Space Bastards Vol. 1 // Review
Writers Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey have launched the debut volume of their sci-fi space western anthology Space Bastards. Set in a world of progressive galaxy-spanning capitalism, the first volume works as both a fun, mindless action adventure with a simple premise AND a deeply biting socio-political satire. In addition to the main story by Peterson and Aubrey, the first 120-page hardcover volume features additional stories with art by Darick Robertson (The Boys, Transmetropolitan, Happy), Simon Bisley (Lobo, Hellblazer, Heavy Metal, 2000AD) and Gabriel “GABO” Bautista (Elephantment, Albert The Alien)
The premise is simple: couriers for the Intergalactic Postal Service transport packages across the cosmos on a freelance basis. Deliver the package and get paid. Forcibly “transfer” a package from a competing courier and the price for delivery goes up. In addition to having to deal with all the problems of intergalactic travel, couriers have to fend off attacks from other couriers looking to make more money. This is clever socio-political satire on capitalism for the Uber/Amazon/Gig Economy era. It’s a very, very dangerous job as illustrated in a number of different stories in the debut volume available exclusively for donors on Kickstarter.
Peterson and Aubrey flesh-our a complicated intergalactic cyberpunk fantasy world in highly kinetic prose founded around the simple premise. The first story (drawn by Darick Robertson) features a former accountant named Davis S. Proton who is forced to take work as a courier. His first day on the job finds him shadowing a menacingly horned Manicorn who makes surviving the first day a real challenge.
The second story (also drawn by Robertson) establishes the rise to prominence of the International Postal Service with the story of slimy entrepreneur Roy Sharpton. Rather than simply go into a long, boring exposition, Peterson and Aubrey feature a fully-fleshed-out story of the man who made the company what it is. With this entry, Peterson and Aubrey delve into some of the heavier, more seriously complex satire. Thankfully, there’s more than enough personal characterization of Sharpton to keep the narrative from spinning too close to a preachy political statement.
The third feature is a delightfully bent piece of narration that goes in a refreshingly unexpected direction. The tale of an IPS employee known as Chuck “The Magic” Wagon is brought to the page with feverishly surreal art by Simon Bisley. What feels at first like a weird, Naked Lunch-like fugue actually ends up feeding into a really cool allegory about mental health, commerce, and religion.
Gabriel Bautista draws the final comic feature in Volume One: a clever, little multi-narrative feature that flexes some of the infectiously clever potentials of the basic premise. “Failed First Days” shows-off just how dangerous work as a courier for the IPS can be in multiple ghastly, little ways. The dark techno-humor of the old Judge Dredd short is fused with the impish whimsy of a Spy vs. Spy strip in a percussive barrage of gruesome deaths. Bautista has great fun with it that vividly transfers to the panels.
The streamlined simplicity of the Space Bastards premises feeding through “Failed First Days” illustrates some of the rampant commercial potentials of the cleverly subversive concept. There’s universal potential in a world of murderous, larcenous space couriers in a world where human life is as disposable as junk email. The idea could be adapted to film, TV and, yes: highly addictive video games and smartphone apps. The commercial potential of the concept comes across a bit weird considering how very, very indie Volume One feels. Yes: the art is very impressive and the pages are printed on poster-quality paper and the volume feels like kind of a high-end hardcover, but there’s a conspicuous absence of anything like a USB code or ISBN or Library of Congress info. There isn’t even a publisher mentioned in the sparse legal text on the title page. Sent through the mail, Space Bastards Vol. 1 has the feel of the unexpected about it. The physically imposing 120-page 8-1/2” x 13” x 1” hardcover even feels a little dangerous. It’s a very interesting opening to a very ambitious project. The book is available for a pledge of $30 or more via Kickstarter. For more information, check out the website or visit the Space Bastards website.