The term “self-insert” is generally not used in a positive manner when it comes to writing. That’s not to say it’s inherently bad; if it’s is done well, like so many other somewhat dubious approaches to writing, it can transcend negative connotation. A talented writer producing a solid narrative can judiciously employ a little self-insertion, but if someone’s looking for an Easy Button to make up for an innate lack of talent, there’s not too many options. Unless, of course, you’re just the right person.
In other words, you’d pretty much have to be Samuel L. Jackson, for whom self-insertion is practically mandatory.
I don’t say this to belittle the man, since I can think of nothing cooler than the Space Adventures of Samuel L. Jackson- the idea alone got me to drop $4 on the book. I know he’s a big comic fan in his own right, and I’m certain he’s probably got plenty of stories he could be telling that wouldn’t need the addition of his now-classic onscreen persona. I can’t fault him or Eric Calderon for going with the obvious strengths, though, in presenting a new book.
For the most part, the choice pays off. Mulberry, the main character, is an unspecified flavor of fugitive from what passes for the law in the year 4012. A warp accident while trying to escape the authorities lands him on an uncharted moon that appears to be a cross between the outer space Wild West of Firefly and the post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque world of Pandora from last year’s excellent Borderlands video game. Mulberry is the kind of bad dude that always seems to have the upper hand and always gets the last laugh, even when things blow up in his face. It doesn’t hurt that it doesn’t take much to imagine his lines as read by his inspiration.
Cold Space #1 is, narratively, a straight journey from point A to point B. Again, though, I can’t fault it for that because it has a good time doing it. What will be interesting to see is where they take it from here. Will it simply continue to be just what it says on the tin, Sam Jackson: Badass In Space? Or will they suck us in on that premise and somehow turn it around on itself? It’s a win-win scenario either way, but I think in this case I’d prefer to be surprised. I’ll probably hang around for the remaining three issues regardless.