Review: SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14 by Ryan Cecil Smith

Rarely do I use the word “joy” to describe a comic. Certainly there is satisfaction in reading a well-constructed comic, and there’s a certain joy in reading good literature, but rarely are comics joyful. The major exception is Ryan Cecil Smith’s SF series. I featured SF #3 in a write up earlier this year, and now Smith has released a new book in the series, SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14, which recently came in the mail.

SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14 is an 8cm x 11cm book with 43 single panel pages risographed in a faux-CMYK. The printing style using a large variety of risograph inks is indicative of Smith’s care and level of craft – it’s clear that Smith has spent a lot of time on the printing of this book, making sure everything worked out exactly right, and the result is stunning. Vibrant colors, really great registration, and an eye for the smallest details, as far down as printing on the packaging the book comes in.  I’m still trying to wrap my mind on how much time this book must have taken to get exactly right.

SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14 is a supplement to this year’s snazzy SF lapel pin, a metal and magenta cloisonné that you can wear to show your allegiance to the Space Fleet Scientific Foundation Special Forces (SFSFSF). This is the second lapel pin that Smith has made, and I love the idea of a physical reminder of the series that isn’t a comic book. It makes Smith’s comics feel more like a cultural institution, something you talk with friends about over a beer.

SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14 features one of SF’s more exotic characters Duke the Duck on a solo mission to Liquid Planet Beta-14 which the Space Fleet thinks has fallen under Pirate Nation influence. Duke attempts to fly his small spaceship to the surface without attracting pirate attention, and ends up in a tricky spot.

This is the world of science fiction at its most exuberant – Smith has a clear love for the genre. But in SF, the general tropes of science fiction are really the set upon which the emotions of shonen battle manga are at play. The ‘give it your best shot!’ ‘Never give up!’ and ‘Fight hard and make friends!’ attitude of series like Dragon Ball are really evident in the ebb and flow of Smith’s work, even if SF looks more like Star Wars than One Piece.

I think I’m reminded of these Japanese comics for multiple reasons, but the major comparator is how fun these comics are. SF shares in the soul of the Dragon Ball, Toriko, and One Piece, comics that care about craft and storytelling, but primarily about whether the reader is having fun.

SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14 is a great addition to the SF universe and a gorgeous comic book. More importantly, this latest release should be a nudge to read the rest of Smith’s SF line – SF#1-3 and various supplements are available at his website, and also likely available this weekend at SPX. If you are looking for fun comics, look no further.

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Ryan Cecil Smith can be found at screentonetv and on Twitter at @ryancecil. You can read an excerpt of SF: Liquid Planet Beta-14 at this link.

SF #3 is published by Koyama Press (koyamapress), and SF comics can be purchased at Smith’s website.

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