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Friday, November 19, 2004

Proof Of Concept 

I want a Larry Young action figure.

Young's new book, Proof of Concept, is a collection of six short stories, presented as Young trying to pitch the story ideas to his lawyer as potential film and television sales. It's Young pushing the best, "high concept" elements of the story, which in it's own way, is a high concept way to approach a comics anthology. The reader gets a taste for each story, just enough to pique your interest and get you to want to see more, before moving along to the next story. As an added bonus, each story is illustrated by a different artist, so the book is not only an introduction to the twisted mind of Larry Young, but to promising new artists as well. All the stories are book-marked by Kieron Dwyer's illustrations of Young and his lawyer, using a very photo-realistic style I'm not familiar with from him that's quite attractive.

The first story, Hemogoblin, is about the last vampire on Earth, being hunted by the last of the vampire hunters on behalf of a corporation that wants to find out what makes vampires immortal. It's illustrated by Damian Couceiro in a style reminiscent of Charlie Adlard. The second story is Zombie Dinosaur illustrated by Steven Sanders and Jeff Johns. It's the story that probably best exemplifies the "high concept" nature of the book. Say the title with me: Zombie Dinosaur. It has big-budget dumb-action movie written all over it. The kind of movie that only exists to show off big explosions. It's utterly perfect in concept and is one of those ideas you have to kick yourself for not thinking it up yourself, it's so simple in it's perfection.

The most visually interesting story is the collaboration with Paul Tucker, The Camera, about four children who find a time/space anomaly in their backyard. Tucker has a great approach to drawing kids that's unlike anything I can recall seeing before, and I'd really be interested in seeing what other projects he follows up this book with. It makes a nice prelude to the Jeff Johns drawn For the Time Being. Where Tucker was primitive and sketchy, Johns is detailed and slick, with a strongly realistic look. It's an equally impressive artistic debut, though almost the total opposite of Tucker's style. The story is the other big "high concept" pitch, involving time travel and the accidental creation of humanity's worst enemy. And it features probably the best time-travel related joke I've ever seen: "Sometimes when you travel through time, you just end up beside yourself."

Rounding out the book's new material is the John Flynn illustrated Emancipating Lincoln. I actually think it's a bit too jokey a concept to really wring more out of it than Young manages to here, but Flynn has a slightly frazzled style that puts me in mind of both Rob G. and Becky Cloonan, and that's a good thing. The last story is the book's only reprint, Young and John Heebink's serial from Double Image about the media travails of an invisible woman, The Bod, collected here in it's entirety for the first time. The Bod never really did much for me the first time around, and the celebrity cameos that pepper it, and seemed sort of silly the first time I read the story now come off as dated as well. Ironically, I find Kelly, the supposed villain of the piece, constantly being chastised by those around her for not being "responsible" the most sympathetic character. She's a woman who is trying to make the best out of a bad situation and gets in over her head. Those around her try to exploit her and then shrug her aside when the unintended consequences of their actions end up hurting them, and it all ends in a very "nobody learns anything" fashion. Why, if I didn't know any better I'd say that's a recurring theme in Young's work...

Apart from those slight quibbles, this is a fantastic book. It's a telling look into the slightly off-kilter mind of Larry Young and a fantastic introduction to some artists to keep an eye on. Snatch it up the second you see it on the stands.


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