Bowman, Pat Aulisio’s noisy fan-fic riff on 2001: A Space Odyssey — the Stanley Kubrick movie, the Arthur C. Clarke novel, and the Jack Kirby comic book, though for the most part, the movie — told a very different story of what happened to astronaut David Bowman once he shut down the rogue HAL-9000. Bowman didn’t span time by way of the Stargate and wither away, only to be resurrected as a big space baby. He ended up stuck on a mostly barren planet, chilling out with two hard-partying aliens and a charred Bart Simpson.
The freaky foursome navigated the planet’s grimy terrain on booger-like space worms, kicking off a rambling narrative occasionally interrupted by single-page, ridiculous, yet frequently affecting flashbacks (and one flash-forward) to significant moments in Bowman’s life: Bowman being yelled at by his high school basketball coach (“Hustle god dammit”); Bowman screwing a transvestite on film to pay for his student loans; Bowman gobbling some pot brownies in space. And in the issue-ending bummer of a leap even further into the future: Our hero in the year 2033, a bearded space barbarian, crying, thinking, “God, I miss earth.”
So, here’s what happens in the follow-up, Bowman 2016: Our hero, older and more grizzled, stranded on this strange planet since 2001, trudges around on a wisecracking hybrid of a horse and Garfield the Cat. In the opening scene, made more kinetic thanks to Aulisio’s palsied pen throwing chaotic lines and curvy scribbles around, Bowman lassos an alien, smashes its skull in, and steals its bad-ass shoulder pads. “Check out these sweet shoulder pads…Win!,” Bowman exclaims. Horse-Garfield looks out to the reader, and quips, “What a fashionista!” Bowman then travels to a kingdom, barters with its apparent apparent rulers (“This will not turn out well,” blurts out Horse-Garfield), is imprisoned, breaks out thanks to a blaster he picked up earlier, and lands on top of a giant dragon, who is killed by three massive New Gods-by-way-of-Japanese giant robot movie warriors.
With its attention to Bowman’s acquisition of objects (Horse-Garfield, shoulder pads, a skull he wears like a helmet) and its loose, rambling plot, Bowman 2016 has a warts-and-all approach to science fiction that recalls films like Alien or Silent Running as much as the heady, sophisticated Kubrick classic. The Bowman series’ brilliance comes from the way that Aulisio attacks 2001 like an adoring slavish fan of the originals, and a snarky jokester, who deflates the whole thing with Porky’s-esque dick jokes and gritty, autobio comics emotion.
Like Bowman, Aulisio’s poignant use of flashbacks provide Bowman 2016 with an emotional core (and they add some good, smart-dumb jokes, as well). A leap back to 2009 finds Bowman purchasing the Horse-Garfield, presumably because Bowman, stuck on this useless planet, longs for some kind of connection. As he stares down his new pet’s big dumb cartoon cat face, he mutters “Reminds me of earth.” And the issue-ending flashback to 2013 finds Bowman decapitating a space monster, exclaiming “Heads up!,” and then dejectedly telling his space pals, “I really wish you could understand witty comments like that.” In space, no one can hear you scream. Apparently, no one can hear your killer one-liners, either.