February 28, 2022

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Advance Review: Radio Spaceman is Rapid Fire Pulpy Goodness from Mignola and Company

 
Radio Spaceman #1
Written by Mike Mignola
Line Art by Greg Hinkle
Color Art by Dave Stewart
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by Dark Horse Comics

When an outpost in space needs a hero to help it, they turn to the only person who can save the day--an old man who pilots a suit that looks like a Scooby Doo villain and bashes things with hammers in this absolute delight of a comic that was everything I'd hoped it would be when I first saw the previews.

A few mild spoilers after the jump, just to warn you.
It's really difficult to summarize just what a joy this comic is to behold. Anyone who's a long-time fan of Mignola knows how innovative his ideas can be. He's crafted an entire Universe that's one of the best out there. Dozens of amazing creators have helped Mike flesh out that world, with new books coming out almost every month. But working within a universe has its limits, even if you're the one setting them. Sometimes it's just fun to get away from all the continuity you've conceived and just let loose.

And boy oh boy does Mignola let loose, pushing Hinkle's art to its limits from start to finish, and his collaborator is more than up for the task. In fact, in a story where we just casually have giant monsters battling it out as background noise while the spaceman infiltrates a secret lair, the most remarkable part might be just how well Hinkle adapts his style to match Mignola's. When I first read the opening pages, I had to go back and double-check that Mike hadn't opted to do some of the art himself. 

It's not just the linework, it's the positioning of items in the hero's study, the framing of the panels, and even the ways in which Hinkle show off the scale of the lair later in the story. Which, by the way, is guarded by giant, sword-wielding toads--another little detail that's just an aside we'll apparently get back to later. Only the lack of Mignola's signature use of blacks, which would likely have been out of place here, is missing from the art style. The creature designs, too, are amazing. I know Mike designed the suit, but I'm not sure who had a hand in the various monsters we encounter over the course of the first issue. Whether it was Mignola, Hinkle, or a combination, they're amazing designs and any one of them could carry a book all the way through. Because this moves so quickly, however, they're all just pieces of a balls to the wall pace that never takes a moment to stop and reflect on just how cool it all is--that's the reader's job here, and one I enjoyed immensely.


This is pure, pulpy fun that goes past anything I've ever seen from Mike before. It has the same feel as Hellboy, but with the safety turned off. Mignola and Hinkle are pulling out just about every pulp clichĂ© you can think of and throwing them at the reader so fast you can barely keep up, and it's awesome! From one page to the next you get overly complicated sci-fi contraptions, talking animal mercenaries, a B-movie cult (complete with over the top tropes everywhere), the toad men I mentioned earlier, and the final page reveal of the (redacted) that sets up the second half of this story. There's more going on in Radio Spaceman in one issue than in entire three-year stretches of other comics, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
In other artistic hands, this rapid shifting from one idea to the next might have been problematic, leading to jumbled storytelling and difficult visual paths. Not so with Hinkle. His lines clearly show off the fairly linear path of the hero's journey through this world, from his calm answer to a distress message to ensuring the cult leader knows his schemes are doomed. We see the spaceman interact with the varied world Mignola had Hinkle populate, sometimes in the background of a larger concept, but those nifty additions that make this comic so much fun to read never become a distraction. We know where the danger is at all times, thanks to the quality of Hinkle's layouts and Stewart's broad, bold coloring. This isn't a story set in the shadows--we're very much in the light of Truth and Justice.

Radio Spaceman is one man's love letter to all the things that he and I grew up with and adored in both books, movies, and old radio plays. Mignola's creating a cult classic of his own with Hinkle, Stewart, and Robins' help. My only regret here is that it's only two issues long. I really hope we get more mini-series in this world, too, just like we do in Hellboy. 

Radio Spaceman #1 is out on Wednesday, March 2nd from Dark Horse Comics.