Why Southern Cross’s Alex Braith Is the Ellen Ripley Revival You’ve Been Waiting For
Our heroine is aboard a massive spaceship that feels more like a haunted house than a piece of sci-fi technology. She’s independent and cool-headed. Her character has an agency that shows she isn’t there in service of the male characters, if anything, they end up just being background players for her. She isn’t overtly sexualized, and she isn’t there to please others. She can take on any evil that gets thrown at her. To put it simply, she’s a total BAMF.
I’m describing Ellen Ripley from the 1979 classic Alien, but I could just as easily be talking about Alex Braith, the protagonist of Southern Cross, the 2015 sci-fi comic from Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger.
The movie Alien gave us arguably the best heroine of all time: Ellen Ripley. Ripley was more than just a badass; she was a complex character who was anything but one note. Think about it – this was 1979; movies and TV weren’t exactly bursting with strong female roles. In Alien, Ripley isn’t just acting in juxtaposition to the men in the film, she is acting based on her own decisions and story. She never needs saving – she is the one doing the saving. Ripley isn’t portrayed as hysterically emotional, even during some of the most difficult moments in the film, but she isn’t devoid of emotion either. By not playing into these extremes that female protagonists often get boxed into she comes across as a real, genuine character. Ripley isn’t great because she’s an invincible superhero, she’s great because she seems like an actual person.
Not only was Ripley a great character in a film, she was a great character in a genre film. Science fiction, horror, and action can often be some of the most problematic genres for female characters. Alien was at times a science fiction film, at times a haunted house movie, and has action sequences throughout. Ellen Ripley took out all three of these movie types at once.
From Sarah Connor to Katniss Everdeen, there have been numerous heroines who’ve embodied a little bit of the Ripley spirit. But the most recent reincarnation can be found in Southern Cross. Our Ripley in Southern Cross is Alex Braith, who’s traveling through space on a tanker flight. She’s heading for a refinery moon where her sister died under suspicious circumstances. Throughout the first arc of the series, we follow Alex’s journey closely, slowly getting insight into her inner demons and her complicated relationship with her sister.
The way Alex interacts with other travelers on the ship is reminiscent of Ripley. Instead of letting other characters influence her, she portrays her own independent voice. Also, the psychological issues Braith is wrestling with mirror Ripley’s PTSD in the sequel Aliens. Even the ship Braith is on is extremely Alien-like. The Southern Cross is housing many secrets, the same as Alex herself. In Alien, the ship takes on the feeling of a sci-fi haunted house and the Southern Cross is a trippier, more cerebral play on that same feeling. The first arc hints that otherworldly or alien forces may be at play onboard the Southern Cross. It seems like there is a mystery to be solved, much like the mystery of the deadly extraterrestrial onboard the Nostromo. Both works build an anxiety that leaves you dreading what might be lurking right around the corner.
This book is certainly an ode to my love of the 70’s and early 80’s sci-fi scene. Alien, Blade Runner, Road Warrior…The flicks that came out in the summer of ‘82. . . I guess as an artist I pander to my 13 year old self!
The way she wrestles with inner demons, the way she is a strong, lone wolf-type character, even the ship she is traveling on, are all just a few of the ways that Alex Braith mirrors the legendary Ellen Ripley. The first trade of Southern Cross comes out soon, and let’s hope we can travel on this creepy sci-fi ship with Alex Braith for many more books to come.
Now, what do we have to do to get Cloonan and Belanger to add an orange cat to their ship?
Daryl Sztuka is a writer living outside Boston with her husband. You can find her reading comics, listening to records way too loud, and having intense staring matches with her cat, Agent Scully. Follow her on Instagram @girlseeksband and Twitter @girlseeksband.
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