Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths #1 (IDW Publishing)
by John Layman & Alberto Ponticelli
One would think a lone cop’s war against a drug lord with seemingly unending influence and capacity for cruelty wouldn’t have much to do with Godzilla, but writer John (Chew) Layman delivers an odd but effective story that merges two disparate genres — hard-boiled crime and giant monsters — in a way that actually makes sense (or at least creates the illusion that it makes sense). The world in which Layman sets his story is one in which the world is well aware of the existence of Godzilla, Mothra and other monsters that call Monster Island home. I find it interesting that in such a world, life continues on as usual despite the “knowledge” of the existence of such immense, devastating threats. I also appreciated the achronological approach to the plotting, especially since Layman is careful to distinguish clearly between the Monster Island scenes and the flashbacks that explain the Tokyo detective hero’s story. Furthermore, the story development at the very end of the issue shows the protagonist isn’t exactly a paragon of ethical behavior, but is rather depicted as a desperate man willing to go to any lengths not only to survive but to come out on top of an impossible situation.
The art on this new Godzilla comic is by former Unknown Soldier illustrator Alberto Ponticelli, and he does great work capturing the huge scope of Monster Island and its destructive residents. He also boasts a gritty style that’s in keeping with the harsher, Japanese crime-drama elements in the plot. At times, his work reminded me a bit of the style of J. (Secret Six) Calafiore. I was pleased to get a chance to sample his work this week, as I was just thinking of Ponticelli the other day when I noted he’s working on one of DC’s 52 new titles this fall, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.. Judging from what we see here, he’s an excellent choice to illustrate the adventures of yet another classic monster. 7/10
Mystery Men #1 (Marvel Comics)
by David Liss & Patrick Zircher
Putting aside Bob Burden’s apparently legitimate trademark issues, I was intrigued when Marvel announced this title because I love adventure/crime-fighting stories set in the Golden Age. This particular story is set in 1932 New York City, but despite the rich array of classic characters from the 1940s, this appears to employ original concepts for costumed heroes. I thoroughly enjoyed the noir atmosphere and air of mystery, but after reading this comic, I was at a loss to figure out why Marvel published this book. The plot is entertaining, even if the villain is ridiculously over the top and gruesome in nature. While this comic features different characters and a distinct (if derivative) plot, it reads just like another recently published series: The Marvels Project. Mystery Men has a similar feel to early issues of The Twelve as well. Nevertheless, I also appreciate how Liss touches upon race relations in this book.
Speaking of which, I also found the character designs to be interesting, given how they reflect those racial elements. There’s a sharp contrast in the designs of the two heroes. The Operative is a white man dressed all in black, while the Revenant is a black man dressed all in white. It’s not as though we see some kind of Spy Vs. Spy mirror images or anything, but the parallels and contrasts make for a striking visual. Artist Patrick Zircher outdoes himself here. I didn’t even recognize his style. It’s much more moody and mature than the somewhat standard super-hero style we’ve seen from him in the past. Like the writing, though, the visuals remind me a great deal of what we saw in The Marvels Project. On its own, Mystery Men is a solid book, but in the larger context of Marvel’s recent publishing history, it feels a little redundant. 7/10
Space Warped #1 (Boom! Studios/Kaboom! imprint)
by Herve Bourhis & Rudy Spiessert
I think it’s great that Boom! Studios continues to expand its publishing line with such things as foreign reprints and material aimed at younger readers. Space Warped is both of those things as well as something that ought to appeal to a significant portion of geek culture: Star Wars parody. Actually, what the creators do is to take the ideas and characters from the original Star Wars movie and supplant them in a medieval, non-technological setting. As TV shows such as Robot Chicken and Family Guy have demonstrated, there’s definitely an audience for Star Wars parody. My question is this: is it the kids who want the parody, or do they just want more and new adventures? The afore-mentioned animated sendups of Luke, Leia, Han and company are clearly aimed at adults with a nostalgic fondness for the flicks. I found as I made my way through this humor book, I grew tired of the plot and gags because I knew the material already. The story didn’t hold my interest because it’s someone else’s story. I suspect the parody may work better is shorter bursts. A number of gags or goofy interpretations of the Star Wars characters were a bit predictable as well. I’m surprised to see that this was planned as a six-issue limited series. That strikes me as too long for a parody. With that many pages, the creators will end up spending a lot of time retelling a story rather than making fun of it.
Some might describe Spiessert’s cartooning as being crude in nature, but it’s quite effective and cute. Will it appeal to younger readers who might be looking for some of the wonder, detail and energy to be found in the source material? I have my doubts. Perhaps the greatest source of fun to be had from the art is from the expressions on the characters’ faces. They’re quite the opposite from what we see in their original counterparts. I love the perpetually annoyed look on the Kenobi character and the rather stunned, miserable expressions the Luke analogue exhibits. 5/10
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