Apama: the Undiscovered Animal
(Ted Sikora / Milo Miller / Benito Gallego)
The Apama answers a question that's kept many a comics fan up at night: what if John Buscema drew a Flaming Carrot comic? Yeah, you got that right: this comic posits Marvel's most manly artist, the man maybe best known for his portrayals of an absurdly broad-chested Conan, the man always ready for a fight with his manly sword at the ready and his biceps bulging, drawning the adventures of a skinny, wimpy ice cream salesman who magically gains the powers of something called… an apama.
OK, so it's not actually drawn by John Buscema. The great cartoonist has unfortunately been gone for a few years now, and true fans still mourn his passing with a deep passion. (lift a whiskey shot to good ol' Johnny B next time you get together with your comics-loving friends) But Benito Gallego channels the spirit of Buscema in this comic, giving Apama a feel that's totally unique. It seems both grounded in classical comics tropes at the same time it makes those tropes feel completely ridiculous.
I mean, look at Ilyia Zjarsky, just look at him. He's a wimp, a loser, a mass of skin and bones and a pretty terrible haircut who is trying to find just the right yoga positon in order to channel the spirit of some otherworldly creature he met while wandering aimlessly through the woods of Cleveland and into a mysterious, magical forest. Our hero's origin is absurd but also a clever twist on a classic comics trope of the hero who finds a magical costume in some secret hiding place and magically becomes a guy who fights for good. Beacause of Gallego's art, it all makes sense, like some bizarre long-lost 1970s Marvel that you might find in the quarter bin next to some long-forgotten copy of Skull the Slayer or Shogun Warriors.
In this first issue we get Ilyia's origin, meet his friends, establish his milieu and even give him a deep mythological basis. It's a great first issue. But it's also insane as hell, full of slapstick jokes and absurd asides (I loved the joke about John Elway) and enough low grade giggles to keep my chortling on the couch for a while. By the time I discovered out that Ilyia can talk to animals, I was sold on this awesomely wacky and oddball digital comic. Finally I can sleep at night knowing the answer to my absurd question: if John Buscema drew a Flaming Carrot comic, it would be insane and brilliant and quite wonderful indeed.
Jason Sacks always dreamed of having arms as burly as Conan's but they look more like Ilyia Zjarsky's. He really should tweet more often @jasonsacks
Ipso Facto #1
Mosel Pearlman Ramirez is not who you think he is. A matter of fact, he's not who HE thinks he is either. Who is he? Well, according to the solicitation for Ipso Facto #1 on Comixology:
He was just another lovestruck Colorado kid, or so he always told himself. Then he woke up one day and found out the world was going to end — unless he could remember who he really was.
That's a pretty heavy burden for any young man, especially for “just another second-semester-senior psyched to get the hell out.” This over use of hyphens and awesome alliteration aside, Mosel is your prototypical Campbell monomythic hero who, in issue one, is called to action by outside forces. He meets a character named Brezsny (who, I swear, looks exactly like a 21 Grams-era Sean Penn wearing an ascot), who tells him, “This world needs you to remember who you are.”
Into this mix throw an evil corporate entity called Tryum Corporation, an alien invasion (maybe), an alcoholic mother, a girlfriend that just had an abortion without telling him, a bunch of guys with helmets shooting rifles, and a fake ID to buy booze. Stir this all around and you've got mystery, intrigue, action, and, above all else, story.
I'm intrigued by this book. Through the use of flash-forwards, side-stories, yellow rectangles of first-person voice-overs, and straight-up narration this issue sets the stage for some large storytelling. It's got the overalls to cover something expansive, while still hooking its thumbs into the comforts of the Hero's Journey trope. Writer J.R. Rothenberg lays it on a little thick at times, but his main character is a just-about-to-graduate high school boy (see, I can over-hyphenate too!) – and anyone who's every spent more than twenty minutes with one of those creatures can tell you they ALL lay it on a little thick sometimes.
It's what they do.
Normally I'm a little wary of the work of the sort of digital artist who seems to have been inspired by the work of Greg Land, and Jason Badower kind of wears that sheet to the meeting, but with the help of colorist Annette Kwok, he's somehow able to stave off my aversion. Maybe it's because there is a sense of playfulness to his work, like he's not taking himself seriously with a seriousness of intent. Or maybe it's his choice of perspective and angles in many of his panels. Or maybe it's because while his characters seem traced or overlayed, they retain a humanness. You can read their emotions without being reminded of actors acting.
I just re-read Keith Silva and Justin Giampaoli's breakdown of what makes a good first issue for a comic book series, which you should read too. Ipso Facto #1 seems to hit almost all the requirements. If this is true, ipso facto, we should expect a very entertaining series.
Oh, and hey – they got one of those groovy comic book trailers for the series:
While this book is available on Comixology, it also seems that you can download a free copy of issue #1 on their website.
As Daniel Elkin is more about the facto than he is about the ipso, you can find him tweeting about all kinds of sandwiches (@DanielElkin).