The first thing you need to know in your heart of hearts before approaching Space Riders #2 is that you should not do so expecting intricately-threaded, labyrinthian storytelling. For all its strengths - of which there are many, and I will address in a moment - the structural integrity of its narrative is not one. Luckily, it doesn’t need to be. Like in its first issue, the plot behind Space Riders #2 is loosely-affixed; a rough guideline, if you like, to allow punchy moments of zing to trip around its pages like some color-coded acid flashback. It’s a manic bout of delirium set to a heavy metal score and a black-lit backdrop; a sugar-rush dream of Saturday morning cartoons and a shrink-wrapped crash of action figure comics that come free with proof of purchase. And it’s exactly those halcyon days of full neon bleeds and seizure-inducing screen-scapes that Space Riders #2 conjures and captures so well, setting your mind screeching in style, past substance, and leaving a psychedelic Kirby krackle contrail in its wake.
Oh sure, we get some great, but altogether cursory backstories about Capitan Peligro’s crew; i.e., Yara, the robot civil war refugee, and Mono, the born-again former guerrilla baboon, who liked his victims like he liked his shades: ventilated. There’s also a slight dalliance with a sexy alien wizard, run-ins with both an outer space whale god and a gigantic jaeger-taking-a-shit-shaped spaceship, and even an intriguing twist in the past of the good Capitan and his archenemy. But the greatness of these scenes isn’t that they progress some idea of story, but rather, quite simply, that they exist on the page. And sometimes - just sometimes - that’s enough.
I’ve spoken at-length previously in other reviews about how the plotless, “snapshot” kind of approach to comic book storytelling can be problematic, and I still hold that to be true of books that take as their premise a serious linear progression to some end. But Space Riders puts on no such airs; this is the journey, not necessarily the destination, and it focuses on the bat-shit crazy fun you are supposed to have in exploring the impossible preposterousness of the cosmos. It embraces the directionlessness of it all, its complete lack of gravity, in favor of a hyper-speed, no-friction slide. And so far I’m loving getting lost in its space.
In a lot of ways, the outright absurdity that writer Fabian Rangel Jr. takes in Space Riders is akin to a book like Sex Castle; it’s a lighthearted but hardboiled romp that’s meant mostly to see us through piquant moments of infinitely-quotable dialogue. I won’t regurgitate any of those lines here, but just know that I really, really want to... and that I probably will do so in real life for the next foreseeable future, much to the chagrin of my friends and loved ones. I’m not sure how well Rangel would be able to tell a “serious” story, but I’ll tell you this for free: he does one helluva job with compartmentalized lunacy.
Speaking of which, Alexis Ziritt’s art is sheer, beautiful madness. Not unlike Rangel’s batty ideas, it too comes textually transmitted. That is, it’s fucking infectious the way the story acts as this perfunctory medium for an incredible visual delivery. I don’t even care one little iota that it makes little-to-no sense, and only has a semblance of direction; the way his kaleidoscopic artistic charisma is cast through this time-worn veneer of scratches and stains only heightens the inherent nostalgia of Space Riders #2.
Is it always “technically sound” or does it show solid perspective? Nope, almost never - which is why it works so well. It’s busy, bright and brash; the passing fancies and wistful mental meanderings of a young, addled mind given an excited and eccentric flourish. It has similarities with other books on the shelves, but at the same time enjoys its own incredibly endearing voice. Simply put, if I don’t see Ziritt in more books like this, we riot.
Space Riders #2 won’t be for everyone, relegated mostly to those readers with a good sense of humor and childlike whimsy. Its second issue does have a few hiccups in that it jumps around at points with perhaps a bit too disordered an attention deficit, but it remains one of the single best forms of entertainment you could possibly spend money on this week.