Alien abduction, LSD, and childhood trauma, oh my! Mad Cave’s STARGAZER #1 tackles some heavy topics right off the bat and does it well. This book has a stellar introduction that dives into the entanglements of alien encounters. I thought this issue was incredible. The creative team captured the exceptionally unsettling experience these adolescents had when they allegedly tried drugs. As the reader, you struggle to determine whether the encounter was real or not. In either case, the traumatic impact of the events that took place was very real.  It causes you to go on the emotional roller coaster with the main characters all the way to adulthood. 
Meet Shae, her brother Kenny, and two childhood friends in the year 1999. You’ll know it’s the late 90’s because one of the kids is rocking a spitfire skateboarding shirt, which I adored. One night, as they’re hanging out on top of a water tower, one of the kids is surprised as he pulls LSD out of the bag he brought with him. Several of them pass it around, handling it as they try to figure out what it is. Immediately they are overwhelmed with some sort of trippy experience and Kenny falls off the tower. Flash forward to their adulthood and Shae is reliving this traumatic event. You learn that Kenny has gone full throttle as an alien conspiracist and that he’s never been the same since that night on the water tower. You also see the relationship between Shae and Kenny has changed. All he wants to talk about is the experience they had and she continuously encourages him to move on from that event. Without ruining the ending, more stuff comes to light about what was real and what wasn’t.

Anthony Cleveland is the writer on this one. I’m not too familiar with his work, but dude – he straight up killed this. The writing is top notch and this is such a well-thought-out story. I get the sense that maybe some of these experiences were his own. The timeline of characters’ growth from adolescence to adulthood is paced very well. Things never felt out of place in the story. His writing brought me to that existential feeling of wondering whether things are connected. Antonio Fuso is the artist and, my goodness, his artwork is beautiful and tells a story of it’s own. You get to see his work shine the brightest in some of the opening panels when the kids are looking at the stars. His attention to detail makes it feel as if his work is popping off the page. If you are a fan of gorgeous artwork, this story is worth picking up solely for that reason. He does a great job of depicting the alien encounters without giving too much away to the reader. Seriously, I could gush for days over his work in this book. 

Stefano Simone is the colorist and he brings such a cool dynamic with his red tones. In the darker moments of the story, his coloring is much louder and it conveys the intensity that the characters are feeling. Justin Birch is the letterer and this dude is everywhere right now. It seems like he’s on 75 percent of the comics I read here recently, so kudos to him. I love how he uses typographical emphasis to draw the reader’s attention to important detail.

This book is a thriller. It keeps you on your toes and wondering what will happen next. Although many things are explained in this first issue, they have got me on the hook because I still have so many questions left. All of the elements I love in a story are here and they take on some difficult tasks. I highly recommend that you pick this up at your local comic book store. Looking forward to see how Kenny’s story evolves after that last panel left us hanging! 

Signing off,
Jonathan “J-Strick” Strickland
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