Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran’s Orbiter is a wonderful reminder that storytelling, specifically science fiction can be dramatic, engaging and exciting without over-the-top action sequences or violent battle scenes. Orbiter is a harkening back to classic science fiction literature, a time when stories were more about the wonder and exploration of reality through metaphor than just the visualization of flashy, previously-unseen technology and worlds.
Doran drew Orbiter in an incredibly detailed world that is populated by original and real people with character traits that allowed Ellis to tell this complex, relatively low-drama story with impact and feeling that drives the story and emotionally retains the reader. Doran’s characters all have facial features that are unique to them and that show a the wide range of emotion necessary to quickly develop empathy between them and the reader. Another aspect of Doran’s art that punctuates the story are several beautiful single panel pages, giving high or guiding moments, leading the reader on an exciting and slowly ascending roller-coaster that never ends in any kind of low point.
In Orbiter, Ellis wrote an optimistic aspiration about space and space-travel that is now even more impactful since NASA has discontinued its Space Shuttle program as he predicted they would. Classic science fiction predicted the future – sometimes accurately (1984, Neuromancer) and at other times, not yet (The Time Machine). Ellis successfully predicted in Orbiter that NASA would stop their Space Shuttle program. Hopefully, he has also predicted that some inspiration will force the United States to once again embrace space flight so that we might one day explore it to our fullest potential.