REVIEW: Tales of Science Fiction: Vault #1

When you see a project with John Carpenter’s name attached, there’s one aspect of storytelling you can be sure it has plenty of: atmosphere. For a horror story, atmosphere is key. It builds tensions, tests characters, and gives each setting its own unique flare that can make a tale both timeless and memorable. For Mr. Carpenter’s foray into comics he has teamed up with his wife Sandy King and it appears that the atmosphere he has been so successful at establishing in movies is indeed transferable to comics. Tales of Science Fiction is a case in point.

A lot of this is attributed to James Ninness storytelling. As far as the first issue goes, Vault’s story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The plot is fairly straightforward. A space crew finds a strange ship and boards it to investigate. But the formula knowingly plays homage to the genre classics that came before it. Sci-fi horror is a field dominated by household names. But rather than compete with these heavyweights, Ninness acknowledges them and uses the foundation they’ve laid to give Vault its own unique feel and spin on the trope. Vault probably won’t be attractive to those who haven’t cut their teeth on these timeless cinematic treasures, but fans of the genre are certainly in for a treat.

Aside from the story, though, the art by Andres Esparaza is equally (if not more) important in setting up Vault’s atmosphere. The dark tones and foreboding spaceship interior makes almost every page feel menacing. You don’t know exactly where (or what) the threat in Vault is, but the tension makes it feel as if it could jump out on every panel. There are plenty of horrors to be had in issue one, and with the way things are going, I’m sure it only heads downhill from here.

It goes without saying, though, that the first issue is by no means a complete story. Sometimes a single issue of a multi-issue arc can feel like a self-contained plot. There is an enclosed feeling of completion at the end of it even if you read the words “to be continued.” Vault #1 doesn’t have that. The first issue isn’t particularly whole by itself. It merely sets the stage and we’re going to need the other two parts of the story to round it out. Not that that’s a bad thing. You can’t fault a comic for being serialized. But it’s worthy to note that the sense of mystery built up over the course of the issue is strongest in the last couple pages.

Tales of Science Fiction appears to be a collection of multi-issue stories. Whether or not these stories will eventually tie into one another has yet to be seen. It might be too early to tell if the series has longevity, but Vault #1 has set the bar high for its inaugural arc. Let’s hope 2 and 3 can deliver the goods.

(W) James Ninness (A) Andres Esparza (CA) Nick Percival

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