November 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm By:

I admit it: I’ve never read 100 Bullets. I’m a casual fan of the crime genre, and have a bad habit of trade-waiting with long running, highly acclaimed series. Given its status from even its earliest issues, 100 Bullets would always be available, so the urge to be current was never insistent. But the team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso is rightly celebrated, I know, from their Batman work in both Batman: Black and White and Wednesday Comics. Now, Vertigo launches a new Azzarello/Risso collaboration, a perfect gateway for the uninitiated such as myself: Spaceman #1.

Spaceman is another genre turn for the pair: science fiction. Like crime, sci-fi can offer scope within its very clear limitations. As a writer, Azzarello seems to understand these limitations, and deftly avoids them. Rather than dwell on expository schema of the world and times of Spaceman, Azzarello simply implies them through the dialogue and backgrounds. This does result in a somewhat disjointed first read, but upon closer inspection the frustration turns to intrigue. The entire issue is borne of a complex intelligence that is serviceable, not flaunted. It’s nearly impenetrable, but highly inviting.

Luckily Risso brings with him a rare chemistry, matching the script beat for beat with mood and atmosphere. His style exhibits wonderful flashes of Mignola, Ba and Fegredo, while maintaining an identity all its own. Virtuosity is eschewed in favor of storytelling, with nice layout variance and a solid underpinning of the story’s futuristic set pieces. Risso’s art sidesteps the cliche gloss that a lot of sci-fi yarns get sprayed on them, too, achieving a grit that roots the fantastic in realism, reminiscent of another genre cousin, the western.

Spaceman wouldn’t be as appealing without the contributions of colorists Patricia Mulvihill and Giulia Brusco. Their palette straddles the fine line between muted and vibrant, filling the linework in an attractive way that conveys the necessary chilliness. Even the reds seem cold. Ace letterer Clem Robins ties everything together with his expert, organic approach, lending this fresh, modern comic the timeless design it deserves. A Dave Johnson cover never hurts anything.

Overall, Spaceman is an imposing book, from its grotesque protagonist (a dead ringer for Mr. Hyde from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) to its bizarre slang (a la the Mutant gang in Dark Knight Returns). But what the best writers and artists in comics seem to do is take these familiar tropes, and twist, and pull, and stretch and beat them into something that seems wholly new. That’s exactly what you’ll get from Spaceman, if you have the patience: a new take on an old favorite. Whether it’s the genre or the talent, the hooks are there, deliciously baited.  So don’t wait…cashiers are standing by!


Filed Under: DISCUSS, Opinion, Reviews

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