December 22, 2010

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Cold Space

Written by Samuel L. Jackson and Eric Calderon
Illustrated by Jeremy Rock
Boom! Studios

A rather familiar-looking rough and tumble character romps through outer space and a dusty, American West-style planet in this fast moving comic by frequent comic book movie actor Samuel L. Jackson. Follow the adventures of Mulberry, a man on the run who will try to turn almost any situation to his advantage. Can he manage to stay one step ahead of the law while trying to play both sides in a simmering duel against each other? Find out in Cold Space!

There are a lot of comics these days with a famous name attached to them. Usually, it's an adaptation of a prose writer, such as Stephen King or James Patterson. In other cases, a comedian or other famous person will lend their name to an idea that they don't have much to do with afterward. I expected this book to fall into the latter category, but I don't think so.

Within a few pages, it's clear that Jackson's style is contained within the comic. He mentions in the introduction how much he loves comics, and his reason for writing one is just that--he loves comics. I highly doubt he wrote every part of the comic, but I do think his involvement was pretty high, particularly in Mulberry's dialog. For good or for ill, depending on your perspective, this comic does not have the polished feel of an experienced writer. There are tangents, some clunky moments, and lines that just don't flow as well as you'd expect from Calderon, the co-creator.

I may be totally wrong, but for me, part of the fun in reading Cold Space was that lack of polish. There's a feeling here that a long-time comics fan has gotten his dream gig realized, and I just don't see that as being easily faked. Jackson is definitely not going to get mistaken for Kurt Busiek anytime soon, but I love that he wrote the comic he wanted, just like how he put his own stamp on the train wreck that was Snakes on a Plane.

The rough edges of the comic mean that this is one of those books that people are either going to love or hate. If you only want to read comics with a tight, logical plot, this is not the book for you. Jackson and Calderon have opted to add as many ideas as they can, using their favorites from the comics they've read over the years. That means we start off with Mulberry evading space cops, getting blown into a western. The western features despicable men, hot chicks, and people who have strange fetishes, all trying to make the big score to get them a leg up on the competition (or in some cases, just out of dodge).

Mulberry weaves his way in and out like a well-trained dancer, but once we hit the final page, there's definitely a sense of "Hold on a minute. What about...?" going on. That might bother me ordinarily, but I was having so much fun just watching this clash of ideas, genres, and tropes that I didn't care if the story didn't exactly make sense. It was just a lot of fun, as I laughed from one outrageous idea or line of dialog to the next. Cold Space is by no means a great comic, but if you relax and ride the wave, it's certainly a fun one. This is not a comic trying to win an Eisner. It's like a movie that knows it's not the best in the world--if everyone involved is having fun (including the reader/viewer) then that's all the matters.

Cold Space should find a place with those who are big fans of Samuel L. Jackson and those who like seeing ideas thrown together to try something new. Mulberry is not a very likable guy, but he's fun to follow from adventure to adventure. With a little more experience under his belt, I think Jackson could do a pretty good job writing more comics, including additional tales involving Mulberry, who rides gleefully off into the sunset knowing he's an arrogant jerk.

I like really solid, tight comics that work from beginning to end. Those are always my favorites. Cold Space is not that comic. It did, however, make me laugh, and I think it's honesty (if not always its quality) shines through in the pages. That makes it a book that Jackson fans and those who like breezy, quip-filled reads should definitely check out.