Spaceman #1-9 (2011-12)

“So now what?”

“We wait, we web-cast pictures of what appear to be Tara and her kidnappers, from a anom source.”

“Huh? But webee staff on the show …”

‘Jesus, Bob … it’s called drama …”

Spaceman #1 cover

This is a recently finished nine issue mini series from Vertigo. The creative team is no stranger to Vertigo being Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso who have collaborated before on Jonny Double, 100 Bullets and a Batman story in the Wednesday Comics anthology title for DC.

The story is set in a post-climate change world where the water levels have risen to submerge part of an unnamed city. The affluent live in a segregated part of the city known as the Dries while every one else slum it in the Rise. Orson is a genetically modified human, standing 7 to 8 feet tall with monkey-like features, who was created, along with others, to travel to Mars but the programme was shut down due to public outrage when he was still young. He makes a living salvaging stuff from the Rise but his life is turned upside down when he runs into a crew of kidnappers who have kidnapped a young girl from the family of a reality TV show, The Ark.

Interwoven with this story is another concerning four of the genetically altered spacemen on a mission to terraform Mars. Their motivations change when a meteorite veined with gold crashes near their base and disagreements on what to do lead to suspicion and suspected murder.

I have loved the work of Azzarello and Risso in the past – especially the fabulous artwork of Eduardo Risso.(a lot of which you can buy from his web site). And this story was enjoyable too but I was confused as to how the two very different stories connected together. It is suggested in the Earth bound one that the Mars missions never took place and the situation of another of the spacemen, Carter, would suggest that the Mars mission did not take place after the story on Earth. But they are obviously connected in some way – whether the whole of the Earth story is an immersive TV show of some kind or the Mars one a hallucination – some of the sequences are triggered by Orson taking a drug – or something else I just can’t decide. For me the Earth story was more interesting and losing the Mars one to add more detail into that world would have made for a more satisfying book.

Home from Home

This is my first post in the brand new home of the RevolutionSF blogs. It’s great that the blogs have finally caught up with the 21st century and hopefully posts will be easier to produce and maintain.

I am currently re-reading the recently finished Spaceman series from Vertigo by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. So that will be the next comic to reviewed here by the end of the week, hopefully.

In the meantime, I am being dragged slowly into the 21st century myself. Although a still buy a fair amount of CDs, I have mainly been accessing music digitally in the last few years via a couple of subscription and streaming services. Now I think the time has come to think seriously about how I access print material in the future.

I have just about filled, and overfilled, every available space that my understanding wife will allow with comics, graphic novels and books. So I am seriously thinking about moving to a digital platform in the very near future. Comixology always have great offers and this week I was finally tempted to lay down some cash for an omnibus edition of Project Superpowers – 21 issues for $16.99 was too good a deal to resist.

I had a look at the first issue on my Android phone for free and while the experience was not too bad (it was good enough for me to take the plunge in the first place and I have recently upgraded my phone and it has a 4.7″ high resolution display) I think for prolonged reading I will want to buy a tablet so that I can see full pages more comfortably.

There are a lot of circumstances coming together that make now the right time for me. The foremost of these is the imminent release of the Kindle Fire in the UK and the rumoured release of a mini-iPad. One of these may well be my preferred option but if I am not satisfied with either then I will probably go for a full iPad. We’ll see what the future brings.

Fairest #7 (2012)

 

Quote:
‘You’re going to slay me with a walking stick? I know I’m just a girl and all, but it’s a bit far-fetched.’

 

I don’t tend to make many posts about single issues of comics but I thought I would about this one for completeness as, together with the previous issues in the series that I have already talked about, this will be part of the upcoming first collected volume of Fairest. It is a standalone story and was written by Matthew Sturges (Jack of Fables, House of Mystery) and with art by Shawn McManus.

The story has Beast on the trail of a monstrous killer in 1940s Los Angeles. However if he wants to capture the monster alive he must beat the dapper Englishman and monster slayer Saint-George to the punch. But why is Beast so insistent on catching the killer alive and why is Fabletown’s sheriff Bigby Wolf not on the case?

This is a nice standalone story some great art by McManus who colours the 1940s segment in sepia tones to match the mood of the era of fictional private detectives that is used as the setting of the tale. But the most significant development for Fables fans is that this issue shows that this is a series that needs to be followed as it looks like the stories told will relate more closely to the main series than I thought they would. I thought that the series of stories, like Legends of the Dark Knight for Batman, would be set in the universe of Fables but standing outside of the continuity of the main series. However issues 1-6 spun out of an incident in Fables #107 and this story provides some background on the relationship between Beauty and Beast that goes some way to explaining Frau Totenknder’s present for their daughter, Bliss. Now this may just be because the first two writers, series creator Bill Willingham and Jack of Fables co-writer Matthew Sturges, are well acquainted with the main series and its characters. So it will be interesting to see how it develops with the next story arc and a writer new to the world, Lauren Beukes.

The Underwater Welder (2012)

 

Quote:
And you know what…? I’m right here … we’re right here. But you’re too busy chasing a ghost to notice!

 

The Underwater Welder is an original graphic novel from Top Shelf Productions by writer and artist Jeff Lemire. The only work of his that I have read before was The Nobody from Vertigo but he is one of DC/Vertigo’s hot talents having his own on-going series, Sweet Tooth, and writing several series in DC’s new 52 including Animal Man, Justice League Dark and Superboy.

The story in this book follows Jack Joseph, a 33 year old underwater welder at an off-shore oil rig in Nova Scotia. He and his wife are preparing for the imminent arrival of their first baby but Jack seems distracted and is more focused on work than preparations for the new arrival. It is also Halloween, the anniversary of the death of Jack’s father in mysterious circumstances. Jack’s memories of his father and the night he died start to take over his life as his own doubts about his fitness as a father begin to surface. While Jack loves his father he fears turning into man who broke up his family and ultimately wasted his life. But an incident at work is the trigger for a self-examination in which the buried truth is revealed and Jack must decide how he will live his life in the future.

Given the nature of the publisher, they also published his acclaimed Essex County collection, this is a return to Lemire’s indie roots and is a very different kind of book to his work on the new 52. This book is a  kitchen sink drama with a bit of a supernatural/hallucinational interlude. The imagery of the book works well with the point of view changing seamlessly between the past and the present through Jack’s self-perceived transformation into his father. This is a chunky 220 page book that can easily be read and enjoyed in a single sitting but certainly worth spending more time with.

Justice Inc. #1-4 (1975)

 

Quote:
My weapons … the gun i call Mike and the knife Ike! Once again, They are my only friends … my only allies … and my hope!

 

Just as The Shadow series was about to draw to a close, DC released this short-lived series featuring another 1930s pulp character, the Avenger, with most of the original stories written by Paul Ernst writing as Kenneth Robeson. Like The Shadow series, Denny O’Neil handled the writing duties and had a crossover story in The Shadow #11. The art in the first issue was by Al McWilliams but what makes the series stand out is the art on the remainder of the series by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer. Jack Kirby is of course the comics legend who helped create characters such as Captain America and other Marvel staples such as the Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Hulk as well as the Fourth World mythos for DC.

The first issue features the origin of the Avenger. Richard Benson is an adventurer and explorer who boards a plane to Montreal with his wife and daughter. On returning from the bathroom, he finds his wife and daughter missing along with another passenger. Everyone else on the plane insists that they were never on it and in an ensuing fight Benson is knocked out cold. He awakes three weeks later in hospital to find that his skin and hair have turned white and that he can mold his face so as to mimic others. Benson then sets off to investigate what happened to his wife and daughter and avenge them.

All the stories can standalone but, as he picks up new members for his Justice Inc. crime fighting operation along the way with each issue, should be read in order if possible. The first story is about a hostile company takeover but the remaining stories all feature some technological or scientific discovery as the focus of the story.

The series features more pulpy goodness from O’Neil and fabulous art from Kirby. The technology based stories and face changing antics of the Avenger puts me in mind of the Mission Impossible TV series and it would be interesting to find out if O’Neil was influenced by this or if it was a feature of the original pulps. Worth a look for fans of Jack Kirby if you can find it.

The Shadow #1-12 (1973-1975)

 

Quote:
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

 

I have been wanting to re-read Andrew Helfer’s run on The Shadow from the 80s for a while now. But when I went into the loft to dig them out I got sidetracked by DC’s first comic series with the character. The majority of issues (10) were written by Denny O’Neil with the other two written by Michael Uslan. O’Neil has worked on a vast number of titles for DC and Marvel and includes the Hard Traveling Heroes Green Lantern/Green Arrow story, a run on Batman and a revivial of the Question in the 80s. Uslan is better known as a film and TV producer and has been a producer on a number of the modern DC film adaptations including all the Batman movies. The art duties were handled by Michael Kaluta (5 issues), Frank Robbins (4 issues) and ER Cruz (3 issues). Kaluta’s work I know from Starstruck and a recent run on Madame Xanadu but the other two artists are new to me – in fact ER Cruz seems to be a bit of a man of mystery himself.

Each issue is a standalone story with no overall arc so each can be read on their own. The stories are true to the pulp origins of the character and set in the 30s (when the radio serial and books first appeared). The Shadow is a vigilante dispensing, often fatal, justice to organised crime gangs. He has unexplained mystical powers to hypnotize and evade adversaries and slip into the shadows. He has a number of alter egos including a rich socialite and in some ways can be seen as a precursor to Batman. He also has a team of associates that he uses to gather information and help him in his pursuit of criminals.

In general the stories were good examples of the pulp style. However, at 18 or 20 pages long, they were a bit too short for me – a lot of the story development and detection work was skipped to fit in the action within the page limit. The art was generally fine. This early example of Kaluta’s art was a bit cruder than his later Mucha influenced style but fit in well with the overall mood of the pulps. The Robbins art had more of a cartoony style but was still enjoyable to view. I probably liked the art by ER Cruz best as it was a bit cleaner than Kaluta’s and a bit more realistic than Robbins’. If you are a fan of pulp writing, the Shadow or Denny O’Neil then it is probably worth your while tracking this series down.