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Lab 2: Electric Boogaloo!

Posted: Friday, May 9, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer & Artist: Scott Christian Sava
Publisher: Astonish Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Dr. Livingston & his research assistant Esteban arriving in their newly reconstructed lab, but while the lab is filled with state-of-the-art technology it's also littered with the same dangers, as the rather slowwitted Esteban is quick to find the beaker of nitro glycerin. One lab explosion later, the two are busy debating the merits of Esteban's musical selections, and we see Dr. Livingston has been busy whipping up an experimental serum, but he's not entirely certain what it does. We then see he follows in the footsteps of all good scientists when he hands his creation to Esteban, who quickly drinks it down. However, Dr. Livingston joins in on the fun after Esteban claims the serum tastes like grape, a claim that is proven false when Dr. Livingston takes a swig. Given they don't immediately drop dead, or grow any extra appendages, the serum appears to be harmless, but they soon discover a side-effect of the serum is that whenever music is played, Esteban is unable to keep himself from dancing up a storm. As Dr. Livingston torments his lab assistant with a wide range of show tunes, we see the serum eventually wears off, but when Dr. Livingston finds he's unable to stop dancing, Esteban is quick to exact his revenge. Needless to say the book ends with a particularly embarrassing bit of dancing, that Esteban is quick to preserve on video tape.

Comments:
First off I love the Astonish Comics banner, as it's home to one of the best all ages titles I've ever seen, and I urge everyone make an attempt to seek out Mike Kunkel's "Herobear and the Kid". Now moving on to the comic at hand, basically this issue is dependent on a single amusing idea to carry the entire story, as we see the two central characters in this issue consume an experimental serum that compels them to dance & sing whenever they hear music. Now this results in a fairly amusing tour through the history book, as we see they are not only compelled to dance, but that they dance in the style intended for the song. So we have the characters imitating Michael Jackson's attempt to be a street wise punk when "Beat It" plays on the radio, Dick Van Dyke's Mary Poppins dance, John Travolta's Staying Alive finger point, and the ultimate horror of horrors ... the Macarena. Now, while the joke does get to feel a bit repetitive in the later stages of the book, it holds up far better than it really should, and overall I found myself rather enjoying the goofy mood that had pervaded the issue once the dancing segments kicked into gear. In the end Scott Christian Sava latched on to a funny idea, and played it into the ground, but I can't really complain as I enjoyed the issue pretty much the whole way through.

This issue also gives us a pretty good sample of what one can expect from this book, as it's basically a scientist & his less than intelligent assistant spending their time in a lab, and in the grand tradition of most fictional scientists, or heroes are firm believers in the practice of using themselves as guinea pigs for whatever experimental serum they manage to mix together. I mean one has to love the idea that the scientist creates these experimental serums, having no idea what they do when he offers them to his assistant. There's also a rather cute little moment when the scientist is compelled into drinking down his own serum when it's suggested that it has a grape flavor, as what better reason is there for the consumption of an unknown chemical creation than to see what it tastes like. There's a pretty cute conversation later in the issue, as we see the two discussing their past experiments, and if nothing else this conversation does act as a nice display of how much potential this book has, as it's clear the book is a follower of the comic book science principal in that experimental chemical solutions can do anything, from shrinking potions, to super-speed, and the willingness of these two lead characters to consume these experimental beverages opens the door for a multitude of stories.

The real reason to pick up this issue is the art, as Scott Christian Sava is becoming a force to be reckoned with when it comes to his computer generated work. I mean I enjoyed the "Toy Story" films, and I was impressed by what they could do with computers, but whenever the computer generated work surfaced in comics it had a glossy sheen & stiffness to it that instantly screamed out that it was computer generated. However, Scott Christian Sava has brought artistic elements to the table that really sell the promise of this new art form, as we get elements like diffused lighting, and the characters have an nice textured look to them that nicely conceals their computer generated roots. I also love the range of motion that these characters are given in this issue, as the dance steps are clearly recognizable, that one doesn't even need the words to recognize the song that the characters are moving to. The characters also have a nice range of expressions, with the scene where the assistant is trying to sell the idea that the serum tastes like grape being the highlight, though the scientist's "kid in a candy shop" reaction when he first enters the lab was also quite charming. I also have to give the art credit for its work on the environment these characters move about within, as the double-page shot of the lab is a wonderful piece of art.

Final Word:
A fairly enjoyable, if somewhat simple done-in-one story that manages to make the most of its basic premise, as we're basically looking at two characters who have thrown caution to the wind when it comes to the advancement of science. Now there's not much in the way of character development, but the personality types these two characters are sporting work quite nicely within the confines of the material, and there are some genuine laughs to be found in these pages. However the real selling point of this project would have to be the computer generated art, as to the best of my knowledge Scott Christian Sava is the only artist who is currently using the technology to deliver the entire interior art, and he's certainly making me reconsider my previously held opinion that the technology simply wasn't refined enough to provide anything more than cover art, and as digital effects over pencil & ink work. This issue looks great, and the story is enjoyable enough as long as you don't go in expecting all that deep a plot. The central premise does look like it has legs, and I would welcome a return visit with these characters.



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