Like variant covers and fan outrage, delays are by this point standard within the comic book industry. However, I can honestly say that for the release of no other book have I waited with breath so bated. Fabian Rangel Jr. and Alexis Ziritt’s Black Mask odd-yssey, Space Riders, has been one of the year’s breakout hits, which is saying a lot, given the accomplishments the relatively new-on-the-scene publisher have achieved in 2015. And with this, the final issue in the first of what will hopefully be a healthy collection of arcs, it has closed out its introductory story in a goddamn deluge of its patented style. Space Riders #4 sees a great many things happen to our misfit crew of extraterrestrial justice-bringers, from vertigo-inducing interstellar skullship dogfights to an asteroid belt knife duel between a caballero spaceman and a traitorous mustachioed demon machine, all set beneath the looming but still-unseen shadow cast by a trans-dimensional hellbeast of immeasurable power. And as you might expect from that sentence, it’s fucking glorious.
I can’t immediately recall having as much fun with comics as I’ve had with Space Riders, and once again in issue four, Alex Ziritt’s art is a big reason for that mind-blowing act of forgetting. From his unique approach to panelling (be it in the rough hew of his borders, his geometric panel stacks that draw readers into the action, or his gorgeously crackling splashes) to his inherently kinetic and experimental figure work, sequencing and dizzying use of color, Zirrit shows an abandon for classic industry norms, the successful use of which I haven’t seen since the bygone age of comics that has so clearly inspired this book, and literally stains its pages.
Not to be outdone, Rangel’s narrative is just as exploratory and fucking metal, with the same sense of ridiculous fun as Ziritt’s art. Every page of Space Riders #4 drips, not just with the liquid acid test cool of its visuals, but with unbridled space cop machismo. This is, after all, the tale of a lawman’s redemption back into the family business of star treks and broken necks, featuring badassery from literally every conceivable character and direction; and it’s Rangel’s knowing-nod, full-bore treatment of hardboiled shit talking that drives the book’s no-nonsense spirit.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t revel in its own nonsense. I mean, the grandstanding in this issue! Its one-liners! Along with the psychedelia of its art, its foulmouthed ballsiness and incredible visual gags (the fact that Capitan Peligro still wears his bandana on the outside of his spacesuit is my everything), this is exactly the square kick to the pants comics needs, and a firm reminder to us all that sometimes we need to let go and have a little fucking fun once in a while.
Not for the first time, and despite its near four-month delay, I am giving Space Riders a perfect score. Together, Rangel, Ziritt and Black Mask have delivered to us all a true gem of comics, one that I expect...nay, demand to see as the crown jewel on many year-end lists.
Space Riders #4 Writer: Fabian Rangel Jr. Artist: Alexis Ziritt Publisher: Black Mask Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/7/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital