Pullbox Reviews: Titan- Life, labor, & love… in space

The mining colony of Homestead Station, established over a century ago, has been tasked with processing hydrocarbons for use in the production of carbon-based energy. To handle the work under the harsh conditions of Saturn’s moon, a workforce of genetically engineered beings was established. Larger, stronger, and more durable than normal humans, the Titans were perfectly suited to their work. However the very attributes that would allow them to survive on the moon that was to be their new home & namesake, the Titans would never be able to set foot on Earth where the greater gravity would crush them under their own mass. As technology and the increasing need for efficient energy production progressed, Homestead began to fall behind and the futures of its over fifty thousand employees was questionable at best.

With his arrival on Homestead Station, Manager Joao Da Silva didn’t know what kind of uphill battle he had waiting for him. Sent to Homestead to evaluate the colony’s operational efficiency, he was fairly certain that a shutdown was a forgone conclusion. Homestead’s closing might be delayed, but nothing short of a miracle was going to keep it open for the long-term. Once he had the chance to actually see how things were run, to interact with the local work force, his suspicions seemed to be confirmed. What did change his perspective was a growing relationship with Phoebe Mackintosh, the Titan’s union representative assigned to work with him during his stay.

At first glance, Titan would be too easily compared to The Expanse (probably some of the best science fiction currently being written). But where The Expanse deals primarily in the political manipulations and power plays surrounding the colonization of space, Titan deals mainly in the relationships between and among those working on the front lines of energy production, and corporate management. What I liked about those relationships was that Francois Vigneault didn’t opt for the easier road by installing the corporation as the bad guys out of hand. Vigneault’s narrative shows both sides, predictably at odds and each with their own perspectives, working through a realistic series of negotiations. The fact is that labor and management can’t hope to maintain any sort of working relationship if they’re constantly at odds, and once that pressure starts to accumulate it’s going to have to go somewhere.

Where Vigneault does take an easier route to the heart of his story is in the relationship between Joao & Phoebe. The two start out on pretty shaky ground, not having much in the way of similarities or trust to speak of. What plays out between them, growing closer as they discover common ground, is sort of a parallel to the larger story of corporate/labor relations coming together (yeah… there might be a little bit of innuendo in there somewhere). Vigneault lets Joao & Phoebe build up to their… combustion… naturally, giving away hints of a possible attraction early on but never blatantly pushing the story in that direction.

The artwork on Titan, also by Francois Vigneault, isn’t in a style that most readers might associate with science fiction. Typically, sci fi is thought of in terms of straight lines & sharper angles, with a color palette steeped in steely gray tones. Vigneault’s style is softer and more like what you might see in a much less serious comic. It’s all curving line work colored in a wholly uncharacteristic black/white/pink combo, not at all conventional for a story like this, so it may take some getting used to for readers more used to what they see in most western comics. What is obvious in Vigneault’s work are the sharp differences between the Terrans & Titans in his story, not just in terms of size but in the overall accumulation of wear and tear evident among the workers.

The combination of skillful writing & unconventional artwork serves at the very least to set Titan apart from other comics on the shelf. For readers who look past the style of the art, there will be some themes that go a little deeper. There are fewer explosions (at first) & more focus on interpersonal relations as people figure out where their similarities outweigh their differences, as well as the resistance to that kind of change in thinking.

Final Score: 9/13

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