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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rocco Vargas. Daniel Torres (Writer and Art). Dark Horse Comics (1997)

Glorious,sweeping,interplanetary romantic science fiction. This volume contains the first four Rocco Vargas stories by Daniel Torres. In the first story, "Triton" club owner and science fiction writer, Armando Mistral finds himself being drawn into a grand adventure. Earth is in the grip of a drought and Dr. Covalsky has developed a plan to haul an iceberg from Triton, one of the moons of Neptune, to Earth. Dr. Covalsky requests Armando Mistral's or as he calls him, Rocco Vargas' help with the plan,Rocco refuses. Later the doctor is murdered and Rocco is drawn into a desperate attempt to carry out the plan. In the second story "The Mystery of the Whisper" and the third story "Saxxon" Rocco Vargas is pulled into a savage war being fought on Saturn's sixth moon between the natives and an invading army from Venus. Rocco encounters people from his past as well as spies, mercenaries and danger. In the final story "The Distant Star", the story of how Rocco Vargas became Armando Mistral is revealed.
The most instantly striking aspect to this volume is the extraordinary development of the artwork across the four stories, it goes from being rather chunky and angular in the first story to being much softer and more detailed in the final one. The transitions are not jarring as the art is consistent within each story, the volume overall has the nice sense of an artist finding his own style and developing his artistic voice. The art is never less than attractive, while I prefer the final style, the previous stories have strength and dynamism.
The stories bring together the wide-eyed space adventures of Golden Age romantic science fiction and film noir clothes styles and plot flourishes and makes a coherent whole from them. Space is full of adventure, waiting to be explored, there are multiple political factions and wars going on creating the opportunities for tough adventurers to benefit from the. Beautiful spies and unexpected enemies, long lost friends and a square-jawed hero. The clothes are are joyous mix of the 1930's, 1950's and futuristic, the architecture and vehicles are an equally eclectic and harmonious mix. This is the most striking aspect to the stories, the way that Daniel Torres has found to tell these deeply old fashioned stories in a modern way without compromising them. He has created a vision of an unironic nostalgic future which is true to itself. It is not a parody or a pastiche, it has an essential core of self-belief that allows the reader to simply enjoy them for what they are. Dashing interplanetary adventure has never been so much fun.

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