Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: Spaceman #4

Glossed in Space

  Brian Azzarello grounds Spaceman in language and the slipperiness of speech.  The alien argot Azzarello imagines occurs out loud; and each one of Eduardo Risso’s panels balloon with words, drunk on overlapping dialogue boxes; narrators in no need of narration.  In other words, Spaceman is one wordy ‘mo-foco,’ as the kids say.
  Half the fun of Spaceman is learning to speak the language and getting caught in the sticky web of words that Azzarello weaves into his low-down dirty story of kidnapping, celebrity culture, and genetically engineered workaday spacemen.  This tale, however, is not a mere gloss on glossolalia nor is it interested in inventing language for the sake of invention or, for that matter, for the sake of language.  What Azzarello and Risso create is a dialogue of binaries: public and private, perception and reality, words and pictures, haves and have-nots.  Amidst these opposites exists the spaceman, Orson, a cast-off, caught between worlds, floating through space.
  Spaceman #4 is an interstitial episode, that’s not to say that nothing happens, although not much does: plans are made, investigations go on, and new schemes are schemed.  This is a series that rewards being read backwards as well as forwards; words and phrases easily missed in previous issues the first time through yield treasure on a second or third pass[1].
  For example, the word ‘gold’ appears in two different scenes in this issue, each time the word means something different; ‘gold’ has a different value depending on means and on information.  ‘Gold.  Holee Fuck. Gold,’ says a headset-wearing someone lording over a bank of monitors.  In this instance ‘gold’ is an expression referring to prized moment.  The cameras of ‘The Ark’ (a reality TV show or ‘cast’) catch the parents of the kidnapped girl, Tara, reacting to being told that they are suspects in the police investigation of the crime.  The father, Marc, pleads with his wife, April, saying: ‘that playing Tara’s kidnapping out in public – it’s nobody’s business but ours.’  A private matter played out in public becomes a ‘golden moment’ broadcast in the binary code of ones and zeroes.  In the world of Spaceman, words and information are coin of the realm, but only if one has means.
  The other time the word ‘gold’ is used is when the four spacemen are staring at a pile of it that they have liberated from the Martian surface.  This kind of gold, real gold, is worth less than information, it has no value because as Orson says to his fellow spacemen, ‘We here – so’s it.  Gold be fuckin dust to us.’  What’s the value of ‘gold’ if there’s no profit to be made?[2]  No means means no.  This is only one example of dozens throughout the series (hell, in the course of this issue) when the elusiveness of meaning is made plain.
  Orson is a scavenger, although ‘salvager,’ is probably a better description of our ‘humble narrator;’ a creature of his environment.  It’s no accident that Orson ‘saves’ Tara or that his speech is a stew of infectious idioms.  Orson like language adapts.  As the two head towards their next dead end, Tara tells Orson, ‘I think this is cool’ and then corrects herself, ‘I mean I brain – I brain this is cool …’  In the final analysis Orson and Tara’s survival depends on if they can adapt or is it all talk.  You brain me?    

[1] It irks me to write this, but Spaceman is going to read absolutely fabulously in a collected format.  Which makes one wonder if that was not Azzarello and Risso’s intention all along?
[2] I believe there is another reference to ‘gold’ in issue #1 or #2 (?) as well.  Did I mention this series would work well in a collected edition?

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