Liam McKenna's Termination Shock is a science fiction comic about following the rules so relentlessly that its leads to blindness; the consequences of not questionning your own actions; and the loss of free will that accompanies "blindly" following orders.
Termination Shock tells the story of an officer on board a small freight ship who messes up a shipment by accepting to do an "off the book" favor for a friend. As the small freight ship is loading equipment from a remote unmanned space station, she takes in a load of cargo, but it registers as stolen from the space station and they are shot. They are almost gunned down, but manage to escape. Unfortunately for the officer, the rules and regulations for jeopardizing a mission are clear. The penalty is death and the captain of the ship intends on following the rules. The captain forces the officer to step into a spacesuit and exit the ship to suffocate for her mistake. We follow the aftermath as the remaining crew members realizes the gravity of what happened and the toll this will take on them.
It is unclear what the captain's motivations were for doing what she did. There is no clear sense of who these people are before the incident. All we know is the captain was going to follow the rules, regardless of the objections of her second officer, who warned against so harsh a punishment for such a minor infraction. I was led to believe that she felt it would have jeopardized her authority and her credibility if she had let the mistake slide from her attitude throughout the execution and her discussion with the crew that a life of being a "cold hard captain" got her the rank she desired. Again, this is what I assumed based on the text. If this is really part of the story, or if I simply assumed as much based on the subtextual undertone, I'll let you be the judge of this. In any case, the story struck me as solid, if slightly underdevelopped. I would have preferred to see more of the incident and the aftermath; this is where the drama truly lies, not so much in building up the momentum to it. The story is also constructed in a non-linear manner which I felt removed some of the momentum.
There are also a few moments where I was unable to tell the tone and story elements based on the visuals. For example, in the third panel on the second page, the doctor is walking nonchalantly towards the captain and they make small talk about beers. He leans casually in the doorway, arms crossed with half a smile. He makes a joke and they laugh. I understood that this was to establish their relationship, but knowing that this takes place after the execution made this sequence feel really odd. On page three, Bird, the officer who was adamantly opposing the captain's decision, is screaming at her that it was all her fault as she made the final call. His fists are raised, but his facial expression is over-emoting and I couldn't tell the tone. I know the character is upset, but it's a bit too over the top, to the point where I thought this comic was going to be a dark comedy. It happens randomly throughout the book where I'm just unsure of what the expressions the characters are trying to convey.
This being said, apart from these few instances where the images fall short, it's actually well done. The stripped background fit perfectly with the setting of a spaceship. The characters are placed in a grey or dark grey environment, which constantly reinforces the theme (no black or white solutions) of the book. So with all of this said, I can forgive some of the small issues when looking at the comic as a whole. And based on what I've seen from McKenna's Tumblr page, his attention to facial details has improved.