Project ElOhIm: Mad Game #5

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks
Rebecca Hicks's wonderful Project Elohim continues to delight.

Project Elohim is a place where the government has gathered people with superpowers. Unlike Professor Xavier's mansion, or any number of government conspiracy comics you could mention, Project Elohim is a benign organization, dedicated to using the skills of their people to improve the world. But there is a countervailing force to the Project, and they are working to kidnap Project Elohim agents and subvert the government's plans.

This issue is centered on the search for Lona Aventura, who is, to quote one character, "possessed by an ancient Aztec demon guy that gives her weird powers." When riding her motorcycle one day, Aventura encounters two very strange young girls who apparently are able to transform themselves into ravens with amazing powers. Aventura disappears, but the ravens reappear, and by the end of the issue are sure to provide the key clues to tracking down Aventura.

The most interesting aspect of this book is that Rebecca Hicks has clearly thought through her characters well. Surprisingly for a small-press comic, her characters all seem unique and diverse. Each one has quirks and complexities that jump off the page as asides and jokes. But this focus on complexities doesn't cause the characters to take strange actions in service of those quirks. I really enjoyed reading a comic where all the professional characters act in professional ways, where heroism and action flows from a personal commitment to doing one's job correctly.

It's refreshing to see Sophie make a small sacrifice for Brann to fight the bad guys, just as it's refreshing to see Caitlain show professional interest in being an FBI agent without her being mocked for the thought. These are adults, not teenagers, and it's refreshing to read about adults whose lives aren't torturous because of endless angst. These are not creatures of the night, working to avenge past injustices. These are men and women who act to fight crime because they have been given a gift and because they're plain interested in fighting crime.

Eliseu Gouveia is a frequent poster to the ComicsBulletin message boards, and anyone viewing the message boards can see how well his art has progressed over the last few years. He uses some wonderfully imaginative page layouts in this issue, most notably in the scenes where Avetura battles the strange girls. The silent page 9, depicting the girls' transformation, is especially effective in its clever storytelling.

Other scenes have weaker storytelling. Most notable is page 13, which offers an establishing shot of Project Elohim. As a transitional page, it's almost effective in setting the scene but fails in two crucial respects. First, there's not enough detail on the page to really set the scene. Gouveia draws the complex with a lot of white space surrounding it, implying that Elohim is in the middle of some vast limbo rather than a great forest. Secondly, it's very hard to tell at first who is talking in this panel. The reader is jarred out of his immersion in the book as he tries to determine if this scene is continued from the panel above or is a new panel. A closer view of the characters might have resolved that.

I always enjoy immersing myself in Rebecca Hicks's fictional world, and this issue just reinforces that enjoyment. Who are the raven girls looking for, and what are their plans for Lona Aventura? That's a mystery that will be fun to see resolved.

You can read the first series of Project Elohim as a webcomic.

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