Strange Skies Over East Berlin Blends Spy Thriller With Science Fiction [REVIEW]

Written by Jeff Loveness. Art by Lisandro Estherren. Coloured Patricio Delpeche. Lettered by Steve Wands. Published by Boom Studios.

During the Cold War, Soviet controlled East Berlin was one of the deepest surveillance states in the world. The Stasi spying on the people with great effectiveness, while the Berlin Wall cast a shadow over the city.

Many authors have used these elements for spy thrillers and Strange Skies Over East Berlin is the latest comic to do so. Although, unlike other spy stories of the same setting, this miniseries blends it with science fiction to tell a character-focused story.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin TPB cover by Evan Cagle.

When an American spy embedded in East Berlin witnesses a fantastic light ripping across the sky, he’s tasked with finding out what it is. Could it be a Soviet weapon? Extraterrestrial? I won’t spoil what it is, but his discovery will force him to reassess his life choices.

Lies and deception are part and parcel for spies, but they rarely have to face the toll of what they do. Strange Skies Over East Berlin dives deep into this theme, exploring the damage and guilt. It’s something that’s constantly on the protagonist’s mind, but regularly compartmentalising so he doesn’t have to face it. But when he finds the source of the light that no longer becomes and option.

These feelings are expressed through the inner monologue, with letterer Steve Wands using a different typeface. This typeface has a typewriter appearance, which gives the reader the feeling as if we were reading the spy’s journals and seeing his true feelings.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1, page 1 art by Lisandro Estherren and Patricio Delpeche.
Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1, page 1 art by Lisandro Estherren and Patricio Delpeche.

From the very beginning, East Berlin has a cold and unwelcoming atmosphere. Lisandro Estherren uses thin line to give the surroundings detail, which are then washed with watercolour strokes that add a grimy texture.

Colourist Patricio Delpeche adds to the atmosphere with a muted colour palette. Dark blues, greys, and yellows wash over Estherren’s art and do a lot to set the tone and tell the story.

The science fiction elements open the door to a sense of claustrophobia. The panels become more focused on characters as the environment becomes more narrow down in the underground base.

Panel from Strange Skies Over East Berlin #4, page 1 art by Lisandro Estherren and Patricio Delpeche.
Panel from Strange Skies Over East Berlin #4, page 1 art by Lisandro Estherren and Patricio Delpeche.

The colour palette also becomes increasingly darker too, enveloping everyone in the shadows. This darkness also makes the science fiction elements, which I am keep intentionally vague as to not spoil anything, standout more with it crackling in contrasting whites and light blues.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin is a terrific genre-bending read. It has the moody and atmospheric tones that you’d expect from a spy thriller, while the science fiction elements introduce a unique way to tell a character-centric story. If you’re looking for something new in your spy stories then you’ve got to read this.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin trade paperback collection is available from all good comic book stores, online stores, eBay, and digitally from August 12th. It’s also available at book stores from August 18th.

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