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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
It's the Future!
Elephantmen, a new Image-published comic by Richard Starkings and Moritat, features two new, short stories set in the world of Starkings's half-hippo PI Hip Flask. Like the earlier Hip Flask books, the art is a stylish, slick neon-noir affair that is highly reminiscent of the best of European album format comics. The two stories here are brief, but they both work well in both establishing the mood and tone of the world, as well as fleshing out significantly the world the Hip Flask tales take place in. Moritat does an excellent job of retaining the visual look of the world as established by Jose Ladronn on earlier books, but without slavishly imitating Ladronn's style. It looks familiar, but it's still fundamentally Moritat's style on display. For existing Hip Flask fans, this is a welcome return to that universe, but for newcomers this series also serves as a nice introduction to the concept. And, in any case, for fans of comic art, the book is worth getting for Moritat's gorgeous artwork.
A rather different beast is AIT's recent re-release of Shatter by Peter Gillis and Mike Saenz. Created on an early Macintosh computer in the mid-80s, the book provides an interesting snapshot of both the possibilities and limitations of computer-generated art-work of the time. A tremendous amount of skill is evident in the artwork, but at the same time, the limitations of the technology, as it existed then, are also on display. Some pages are simply beautifully rendered and detailed, while others become a jumbled, hazy mass of dots and lines. But I'm not willing to fault Saenz for these sequences; as I said, an enormous amount of talent and craftsmanship comes through on almost every page. But it's not fair to judge his work today based on what he could and could not do when working with the technology of the time. It makes more sense to look at the artwork as an historical artifact of that era. Similarly, the story is very much of it's period as well. Originally published by First, Shatter was part of the previous "great indie scene" in comics, and it's themes and preoccupations are borne out of the political and cultural climate. It envisions a future that now seems strangely retro and anachronistic. Viewed strictly as a crime caper with sci-fi overtones, the story has an appeal and a manic pace that serves it well. I can't unreservedly recommend it, because the book as a whole is very much a product of the time, but for those interested in what independent comics looked like during their Reagan-era hey day, this is a good example of a technically experimental work that reflects the mood and themes of the time.