"Spaceman: The Deluxe Edition" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vertigo Comics
Originally Published as Spaceman #1-#9 and a short story in Strange Adventures #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Eduardo Risso
2012, 225 Pages
Graphic Novel released on November 7th, 2012
Mankind has been talking about going to Mars for what seems like forever. Earth just isn't good enough anymore. We want to conquer the other planets and Mars is the closest one, so let's start there. Of course, there are plenty of problems with this idea. We can't breathe on the red planet due to the atmosphere. There's no water. It's also really far away, despite being the next closest planet. So what are we to do? Well, in Spaceman, the graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, NASA decides to genetically engineer their own team of astronauts, specifically designed for travel to Mars. Seems like a great idea, but what happens when the mission is over? These people (if you can call them that) are forced to enter the rest of society on Earth and try to make the best of it.
As if this story wasn't enough, Spaceman also features the extremes that reality television could go in the near future. A Hollywood super couple is currently auditioning children. The winner, based on fan votes, will be adopted as the latest member of their family. Think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and you're on the right track. Tara, the favorite to win the competition, is suddenly kidnapped. Now the network, the police, her would-be parents, and everyone in the country is looking for her. She ends up being found by Orson, a spaceman. But what's he supposed to do now?
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Spaceman is a bit of a tragic story. Orson is lost in the world and forgotten by everyone. It isn't until this young girl comes into his life that he finally takes charge of his destiny. He hasn't had a purpose since he came back from Mars. Now his goal is to keep Tara safe.
Throughout the comic, Orson has flashbacks to his time on Mars. He went up there with three other spacemen but didn't come back with all of them. Something happened up there. The timing of these looks to the past is timed well with the story. Author Azzarello reveals the backstory in tidbits, providing new pieces of the characters involved.
Azzarello uses a strange style of dialogue throughout Spaceman. If you've ever read A Clockwork Orange, you'll have an idea what I mean. Society has crumbled to some extent. We can't talk in the same way that we do now. Instead there are abbreviations galore. People literally say "LOL" when they laugh at something. There are some other choices that look like they were made just to be different. For example, no one uses the word "think" anymore. It's been replaced by "brain" as in "I brain this is going to work." This dialogue is a little distracting at first, but I got used to it quickly. I still had to go back and re-read some passages to make sure I fully understood what was being said.
Eduardo Risso teamed up with Azzarello once again for this title. They had previous worked together on 100 Bullets and had some great results there, so I was looking forward to see what they would come up with here. I really dug Risso's design for Orson and the other spacemen. They're like a cross between a man and an ape. They're tall and lean with a furrowed brow and what looks like fur on their arms and legs. It makes them look a little creepy at first, but Risso provides some personality in each of them. You can tell by Orson's eyes that he's a kind soul, although somewhat simple. Meanwhile, rival spaceman Carter is conniving and untrustworthy. These are things you can tell without any explanation.
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The world that Spaceman is set in looks like a failed version of the future. Instead of the bright lights and flying cars, we have shanty towns that might as well be junk yards or a barge filled with trash. People are milling around looking for food or a quick buck. They're living in squalor. Somehow, even with their poor living conditions, they're up to speed on technology. Each of them has a smart phone that they use to tune in to the reality show webcasts. They're glued to these devices. One might argue that this is one of the reasons why society has crumbled around them.
Spaceman has a bit of tragedy in it, but there's also hope. If someone like Orson can survive in a world that's this messed up, then maybe everything isn't circling the drain after all. I'm not saying that he's going to go out and run for President or anything. The dialogue got to be a little tiring at times, but the art more than makes up for it.