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.

Jonny Double (2002)

 

Quote:
“You kids’re talkin’ about robbing a bank!”

“No, we’re talkin’ about goin’ to get a dead guy’s money.”

 

This book collects the four issue mini-series that was the first collaboration between writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso. This was the start of a successful partnership that has since produced 100 Bullets, the current Spaceman and some Batman stories.

Jonny Double is an ex-cop turned private investigator whose latest client has just turned up dead. The down on his luck Jonny is then hired by a mysterious Mr. Hart to find out what crowd his daughter, Faith, is running with and to keep her out of trouble. Everything seems fine until he is persuaded to impersonate the son of Al Brown (AKA Al Capone) to close out his daddy’s inactive bank account. However, the account is not as inactive as the Faith’s crew think and instead of scoring $300,000 they lift $7 million. Jonny’s world goes downhill fast as the kids start turning up dead and Jonny has to protect Faith from a legendary hit man.

This is an excellent book from Azzarello and Risso. A modern day noir crime caper with all the elements one might expect including a dumb PI falling for deadly femme fatale. Some of the parts of the story might be a bit too clichéd but the quality of the writing and art is such that you drawn along into the twisted narrative completely. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing throughout the story and the ending neatly wraps up all the threads from Jonny’s past and present. The only thing that slightly jarred for me was Jonny’s speech patterns which were infused with 60s beatnik/hipster figures of speech. But otherwise this fabulous book should appeal to fans of 100 Bullets if they haven’t read it already.

Vertigo Resurrected (December 2010)

 

Quote:
You’re all looking for something to blame when you should be looking out the window.

 

This comic is an collection of short stories from various Vertigo titles including Strange Adventures, Weird War Tales and Flinch. However, the reason I picked it up is that it features a previously unpublished Hellblazer story from the Warren Ellis run on the character.

The story, Shoot was written round about the time of the Columbine High School tragedy and was felt, probably rightly that it was too sensitive a story to print at that time. However, it is an excellent story featuring Constantine at the fringes of a series of pupil-pupil shootings across America. The story has John railing against the congressional advisor as the demons the children face are ones created by society rather than the Hellish forces that he is comfortable with.

This is story is the kind of horror that really scares me. Never mind scientists shooting corpses for some perverse pleasure or people sodomising the decayed carcasses of dogs (both of which were featured in the last comic I read), what scares me is the horror that could be all too real. So while I love the supernatural horror genre the ones that truly get to me are films like slasher movies where there is no supernatural element only the cruelty of fellow humans. [EDIT: I found a blog entry from Warren Ellis on the release of this story today (23/4/12). He certainly succeeded in his intention with me.]

The other stories feature a heavyweight roster of writers and artists from Vertigo past and present. They include Brian Bolland, Brian Azzarello, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, Eduardo Risso and Bill Willingham. These stories are of variable interest as they are playing second fiddle to the Constantine one but are mostly entertaining. One of the best features art by Bernie Wrightson in a classic horror tale. It has been a while since I have read any stories featuring Wrightson art and has made me move Roots of the Swamp Thing up in my to-read pile. Bill Willingham’s story, which he wrote and drew, is a good one featuring a nice flip on the trope of the enraged villagers of classic horror movies.

Startling Stories: Banner (2001)

 

Quote:
“Your brain for God’s sake! It’s what makes you who you are.”

“It’s what makes me something I don’t want to be.”

 

This book collects the four issue mini-series of the same name by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Richard Corben. I know Azzarello’s work from various Vertigo series such as the great 100 Bullets, the not quite so great western series Loveless and a run on Hellblazer that I did not like terribly much. Corben also illustrated an Hellblazer story line during Azzarello’s run but I am more used to seeing his work in Heavy Metal magazine though he does have a serialised story running in the latest incarnation of Dark Horse Presents.

Doctor Samson is trying to capture Bruce Banner as the Hulk goes on an uncontrolled rampage devastating several small towns. Meanwhile, Banner is struggling to come to terms with his actions as the Hulk, both in the past and the present, as he tries to help in the aftermath of his most recent episode. And all the while General Ross is waiting for Samson to complete his mission so that he can take drastic steps to control the menace.

This is one of a number of tales labelled as Startling Stories. I am not sure of where they lie in Marvel’s continuity with at least one source claiming that they are set on an alternative Earth. In any case, this is a dark little tale from Azzarello with Banner attempting suicide after one particularly devastating episode that completely destroyed part of a town. Azzarello explores Banner’s feelings of guilt and remorse to a level that I have not read before – though I am not the greatest Hulk fan so am ready to be corrected on that. The art from Corben is as good as usual and I like his portrayal of the Hulk. I normally see his work in a fantasy or horror context and I think that this story is enhanced due to his background in those genres, especially in the scenes that feature a reflective Bruce Banner.

Spaceman #1 (December 2011)

 

Quote:
Ain’t no future. My life didn’t come true.

 

From the creative team of Brain Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, who brought us 100 Bullets, comes this new 9 issue sci-fi tale. This series is also published by Vertigo and though they have featured sci-fi stories before they don’t tend to drift too far from fantasy and supernatural tales.

We find the main character, Orson, in two very different circumstances. First he is an astronaut on a Mars base heading out in a storm to fix a problem in one of the greenhouses. In the second, he is living in a post-apocalyptic Earth having been modified for the Mars mission but not going on it. There is no clue as to how these two realities tie up. There are background details that have echoes in each of the realities so one could be the fever dream of the other – in the Mars reality Orson cracks his helmet visor on the way to the greenhouse possibly inhaling something in the atmosphere of Mars and in the Earth one he is taking a recreational drug that could be inducing visions.

Being the first issue not much is given away but it is intriguing enough, and I like 100 Bullets enough, to trust in the storytelling and continue with the series and see where it takes me. I love the art by Risso – he has to be one of my favourite artists just now.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (2005)

Back to the library books and this one is a collection of the 5 issue mini-series of the same name. It is written by Brian Azzarello who I know better from the Vertigo series Loveless, 100 Bullets and his stint on Hellblazer.

I’m not a great fan of Superman but for this series the focus is almost entirely on his nemesis Lex Luthor. The story details Lex’s obsession with Superman and his desire to see him rejected by the planet he calls home. It explores the deviousness of Luther and the lengths that he will go to discredit Superman in the eyes of a fawning public.

It was a well written story that gradually revealed Luthor’s meticulous scheme and the way that he compromises his own humanity in the name of humanity. The portrayal of Superman is fairly grim, as the story is mainly told from Luthor’s perspective, and the art (from Lee Bermejo) matches that mood perfectly. It was good to see the usual sparring of these two icons from the “villian’s” point of view as it made it a more interesting story.