A big part of what I love about small press comics is that you never know what you'll find; never know how good a certain comic might be or what kind of creativity might be on display or what kind of weird and interesting and unique and personal story you might find.
I get a lot of unsolicited comics sent to me by small press publishers, all looking to get coverage on Comics Bulletin, and, maybe surprisingly, most of those comics are actually pretty dang good. Oh, we get a few turkeys — buy me beer some night and I'll regale you with plenty of horror stories — but honestly, the level of quality present in so many of these small press comics actually gives me a lot of hope and passion for the industry. There is a hell of a lot of really terrific fiercely independent work happening around the edges of the industry, in nooks and and crannies that are now finally having a light shed on them thanks to Kickstarter, the social networks, and, yes, sites like Comics Bulletin.
I gotta admit, when I got an email pushing something called Ugli Comics Presents, I was dreading it a bit. I mean, with a name like that and with the promise of the comic being an "EC style horror comic" — well, it's definitely a fact that the vast majority of the mediocre (and worse) comics that are being self published these days are EC style horror stuff.
But goddamn if I was wrong. Once again I was extremely happy to have my preconceptions be proven to be wrong. This is a damn entertaining comic.
First, check check out that intriguing and mysterious seeming cover. Yeah, the image seems slightly familiar, but doesn't it also have an interesting look to it? With that smartly designed yellow patina, and the complex design of the wizard and his lackeys, doesn't it fulfill the most important requirements of a cover — namely to intrigue while also giving readers a feeling for what the book is about?
Inside the book, the questions about this cover are answered as readers discover the wizard Amon Kedesh and his familiar, the cat Grizelda. Now, I'm a cat person and my house has been home to as many as four cats at a time, so the idea of having a cat be the lead character of the story already had me interested. But I totally didn't expect to be immediately plunged into a battle that's reminiscent of the spectacular battles in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Seriously, look at the epic splendor of the story that Jason Lenox illustrates in the scene below and tell me if it doesn't seem Tolkein-esque to you. Doesn't it display a world at a glance, give us a feeling of the bizarre and interesting world that Lenox has plunged us into, headlong and fearlessly? Just what the hell are these strange creatures and what the hell is happening to them and how the hell does the page feel too small to contain the multitude of events and people and mythology that Lenox is presenting?
By the time we get the sphinx-like giant cat creature and see the destruction that the cat creature wreaks, we're fully engaged and intrigued.
Unfortunately this first story is just a teaser of work that will hopefully come soon.The story feels a bit brief, a bit cut off. It promises a bit more than it delivers — I wanted to see more earth-shaking, mind-boggling bizarre battle but the story wraps up a little bit quickly. Will we get more of this stuff from Lenox? I really hope so.
The second story in this comic (I did tell you it was an anthology) is a much more traditional, twist-in-the-tail short story, a sci-fi piece about an infestation of the most annoying creatures in the universe. I figured out the twist ending pretty early on when I read this tale, and it is a hoary old sci-fi cliché, but Lenox does a nice job of delivering the story and it has a nice, calm pace to it.
The second story reminded me a bit of the sort of thing I might have read in one of my beloved fanzines of the 1970s and '80s, a clever bit of fan work that was a bit traditional and a little bit derivative, but which also was sincere and repedesents an attempt to do good work within specific creative boundaries.
I'm really glad I checked out this comic, and even more glad that Jason Lenox is pursuing his artistic vision. I wanna read more about Amon Kedesh and Grizelda. Bring back the mystic familiar kitty cat!