GRAPHIC NOVEL
Orbiter

Author: Warren Ellis
Artist: Colleen Doran
Titan Books
RRP: 11.99
ISBN 1 84023 724 4
Available 25 June 2004


The Space Shuttle
Venture disappeared from Earth's orbit 10 years ago taking a crew of seven with it. This final NASA disaster committed the Earth to programmes of robotic discovery flight only - no human has been in space for a decade. However the Venture has come back to Earth 10 years late. It's remaining crewman - an insane pilot - and instrumentation that wasn't on the shuttle when it lifted off. So, what happened to the Venture's crew, where did the shuttle go, and what does all this now mean for an Earth that's given up hope of walking amongst the stars?...

Oribiter has a Star Trek: the Motion Picture feel about it. Man sends out a shuttle, which is then taken control of by something alien (in this case the space vessel is covered in some form of alien living skin).

The artwork is beautiful and the story is engaging, but it did seem a little rushed towards the end - I actually turned the last page expecting the story to continue, but it didn't. Warren Ellis's foreword hints that Orbiter may have been rushed to get it on to the shelves after the space shuttle Colombia disintegrated on re-entering Earth's orbit - effectively stopping NASA's manned flight space programme.

The conclusion screams for a follow up story. I guess this was the intention, but I am left wondering whether this was really clever writing on Ellis's part or the need to finish this story as soon as possible - although he claims he completed the story a couple of months before the Colombia disaster, there is a huge question mark hanging over this revelation.

Many critics have championed this graphic novel's almost prophetic qualities. I'm not so impressed - for goodness sake it's by far the most hazardous form of transport and every generation has witnessed at least a couple of terrible accidents. Ellis was just fortunate (or not, as the case may be) that his story may sell on the back of being spookily prophetic.

Yes, it is a damn good read and yes it is beautifully presented, but it is not one of Ellis's better works.

Pete Boomer

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