World Comic Book Review

19th April 2024

CRYSTAL PLANET (review)—”Surfing with the alien”

Created by: Joe Satriani, Ned Evett

Script: Tony Lee

Pencils/Inks: Richard Friend

Color: Carlos Cabrera Opus 2022

COSMIC SURFBOARD REQUIRED for this trip with galactic guitarist Joe Satriani, delightfully bursting into comic book culture as co-author of a five-issue dimensional romp CRYSTAL PLANET that pits the rhythmic music of life against mechanical agents of dissonance aiming to devour everything beautiful. Add a fossilized electric guitar popping up from another dimension as a gateway to the beyond, and you have a theme perfectly suited for the electric guitarist author, who clearly has strong feelings about how we should care about the rhythms flowing through our lives and filling the universe.

Joe Satriani says in a preface to the set, Crystal Planet started as a sci-fi video projected on a screen over one of his music concerts in 2013. It was a hit, and the Crystal Planet comic book and it’s themes started to brew in collaboration with other artists.

Battle in the skies starts the adventure. Flying around in body armor with heavy weaponry is a small step removed from present-day war. Massed armies with heavy machinery and metalized soldiers in wing suits spray fire. Translate the scene into rock music spanning the globe on the airwaves, one wave emotional, gripping, seeking, pressing against another wave intentionally hard, grating, adamant.

Even punk rock music, generated in the 1980s, also hard, has a sweet wail clipped onto the heavy grind, driven by a pounding rhythm. The enemy here is another. The redshift riders of the swarm introduced on the first page seem to represent the lifeless hum of running engines, clanking parts, and nasty talk in music that grew steadily darker and dissonant after the 1980s, screaming into the night like on overlayer of pain to match the existential condition of the pained subject buried beneath.

In a few pages we shift away from war, back to the real world, into the life of the son of the time-traveler wing-suited soldier we saw confronting the red-rider swarm over the skies of some devastated planet. The long-haired young man starts getting messages from his estranged father, telling him to find the “time shredder” whatever that is. Then his father dies, and his body shows wounds and broken bones indicating combat, as well as exposure to an unusual kind of cosmic radiation. Strange things start to happen. The mystery grows. Then the time-shredder guitar shows up, and the rest is history, or future history.

All of this is layered in pleasant drama with a few friends and key characters, often with an attractive long-time friend with benefits who is the daughter of the boss and destined to play a large role in the unfolding plan. Someone has a plan. The kid, for now, is clueless.

I only read up to Issue 3 so to not inadvertently spoil what comes next as we launch into the next dimension. When we break from the comic-style real world, colored and attractive as it is, the scenery in the next dimension often splatters and reshapes into fabulous cosmic spectacles. Not much life, but it looks good. Vacation homes pending.

Riding drama in the real world with cosmic spectacles is a lot like Joe Satriani’s music and range. He pushes it out. I heard a dj on the radio once say, “Joe Satriani accomplishes more in this next song than I’ve accomplished in my entire life.”

Selected playlists from just Joe accompany each issue. I couldn’t match all the songs, but good enough, and better together.

Rhythms run through us and bind us to the universe. Currents of energy, light, gravity, life, move in space, in the body, in the mind to weave all things together in and through, and for us. Do you already live without birdsong in the morning, as you must in a city already live without stars in the sky? Art adds rhythm in modernized times. Nature and art are our rhythms. Compliments to Joe Satriani for speaking out with such fine expression himself, and in collaboration with other artists, and for telling a story that shows it matters what rhythms, what art we celebrate, perhaps even that we celebrate art and artists at all, as we surf on toward our time-shredded destiny.