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SPACEMAN (1 of 9, December 2011)
Spaceman, a new 9-issue limited series from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, looks and reads like something that would have been right at home in the pages of Heavy Metal or Epic Illustrated back in the eighties. The art has that cartoonish, yet edgy feel reminiscent of a lot of the artists for those mags, and despite the “mature readers” designation the title earns (mainly for a little nudity and sexual content), the overall vibe is more sophisticated juvenile than adult. In other words, this is fun trash that delivers the sex and violence adolescent boys (and those stuck in a permanent state of adolescence) crave, wrapped up in a reasonably intelligent sci-fi sheen.
The main character in the book is Orson, a simian-looking guy who was genetically engineered for life on Mars. The space mission he and his “brothers” were supposed to go on never happened, although Orson has dreams (or maybe they're more than just dreams?) of what might have been had he made it to the red planet. Instead, he's stuck on a future earth that is nothing short of paradise...just kidding; it's a dystopian nightmare. Seriously, what did you expect?
Orson ekes out a living salvaging junk and takes what pleasure he can from virtual reality sex and whatever drugs he can get his hands on. That said, he comes across as almost an innocent (read: not very bright) soul and seems genuinely concerned when he hears about a celebrity's child being kidnapped. The crime doesn't seem to have anything to do with the lower social echelon on which Orson resides, but by the end of the first issue, the two storylines have come together and - if I'm not interpreting the final panel wrong - in a way that connects to Orson's past.
I've become a fan of writer Brian Azzarello recently through his dark and violent take on Wonder Woman in DC's “New 52” reboot. Both in that book and here, he keeps things moving along at a brisk, almost cinematic pace, making sure we get the background information we need clearly and economically. There's not a lot of action this first issue, but it's far from dull. There's a nice strain of dry, dark humor running throughout, and with things getting tense towards the end, I expect considerably more excitement in the next installment.
As for Eduardo Risso's art, I'm reminded a bit of Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), maybe with a hint of Mike Mignola (Hellboy). His style is simultaneously gritty and cartoonish, and he really packs a lot of detail into each and every panel. He's also an excellent visual storyteller, something that really becomes apparent in the last seven pages, which go largely wordless.
It's still a little early to give this book a really fair assessment, but so far, I like what I've seen. And with this first issue priced at a mere dollar, if you're a fan of edgy sci-fi comics, what have you got to lose by picking this one up (of course, the price goes up after this, but hey, it's only 9 issues...it's not a lifetime commitment you're making here)? Three-and-a-half out of five Savages for now, but this is one where I think we'll need to see the whole series before making a final assessment.