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Sky Doll #1

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2008
By: Matthew J. Brady

Barbara Canepa, Alessandro Barbucci
Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa
Marvel Comics/Soleil
Editor's Note: Sky Doll #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, May 14.

For a comic that looks like a cheesecakey, sci-fi adventure romp, Sky Doll starts off quite interestingly, with the main character (Noa, a sentient sex robot) looking straight out at the reader and addressing God, informing him of his poor management skills and proposing the installation of a suggestion box. It's a cheeky way to kick things off, letting readers know that while there will be lots of sexy shenanigans and colorful visuals, there's also a theme of religion and control running through the story. Of course, the "god" that Noa was addressing turns out to be the reptilian manager of a heaven-themed spaceship wash that employs sexy girl-bots in order to draw in customers, so things shouldn't be taken too seriously.

But there's still some interesting stuff going on, from commentary on religion, to consumerism and advertising, to the meaning of love and sex in a world where sexual robots are acceptable, to the nature of the soul. You see, this spacefaring future society is ruled over by one Papess Lodovica, whose symbol (which appears to be a cross with breasts) is festooned all over the city and prompts adoring love from the masses, who eat up her "miraculous" appearances, even though they consist of special effects like blood spurting from fake stigmata and lasers that fry worshippers, supposedly sending them to heaven in a blaze of holy fire. We do get a bit of backstory, in which we learn that Lodovica once had a co-Papess named Agape, but a rift developed between them, with Lodovica seizing power and condemning all of Agape's followers.

But how does all this relate to Noa? Well, after stowing away on the ship of two Papal emissaries who are on some sort of church-related mission, she finds that she is somehow linked to Agape, and she might have a soul after all, even though she is just a machine. It's an interesting development in the story, and while this first issue seems to consist mostly of setup, I'm quite intrigued as to how it will all pay off.

A big part of the appeal of the book is the art, which takes a bit of a manga influence and slaps a whole lot of candy-colored detail on top of it. The pages are crammed with little bits of information, like towering architecture, neon billboards, spaceship design, weird creatures, and futuristic gadgetry. The character art is well-done too, with the dog-like inhabitants of the world exhibiting quite the range of expression. Noa, being the central character, benefits from the art, showing her perky, lively personality and demonstrating her forceful nature, refusing to be confined to the life a simple sex toy.

Her emissary companions are nicely-defined as well. The chubby goofball Jahu is the horny type, wanting to visit the spaceship wash just to eyeball some robot bosoms, while the more sedate Roy doesn't like to tempt himself. But Roy is the one that connects with Noa (and seems to be more aroused by her once they're actually making contact and not just looking at her through the windshield); he's more ready to believe in her individuality, while Jahu only sees her as a device for sexual pleasure. It should be interesting to see them continue to develop their relationship with her.

It's definitely an interesting book, and the art is absolutely incredible, full of astonishing detail, bright, shiny colors, and nice character work. Not to mention a good sense of humor, whether it's in slapstick comedy or a sly level of sexuality. The only thing that I don't especially like about the book are superficial, namely the price ($5.99 for 48 pages of story and an additional 16 pages of promotional material for the other Soleil books that Marvel is publishing) and the format (the "album-size" art has been shrunk down to fit into the standard U.S. comics pamphlet, leaving strips of white space at the top and bottom of each page). If you can overcome those factors, and you like a little bit of offensiveness mixed in with your social commentary, you should definitely check it out.






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