Without reading “Spaceman” #1 or knowing what it’s about, there are two facts about it that make it a ‘must buy’ this week: First, it’s only a dollar. Vertigo making series easy to try out for a dollar from time to time is a pretty great thing and passing it up is something you shouldn’t do. Second, it’s by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, the men behind “100 Bullets,” various Batman stories, and a few other excellent comics. This is their first foray into creator-owned comics since “100 Bullets” finished its epic 100-issue run. Passing this up would be like passing up a new creator-owned series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon or Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. It just isn’t done. Combine those two things and “Spaceman” #1 is obviously a ‘must buy.’ Also, it’s pretty great.
“Spaceman” is a story of the future. If you’re familiar with Azzarello’s writing and Risso’s art, you’ll know immediately that this is not a bright and shiny utopia future. It’s dirty and nasty, pretty much the worst of the present. Orson is a man genetically engineered to function in space, except there isn’t a space program anymore and he’s not exactly fit for life on Earth. Superficially dim-witted and looking like the missing link, he salvages and buys drugs off kids. Much of this issue is an introduction -- a feeling out process -- for this future and exactly what it’s like, with the plot taking a backseat to a degree.
Azzarello’s playfulness with language is taken to a whole new level here, as he provides a variation on English. It’s one that evolves from some of the linguistic shortcuts that already exist. It’s not so much that he’s created a radically new language like in “A Clockwork Orange” or even as far as the Newspeak in “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The language here is more adapted from existing phrases and ways of speaking. It’s dumbed down with slang and shortcuts.
Much of the issue takes place in the dark and dirty places that Risso often draws, but he’s perfectly at home in the more ‘science fiction’ elements of this issue. A double-page spread showing the harbor with its mixture of architecture (stylistically, culturally, and temporally), its various stages of disrepair, and the hints of beauty in its despair is stunning. He manages to create a sense of this future world being both cluttered with remnants of the past and, yet, spacious. Orson’s dreams of his space life don’t like so attractive and compelling: a harsh landscape that could kill you at any moment with equipment that’s constantly breaking. Yet, he also looks happy and at peace there. You can see that it was what he was bred to do; he doesn’t look the same on Earth.
“Spaceman” is a nine-issue mini-series that Azzarello and Risso plan to come back to in between other projects and, already, the possibilities seem endless. Orson isn’t your typical sci-fi hero with his childish intelligence, monstrous appearance, and utter lack of purpose. With the first issue priced at only a dollar, how can you not give it a shot?