dangerous space journeys knowing what they’ve left behind in search of something greater. Canopus does just that; it leads the reader on this amazing journey where certainty is irrelevant, determination isn’t always longstanding, and loss can be felt in so many different ways.
If you even remotely like sci-fi, Canopus will do more than explore the vast emptiness of a distant planet. It will reinvent how we look at ourselves and how we cope with the many different experiences that affect our lives. It’s more than a story, Canopus is an experience.