With art by 100 Bullets collaborator Eduardo Risso, Azzarello has created a bleak, unsettling landscape where the very rich are well taken care of, and the rest of us are left to survive by any means necessary.
Spaceman follows the story of Orson, one of a group of genetically engineered astronauts meant to explore Mars. However, most of the story takes place in a flooded, ruined city that, like most of the coastal world, has been overwrought by melting glaciers. Long since returned to Earth after the demise of NASA, Orson is left to pirate and scavenge in order to endure.
Soon, however, Orson finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping, one in which an orphan has been stolen from a reality television show’s super-couple, obviously modelled after Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The couple are the stars of a show where orphans must compete to be adopted by the celebrities and live a life of leisure.
Before long, Orson is at odds with the only other surviving member of his astronaut crew, Carter. His brother has taken a darker path in life, consequently, and he too becomes involved with the abduction. If the child is to survive, Orson must overcome hauntings from Mars that still disturb him as well as a very present cadre of killers.
Perhaps it helped the book that I suffered from stomach flu while reading it, but the ruin and demise of the world depicted in its pages truly touched a nerve. Risso’s gritty, detailed artwork is a perfect match for the tale, and he portrays a horrifyingly civilization that may not be that far off.
Quite honestly, I expected Spaceman to take place more in outer space. I was surprised that the majority of the book unfolded on Earth. I was further surprised that, at its core, the story presented a child kidnaping case.
However, the story is far more than just that. I truly believe Azzarello to be an underestimated writer in today’s literary scene. His stories are often violent, alarming, and graphic, but they also touch on themes that apply to our modern life. For example, Azzarello realizes that we are ruining our environment and that repercussions await us all. Those repercussions are evident in Spaceman. He also has noticed that the poor seem to be getting poorer, while the rich get richer. Spaceman delivers a painfully realistic portrayal of what the current trend may yield.
And though it’s a matter of much controversy, I find Azzarello’s commitment to language commendable in Spaceman. Like his rendition of society, he presents a language that is falling apart, shortened, and slowly dying. Azzarello clearly put a great deal of thought into his vision of our ruined language, and the dedication to his vision reminds me of writers such as Anthony Burgess.
Spaceman is a potentially prophetic science fiction work that offers a troubling glimpse of our destiny. Azzarello grants us a violent adventure with the life of a child hanging in the balance, a societal warning, and a craftsmanship to be celebrated.