Since I’m getting comics by mail again (don’t ask), there isn’t much to review or read on Wednesdays; books come the Monday after. But, as Jesse mentioned earlier in the week, we were both quite excited about the inaugural releases from Chris Roberson’s MonkeyBrain Comics. The drawback is that I’m not a fan of digital comics as a concept. Until display screens are large enough, portable enough, and cheap enough, I see no advantages and too many hindrances.
Except that digital is the only way MonkeyBrain Comics titles will be released for the foreseeable future. This was one of those rare instances where curiosity won out over curmudgeonly tendencies. This also gave me a chance to see what the new and “improved” Comixology did. I’ve had an account on their website since they were a forum for collectors. Their virtual pull list is a favorite tool of mine for collection, but I haven’t interacted much with it since they became a marketplace for digital comics. But this isn’t a review of Comixology or digital comics in general.
From the press releases, three of the five inaugural titles immediately grabbed my attention: Aesop’s Ark, Bandette, and Edison Rex. The three were $.99 cents each. Even at a reduced page count, these comics had a better page to penny ratio than their print cousins. So that’s a good way to start a relationship
At first glance, Edison Rex, by Chris Roberson and company, is easily dismissed as yet another Superman/Luthor dynamic. Granted it’s a well written bit of character and conversation, but it seems like something we’ve seen before. By the end of the issue, Roberson has deftly defied expectations, and he pushes the story in a whole other direction. So kudos for surprising me in that respect. Of the three that I bought, this one is the most straight-forward: being firmly set in the world of capes and cowls. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to seeing more of this fish-out-of-water story.
Bandette, by the husband and wife team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, is easily my favorite of the three. I’m a fan of both of the creators so I was going to follow this one no matter what. In the span of thirteen pages we are introduced to the fast-paced world of the mercuric Bandette, reluctant cat burglar Monsieur, and haggard Police Inspector Belgique. As usual, Tobin nicely and cleverly balances the need to introduce characters with the need to tell a good story. I suspect this is a skill that was especially handy in his days working on the titles of the Marvel Adventures line. The press release for the title compares it to Tintin which is a fair comparison, but it borders on oversimplification and a possible injustice.
Staying with the Tintin comparison, until now it never occurred to me that one of the reasons I love Colleen Coover’s art style is that it is in the same league as both Herge’ and Darwin Cooke. Each prefers the unadorned line or curve to the hyperdetailed anatomy of most artists. All three place an emphasis on facial features and reactions. With Bandette, Coover’s art and layout keeps pace with Tobin’s runaway story. The fluidity of the story would be lost under anyone else’s brush.
My final purchase is Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer Meyer. This is one of those few instances where I bought a book expressly because of the art. Like Mark Crilley (of Akiko) Meyer is able to put an amazing amount of detail and depth into a grey
scale world that she and Torres have created. Unfortunately this book was as much a cipher to me at the end as it was at the beginning. The characters in the story emphasize the importance of relating stories, but I have no idea what story is being related to me as a reader. There was a cute fable and it illustrated problems that some other animals were having. Is that it? J. Torres is known for well crafted and enjoyable all-ages titles, but this one felt a little too young for my tastes. Of the three, I can probably wait for the trade on this one.
Each of these titles has a common problem. At thirteen pages, they feel rushed. Aesops Ark especially could have used a bit more fleshing out/ introduction of concept in the first issue. I am left with two different feelings of wanting more. On the one hand, I want more because they were enjoyable and I want more of the same pleasant experience. On the other hand, I want more because the experience didn’t feel complete.