As you might presume when you see the title, and that one of the co-creators is Darick (The Boys) Robertson, the glorious Space Bastards is an anarchic, foul mouthed and violent book set in the world of intergalactic package delivery. But can the second volume, now funding on Kickstarter, continue to deliver?
Writer: Eric Petersen, Joe Aubrey
Artist: Darick Robertson, Colin MacNeil, Clint Langley, Simon Bisley and more
Price: Currently funding on Kickstarter
The world of Space Bastards revolves around the intergalactic postal service – a kind of hyper-space Amazon run by the outrageous Ron Sharpton. However, unlike Jeff Bezos’ corporate empire, the world of intergalactic parcel delivery is a more cut throat affair, which has been turned into a Running Man style dash for glory where intergalactic tough guys and girls compete to deliver the package on time and earn vast riches – but only if they can survive!
Space Bastards is another one of those gloriously outrageous out-of-this-world sci-fi concepts, where it doesn’t really bear thinking about the exact plausibility of what is going on. Instead you should just go along for the ride, and it is one hell of a wild one! From the very start of volume 1 we are introduced to the ultra-violent foul mouthed world of the Space Bastards and their singular pursuit of each delivery. Deliverers compete for supremacy like manical Deliveroo drivers, and as the parcel transfers from driver to driver the price goes up and up.
With outrageous over the top characters like Manicorn (a kind of Hellboy like man unicorn), Resurrection Mary (a seemingly invincible female deliverer) and of course the most over the top of them all, Post Master General Ron Sharpton – a mix between a Native American shaman, that guy who raided the capitol building wearing a buffalo skin and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider – it’s an amazing roster.
The calm at the centre of this storm is new employee David Proton, an ex-accountant who joins for the cash and we see him head out on his first day for a ride a long with ‘Manny’ in volume 1 before doing a bit of industrial espionage in volume 2. Proton is very reminiscent of Hughie in The Boys, as he is the ‘normal guy’ in an abnormal world and gives the story a grounded centre for the chaos to reign around. However with these collected volumes featuring a mix of stories about all the various characters, this calm centre is relatively small and instead we are just treated to a whirlwind of violence and mayhem thanks to the supporting characters who are all fleshed out brilliantly with their own stories.
Writers Eric Petersen and Joe Aubrey bring the world of Space Bastards to life in a gloriously outrageous style. It has the anarchic spirit of a Pat Mills 2000 AD story (or Marshall Law), but with the violence and satire of a Garth Ennis’ book. The involvement of Robertson earns the book immediate comparisons to The Boys and there is definitely a tonal similarity, but thanks to the intergalactic concept it feels more like Petersen and Aubrey are coming from the same source as Ennis, rather than attempting to follow in his footsteps. It certainly has a very classic British adult comics sensibility to it, (from Nemesis to Rok of the Reds) and so if you love those style of books then you will love this.
All this chaos is brought to life by a who’s who of comic artists. With Robertson doing the main bulk of the work, via the main story ‘Tooth and Mail’ his work has not eased off since The Boys, and is better than ever. The character designs manage to mix established tropes and concepts with new and outrageous twists, and you are constantly questioning whether that is an intentional satire or just a two fingers up to an established idea of concept. It also helps to give the book a really dark vein of humour, mixed with an almost slapstick level of violence running throughout. All this stops the book from being too bleak, as long as you don’t mind getting a laugh from indiscriminate carnage.
Robertson is joined for support stories in these collected volumes by Simon Bisley (Slaine), Clint Langley (2000 AD) and Colin MacNeil (2000AD) to name just a few. And those names should give you a sense of the tone of these books as well as the quality on offer. The mix of styles brings a real variety to the series and helps to expand each character and world brilliantly – as well as showcasing what strong characters they are in the first place, as each artist interprets them slightly differently. Bisley’s outrageous style in volume 1 feels like it has been lifted straight from a classic Lobo book (and no-one does that angular anarchy better than Bisley). While Langley’s digitally rendered style works as a really smart contrast to the more ‘comic’ style of Robertson and MacNeil – but without ever diminishing the other’s work.
As with any ‘mature’ book, this is not appropriate for everyone and there is a lot of over the top action and violence on every page, so it’s not for the faint hearted. While this can be a refreshing change to some of the more sanitised mainstream books, it is also a fine line before it becomes too much (again, we keep harking back to The Boys, but that is one book which really lost it’s way by being shocking at the expense of all else over time). Based on these first two volumes though, Petersen, Aubrey and Robertson have yet to hit that line and have created an over the top, outrageous, one of a kind book, with plenty of ideas and character left in reserve to help get their story delivered on time!