While we all love Hellboy, Lobster Johnson, and the various other characters that Mike Mignola has brought to life over the past few decades, there’s always something exciting about Mignola dipping his toe into new waters. Inspired by some of his quarantine-era sketches, Mignola has teamed up with Greg Hinkle (“Airboy,” “Black Cloud”) and regular collaborators Dave Stewart and Clem Robins to bring this new character to life. Keep reading for our spoiler-free review.
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Greg Hinkle
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins
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.
Based on Mignola’s viral pencil sketches, Radio Spaceman is a steampunk space adventure full of mystery, monsters, and awesome gadgets. Featuring the amazing art of Greg Hinkle (The Beauty, Black Cloud) and colors by longtime Mignolaverse collaborator Dave Stewart, this new series is perfect for Mignola fans old and new!
Ever since Hinkle pulled out an iPad in a midtown bar during New York Comic Con to show me some pages from “Airboy,” I’ve been waiting for him to work on a project where we could see him display his full range of skill. “Radio Spaceman” is the first time that it seems like Hinkle is being pushed and challenged, and he rises to the challenge. It can be hard for artists working with Mignola to not simply revert into Mignola aping, and while Hinkle’s work certainly shows an influence from his writer’s aesthetics, Hinkle makes this comic all his own.
And by ‘pushed and challenged,’ I wasn’t kidding. Hinkle has to draw such a wide variety of characters here, from aging humans to dog soldiers, sci-fi contraptions, kaiju, vampires and, of course, the Radio Spaceman himself. Hinkle’s work suggets that everything we see, though technologically impressive, is somewhat ramshackle. All of the equipment looks second hand and refurbished for its current purpose. Because of how Mignola writes, we will likely not get too much more information about how all of this came to be, and so all of that information falls to Hinkle to deliver visually.
Speaking of Mignola’s writing, it is a little strange that this is a character he felt comfortable sharing with another artist, as this ticks so many of the classic Mignola boxes. It almost seems like he took all of his favorite things and mixed them together for this book. There’s a bit of “Howling Commandos,” some Dracula, some John Carter of Mars, some ritual sacrifice, some Lost in Space. It is a veritable hodgepodge of 50s-70s sci-fi and horror, spun together into something really fun and interesting.
While Hinkle is clearly adding his own touches – his work has likely more of a 90s Image influence than anyone else who has penciled a Mignola script – the addition of Stewart’s colors and Robins’s letters help ground the book in Mignola’s wheelhouse. I’ve made this comment before, but those two, specifically when Stewart colors Robins’s sound effect onomatopoeia, just bring everything into a very specific place.
In an effort to keep this first issue’s review spoiler-free, there isn’t too much to be said about the plot beyond what the solicit tells us. Most of the issue is spent with the Spaceman himself, but the opening sequence, as well as a few pages throughout, focus on the scientist who seemingly created much of what we see here. One of Mignola’s strengths is a total disregard for exposition, and so it is wonderful that we will likely never know too much about the events that led to the Radio Spaceman’s creation. The downside of that is that we will also be, likely, left in the dark about the other bizarre creatures we encounter here. It can’t be had both ways, and so I would take more action and zany creations than explaining half as many concepts in detail.Continued below
The closest Mignola work this evokes for me is “Sledgehammer ’44,” with a little bit of Johann Kraus thrown in for good measure. Mignola likes playing with the idea of suits/armor that contain people that blur the line of humanity. I hope that we get more time with the Spaceman himself and are able to learn what, if any, autonomy exists for him, or if he is totally at the mercy of his controller.
Ultimately, this first issue throws a ton – perhaps a bit too much, actually – at the wall, and gives us a chance to glance into some truly interesting and fun corners. The book looks fantastic, with Hinkle’s art as dynamic and freewheeling as anything we’ve seen from him yet. Let’s hope that future issues don’t skimp on the fun of which this is stuffed.
Final Verdict: 8.2 – A solid, expansive and, most importantly, fun new Mignola book.