Solar Man of the Atom #6 by Frank J. Barbiere & Jonathan Lau
Last month, Erica Seleski’s first trip into outer space got off to a rather bumpy start. She and her father Phil had sought out assistance from the Quilok alien race. In the past, Phil had friendly relations with the Quilok, but this time they turn on him. Erica just barely escaped through the use of her powers. The problem is her understanding of these newly gained abilities is not complete and she ended up drifting aimless through space.
This week, Erica is found by a race of aliens resembling oversized spacefaring hamsters. Barbiere does not translate the creatures’ language, leaving the reader as much in the dark about them as Erica is. It is an effective choice which highlights the differences between Phil and Erica. Phil is suspicious, which is not surprising, given his recent betrayal. When he sees manufacturing tools, he assumes that they are for weapons. Erica though is sick of her father’s constant lecturing. Her gut tells her that these aliens can be trusted. After all they did save her; plus, they “look like Build-A-Bear . . . how bad can [they] be?” (In all fairness to Lau, they do look adorable). This testy father/daughter dynamic has been at the center of the series since the start, and in this issue Barbiere continues to refine it. Erica in particular is a great character, mixing a sense of out of her element with a determination to do the right thing. This issue she takes another step forward in becoming a hero by risking her life to save the hamster creatures.
While the first arc of Solar was enjoyable, the series has really taken off with the second. Part of the reason for this is Jonathan Lau assuming art duties. He has the right style for cosmic storytelling: the ability to capture grand and human scale in equal measures. As in #5, he demonstrates a strong imagination for depicting alien races and their cultures. His portrayal of the decay of the hamsters’ native world is a beautiful mix of lifeless landscape and swirling gusts of sand. Towards the end of the issue, Erica dives in her mind to find the key to healing a sun. For this sequence, Lau alters his style to something more expressionistic and better suited to conveying the faded contours of a memory. At the same time, the moment shows Erica finding her own way to understand her powers. For her scientist father everything was channeled through equations. Erica the architect discovers that mastery can come through artistic language as well.
All in all, another great issue for a series that only continues to get better.