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 clich├ęd 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.

Wolverine: Logan (2009)

 

Quote:
That broad of yours. She … she once told me you were the only man on this island with … with an ounce of mercy. Whatever happened to that guy?

 

This book collects issues 1-3 of Wolverine: Logan by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Eduardo Risso. I know Vaughan primarily from his excellent work on Y: The Last Man and I have also read a couple of volumes of Ex Machina. Risso is rapidly becoming one of my favourite artists for work on 100 Bullets, Vampire Boy and currently Spaceman.

Wolverine journeys to Japan with his memories newly restored to him. While there he has to confront the ghosts of his past from 1945 as well those that linger in the present. In the 1945 story line, Logan wakes up in a cell with an American named Warren in a Japanese PoW camp. Together they escape but soon part ways over a disagreement over whether or not to kill a civilian woman they come across. Warren returns to kill Logan and the woman and is found to have similar abilities to Logan in that he seemingly cannot be killed. But before Logan can exact vengeance for the death of his lover, the Americans arrive to bomb the nearby city.

This is a great book but with one slight qualm. I am a bit uneasy that the background of this book is the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. While there is nothing particularly distasteful in the story it only seems to added to, firstly, show that Wolverine can survive a nuclear explosion and, secondly, to create a powered opponent for him to smack down in the present at the end of the book. It is this second aspect that is particularly shabby to me as the character, Warren, while not portrayed in the best light in the 1945 sequence is just as much a product of his circumstances and nature as Wolverine himself. Maybe if they had more space to examine Warren and Logan as two sides of the same coin then maybe I would have had accepted it more.

Risso’s art is great again. The book contains some unused pages in black and white that are even better. He is an artist whose style is well suited to balck and white only – you can see (and buy) most of the pages from this book in black and white on his web site – including some that don’t seem to be in the collected volume. Having said that some of the coloured pages are superb – especially in the third chapter. Well worth the admission price.

Vampire Boy (2010)

 

Quote:
Sure, I can’t die but I don’t have a life either.

 

This book collects the four volumes of Vampire Boy into English for the first time. It is one of a number of collaborations between the Argentinean creators – writer Carlos Trillo, who died earlier this year, and artist Eduardo Risso. This is a fairly early work for Risso from the early nineties and features some wonderful black & white art.

The nameless vampire boy of the book’s title is one of two survivors of a mysterious disease that swept through a company of travellers in ancient Egypt that left his father, the pharaoh Khufu, and the remainder of his party dead in the desert. The other survivor is a priestess named Ahmasi, a favourite consort of Khufu until the boy points out her indiscretions with others in the court. So starts a cycle of hatred and violence between the pair that endures throughout the centuries. Though they try neither can kill the other by conventional means as the sun restores them to health and vitality. The story opens with the boy being revived when a construction site opens a shaft of light to his hidden body. Ahmasi soon discovers that the boy is back in circulation and begins a blood soaked quest to track him down and kill him once and for all.

The book comes in at nearly 500 pages and while that gives us lots of lovely Risso art work to look at, it does mean that the story does drag slightly at times. But mostly it is great as we come to sympathise with the nameless boy and his heartbreaking existence. Unusually for a vampire tale, the sun, as previously mentioned, regenerates the vampires and while they can feed on blood the boy tends not to and can survive on normal food – but has to eat an awful lot of it. The book has a wide ranging canvas taking us from modern New York to New Orleans and London as well as flashbacks throughout history as the nature of the relationship between the boy and Ahmasi is explored. The boy comes across as a tired gentle soul who makes friends easily but not usually for long as Ahmasi will stop at nothing to reach him.

As I said previously, Risso’s art is great and the use of shade and silhouette reminds me of the work of Frank Miller on Sin City round about the same time. There is a noirish element to the story too as Ahmasi works as a prostitute, is followed around by a lovestruck detective who she uses to track down the boy and generally seems to attract the seedier side of life. A welcome change of pace from the costumed antics of the American superheroes.

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.