Hey guys, remember the '90s? Did you really want to return to the days of photo covers of porn stars masquerading as comic books? When Marvel could afford to produce nary a readable comic book? Sure, America had a surplus, we had a sex offender in the White House, and the Foo Fighters were much better back then, but the streets were lined with fourteenth printings of Spawn #1. People read Sandman in single issues. What you look so fondly back upon I see as a beflanneled nightmare and Riot Shell #0 feels like a comic from that era--big guns, T&A, and all.
Our hero, Isabella Shell, is some manner of sai-wielding assassin (Elektra) with purple hair (Psylocke) with a cyber-arm (Cable) that transforms into a variety of weapons (Witchblade). Also, she likes showing off her ass to the reader whenever most inappropriate. Also, she has a sword. That’s three weapons--a sai, a sword, and a cybernetic arm that transforms into other weapons. Two of those three might be superfluous.
Riot Shell #0 is zero issue, which entails what nearly every zero issue entails: A short story to whet your appetite and 15 pages of pin-ups and other miscellany that all deliver the same basic message of, “Hey, you wasted your money, fucko!”
This zero issue’s short story is a meager 7 pages, in which we learn the origin of Isabella Shell and she fights the assassin that originally blew her arm off, necessitating the cybernetic weapon currently grafted to her body. Oh, and she gets blown up but is okay.
Since this is the kind of story you read for the art, let me address that. Martin Montiel and colorist Dash Martin actually do decent work with something so derivative. Montiel shows some honest sequential storytelling chops amidst a few obligatory pinup moments, and Martin’s colors give it a sense of high production value, which is the least you can ask for this kind of comic. Montiel’s pages are full of dynamic panels and weird shapes, but sometimes the storytelling stumbles and it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. That’s when the excessive caption boxes appear and a whole new set of problems arise.
So many caption boxes! Adrian Nicita’s script either smacks of a writer who does not trust his artist or smacks of a writer trying to make up for his artist’s shortcomings. In one panel, Shell kicks an assassin in the face as he “gets a wild shot off.” We can’t see the gun firing and the assassin isn’t even touching the gun in the panel, but we have a ginshot sound effect and some caption boxes explaining that he did indeed fire a wild shot. In a following panel, she explains that her “sweet ass kick” knocked him down and damaged the assassin’s own cybernetic arm in the process. To quote countless infomercials, there’s got to be a better way.
Of course, lots of words on a page isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we’re not talking about a Brian Bendis comic book here. We’re talking about a book with dialogue like, “You silly bitch! Do you really think you can stop us? Think again!,” and needless narration like, “The force of the explosion throws me back.”
Then come the pinups. Some are drawings by artists with pretty decent styles and some are photos of some poor model they got to wear Shell’s fetish gear. If you’re wondering how they gave the model a robot arm, it’s easy--someone drew it on.
Apparently, Riot Shell is part of something called Comic Idol (http://www.comicidolonline.com) where users vote on what happens next in the comic. This is the most interesting thing about the book, which (unintentionally, probably) points out the major shortcoming of this kind of comic: Nobody reads it for the story.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!