I have to admit that I have a fascination with DC’s early graphic novels from the 1980s. Whereas Marvel launched their line with The Death of Captain Marvel and focused a number of their offerings on their superheroes, DC went in an entirely different direction by sticking with mostly science fiction. The most valuable of their first seven graphic novels is probably The Hunger Dogs, which is the conclusion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga, but most of the others can be found–if you can find them–on the cheap.
The Medusa Chain was written and drawn by Ernie Colon, who by the time it came out in 1984, had a nearly twenty-year career and had most recently been drawing Amethyst, one of DC’s best fantasy offerings of the Bronze Age. This came out between the end of the original Amethyst miniseries and the ongoing that would last until 1986. The story here isn’t fantasy, but sci-fi and follows the adventures in the future of Chon Adams, who is convicted of murder and put on an interstellar chain gang called The Medusa Chain.
The story begins with his conviction and then moves onto his trying to escape the gang but eventually being put in his place by Commander Kilg-9, a beautiful but merciless warden who actually wants Chon to help her complete a sort of secret mission, one that involves the smuggling of a dangerous chemical that is capable of wiping out entire populations. There’s a lot of prison-movie tropes mixed in with what to expect from 1970s and 1980s sci-fi that works really well in this format. It’s a really entertaining graphic novel with a compelling story.
Even more compelling is the artwork. I’ve always liked Colon’s work–both on Amethyst and what I’ve seen on Arak: Son of Thunder–but because this was a graphic novel with higher quality printing, Colon could do more with the page and the coloring goes beyond anything we were seeing in comics at the time.
The only problem I have with this book, to be honest, is that it’s too short. This feels like the first part of a larger story that could easily keep going. If I may call upon another series that was being published around this time, this could have been DC’s Starslayer, and I think that Colon would have done great things with another graphic novel or a mini or ongoing series. Alas, I don’t think that these characters ever appeared anywhere else.
I happened to find this for 99 cents–it’s not in perfect condition but it’s a great reading copy–and hopefully you’ll be able to find it out there as well.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?