The first thing you’ll notice about Radio Spaceman is how confident it is. Writer Mike Mignola, artist Greg Hinkle, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Clem Robins have a fully fleshed-out world they’re inviting us into. Every character has a reputation. Every planet has a history. But instead of painstakingly walking us through their worldbuilding, this creative team dives right into the story. It’s a fantastic and fun approach.
About Radio Spaceman #1 (from Dark Horse Comics):
When a ship crashes and lands on a mysterious planet and some of the surviving crew go missing, the mysterious mechanical hero Radio Spaceman is called to investigate. But the planet hides much more than the missing crew, and Radio Spaceman may be stumbling into more than even he can handle.
In the opening pages, we see an old man get out of bed and answer his phone. We only hear half of the phone call, but we’re led to believe there’s someone very important on the other end of the line. A planet is in danger and they need his help. We’re immediately wondering, “What’s so impressive about this guy that he’s called on to protect planets?” He’s not exactly formidable. But then he shuffles into another room. With a few key words, the room comes to life. He plugs himself into a control console and begins his latest mission. Nuna 4, the planet in question, may be on the brink of destruction. Yet everything about this scene tells us that to our main character, who isn’t even named, this is just another day of the week.
Mignola’s script is brilliantly understated. He speaks more in silences than he does in actual dialogue. In fact, there are a good half dozen pages with no dialogue at all. Many more have no more than a couple word balloons, total. That’s because Mignola knows he’s communicating plenty as it is. He tells us everything we need to know with his character designs and the action of each scene. And in holding back on his script, Mignola gives his main character a casual charm. The man’s not a talker, he’s there to get shit done. Radio Spaceman #1 is all about getting right to the action.
This creative team, other than Hinkle, has worked together plenty of times before. Mignola, Stewart, and Robins have done scores of issues on Baltimore and Hellboy. They’re a team that just gels. And Hinkle fits right in. He might be the newcomer to their group, but it feels like he’s always been there. His characters are so full of personality. The main character, the mind behind the Radio Spaceman, is the very picture of boredom. He’s constantly looking a little upset that he got out of bed for this. The same can be said of a character, near the end of this issue, who is supposed to be in mortal danger. She’s not scared or worried, she knows she’s getting out of this. She’s just impatient for the cavalry to arrive. Hinkle compounds the feeling that these characters have a long history of doing this kind of thing. They’ve faced bigger baddies, more impossible odds, and now every danger is just another reason they’ll be getting back home later than expected.
Stewart, as always, gives every scene a tangible ambiance. You can see the faded glory of our main character’s bedroom in the light browns and the discolored reds. You can almost smell the dust on the grey counters of the dilapidated control room. But then, once we’re seeing the landscape of Numa 4, the pages begin to buzz with a warmth and light. The pinks and purples of the alien flora are subtle but beautiful. The bright green sparks of extraterrestrial guns and the vivid red of blood give the action sequences an extra kick. Stewart will have you fully immersed in the world he’s given color to. You’ll taste, hear, and smell it – not just see it.
Robins seems to be having a ton of fun with this issue. You can see his sound effects in bright pinks, oranges, and reds sprinkled across every page. And while many of his sound effects remain effectively the same, with subtle differences, he has a few that stand out in the crowd. The ringing of the phone at the start of this issue is written in large, white font that has cracks like streaks running through each letter. You can hear the hollowness of the sound compared to the full-bodied noises of machinery and sci-fi weapons. When a group of aliens runs out of their hiding place, the “WUAAAAAAA” noise they make as they charge is placed behind their figures. Their heads and arms get in the way of the yellow letters, making the sound feel like it’s coming from deep within their cave. These, and many other little variations to Robins lettering, bring a ton of life to Radio Spaceman #1.
If you want to sit back and enjoy a sprawling, action-packed alien world, Radio Spaceman is the comic for you. It’s somehow both subtle and bombastic at the same time. This creative team has earned the right to be confident in their storytelling. Radio Spaceman is a wonderful result of that confidence. Pick up Radio Spaceman #1, out from Dark Horse Comics March 2nd, at a comic shop near you!