Friday, March 16, 2012

COMICS IN THE CAMPER: Cimmerians, Apes, Defenders and Saga

The Defenders #4. Looks like the Dodson’s are taking a break this week with Michael Lark taking over pencils and Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Thies on inking. I have to say I didn’t mind. I found there was some nice emotion conveyed and it was pleasing to the eye. The story continues on with the Defenders discovery of a machine that can warp time and space itself and in this issue Dr. Strange, while struggling to learn about the machine, discovers that it has the ability to grant wishes. 

 We also see the return of Molly, Dr. Strange’s one night stand from issue one. Molly has the unenviable and embarrassing task of having to do a reverse “walk of shame” to borrow a book from Strange that she needs for her thesis. The moments with Molly are charmingly awkward and I hope this character returns. It’s through Molly that Strange encounters a jealous young upstart magician who tries to blackmail Strange with one hour of unlimited access to the wonders in his house. This was an entertaining fill in issue as we get a little more insight into Strange and how he struggles with his loneliness.

Conan The Barbarian #2 continues on where last issue left off as Conan tries to defend the merchant vessel “Argus” and her crew from the alabaster skinned pirate queen Belit. Conan and the crew of the Argus are hopelessly outnumbered as the Cimmerian does his best to kill as my of Belit’s crew as he can. Sparks continue to fly between Conan and Belit as each subconsciously tries to avoid actually killing the other.
The composition and artwork in this issue is even better than the last. It’s simply a beautifully drawn comic book. So good that I can’t decide what is better, the art or the writing. When you can just look at the art and tell exactly what’s going on, you know you’re looking at one incredibly talented artist. Cloonan is able to accomplish this with a deftly cinematic style. Another hit.

I’d read so many great reviews on Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples Saga #1 that there seemed relatively little risk in this purchase. I was right. This is one wild ride. From the very beginning we are sucked into this world and the characters that inhabit it. Vaughan and Staples lets us know fairly quickly that in this world, you’re likely to see just about anything happen. It’s got classic “fantasy” elements to it but yet it is still surprising. I don’t usually get into this kind of genre unless it’s in novel form. I’m pretty much a “capes comics” type of guy. So it’s a testament to the genius of Vaughan and Staples that I am fascinated by characters who have televisions for heads suffering from PTS.

Issue one starts off with a sort of “in progress” re-imagining of “Romeo and Juliet”. Representing the Capulets is Alana, a young woman with green hair and wings from a planet called Landfall. The Montague’s are represented by the somewhat ram like “Marko” from a moon called Wreath. Both sides are intent on capturing the young lovers. Staples art is a pleasing hybrid of Simonson and Warlord era Grell. The storytelling is efficient and fast paced. You also get quite a bit of bang for your buck. This first issue is 44 pages of story with no ads for 2.99. I’m going to assume that this is double sized for the first issue only. Hope I’m wrong. Very entertaining first issue.

Last but certainly not least is Exile On The Planet Of The Apes #1. I have found BOOM Studios “Apes” series to be great fun. While the “Planet of the Apes” ongoing series gives a closer examination of the fall of Man and the ink on the Lawgivers ancient scrolls is still wet, “Exile” shows us what Ape society looked like before the arrival of the astronaut “Taylor”. Exile on the Planet of the Apes continues on with the story that started in the four issue mini “Betrayal on the Planet of the Apes”, where Dr. Zaius is trying to prevent a human rebellion led by one of the mute humans who has been taught sign language.

The ape doctor Prisca is catching the heat from the council for teaching the human to sign as well as facilitating his escape. We get a fascinating glimpse into the ape political hierarchy as we watch Zaius interact with his fellow council members. What I absolutely love about this series, “Betrayal” and the Planet of the Ape ongoing series is how seamlessly they add to the continuity of the original film series, give Ape fans various Easter eggs yet maintain it’s own identity as an original story. Writers Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are weaving one heck of a thrilling story here. Mark Lamings art is a great fit for the Apes look.

He really captures the look of ape society, showing us the world of the films yet he goes so much deeper, giving the world, at times, a sort of film noir quality. I also have to mention the lovely coloring by Jordie Bellaire. Bellaire gives us some beautiful blue hues dotted with bits of bright yellows, reds and oranges during the night scenes. We get the more traditional golds and yellows of ape society during the day and then at dusk, some lovely purple tones. Just beautiful stuff.
I’ll have more on all of BOOM studios Planet of the Apes titles and how they relate to and compliment the films mythos as well as the Planet of the Apes comics and black and white magazines of the 70s in the weeks to come.

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