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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ricardo Delgado's "Hieroglyph"

Digging through the piles of crap that I need to sort in my study I came across a four part sci-fi comic series that I had almost forgotten about.

I like comics.

As a child I used to read comic books a lot but the older I got the less I read and the less I collected them.  Super heroes don't do anything for me, never really did so while I enjoy the occasional "Batman", "Spiderman", "Iron Man" and "Avengers" movie you won't find any of those comics in my meager collection.  No, I grew up reading stuff like "The Losers", "Sgt. Rock", "The Unknown Soldier", "Weird War Tales", "Tales of the Haunted Tank", etc.  Later, in my late teens and early twenties my taste in comics both waned and got pretty picky to the point that I might get a few comics a year and those comics would have to be pretty frigging outstanding.  They were almost invariably science fiction ...  This curve of decline of interest in collecting comics / required quality of comic to be collected only grew as I got older.

Flash forward to 2000.

I'm in a comic / hobby shop and I see the first issue of Ricardo Delgado's "Hieroglyph".  I can't say that the cover is the greatest in the world but being a fan of all things weird and Cthulhu-ian I was intrigued so I picked it off the rack and gave it a readsy.  I was impressed with Delgado's artwork.  The story followed an astronaut from Earth on some vague mission to explore the universe.  He's separated from his family by time and space.  He has a giant "mothership" in orbit and he takes a shuttle down to the latest planet he's supposed to investigate / catalog.  

The shuttle is the size of a B2 stealth bomber (and looks amazingly like a B2 stealth bomber).  Landing on the planet he muses that he's going to be bored, he'll get this planet cataloged quick and then be on his way to yet another boring world in a long line of boring worlds until his mission is up and he can get back to his wife and two kids.  Shortly after that, everything changes and the astronaut discovers that not only is the planet not dead but that it has untold amounts of different lifeforms in types that defy the imagination.  The astronaut also quickly becomes part of a holy war fought over a pentagon shaped talisman with unknown powers but powers that every faction on the planet is willing to go to extremes to possess.

The premise is simple and a bit loose but the artwork is delightful.  Taken from Delgado's fascination with the wonders of ancient Egypt, the art of "Hieroglyph" focuses on the grand and the immense.  Going into space, let alone flight to other stars is not a small feat of technology yet despite all the amazing advances of science and engineering that Delgado has given to the Astronaut ... all of that seems dwarfed, literally, by the immensity of the ruins that the Astronaut continually comes across.  Ancient alien temples, burial chambers of long dead alien rulers, weird alien hieroglyphs, fossilized bones stuck in strata of rocks ... it blows not only the Astronaut's mind but the reader's mind as well.

While the artwork is not as tight or sharp edged as Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow's "Hardboiled" but similar in nature in that the visuals tell the story and the text is really only there to join certain ideas together and sometimes to speed things along when the visuals bog.  It's not the "Blade Runner" meets "Where's Waldo" of "Hardboiled", more like an epic tour of an amazing alien panorama where the details are not tiny but rather vast and sweeping visuals.

Trust me, it works and Delgado's artwork would have been right at home in the late 1970's sharing pages of "Heavy Metal" magazine with the likes of Moebius, Moreno and even Corben.

"Hieroglyph" has plenty of artwork and eye candy.  It lacks a whiney protagonist which endears it to me because I myself am a strong individual who deplores whiney or useless people.  I find it hard to believe that someone can go through something as hard as astronaut training only to wind up some blubbering, inwards collapsing wimp at the first sign of trouble.  Such is not the hero astronaut of Delgado's "Hieroglyph".  No, the astronaut faces his fate / destiny with little or no whining, not the usual liberal limp wristed, hand wringing, soul searching, self-defeating, self-loathing pseudo heroes that the insipid pop culture of our once great society has forced upon us lately.  Even for a nearly 15 year old comic series, it's refreshing to see the main character show some stoic traits, accept his fate and deal with it.

If any story cries out to be released as a complete trade paperback it is "Hieroglyph."  I have read where finding this series is kind of difficult.  I can't tell you because I collected it month by month when it was first published.  

Delgado has a blog if you wish to know more about him.  Find it here.

Final verdict?  If you're picky like me about comics and you like great art and lost astronauts then "Hieroglyph" is probably worth checking out and collecting.  Perhaps Delgado will do a sequel but with a decade and a half so far those hopes grow dimmer and dimmer.