Redbud Studio Comics, $7.99
Reviewed by David Brzeski
This issue opens where issue #1 closedâ€”with a Domino Lady story. ‘Bad Faith Healer’ by Thomas Deja is quite different in tone from the previous Domino Lady strip. The art by Michelle Sciuto is more cartoony for one thing. I liked her style for the most part, but her habit of giving people slightly too large heads gave it too much of a child-like feel for my tastes. The story is a simple but effective short involving those bastions of corruptionâ€”politics and religion.
There have been a huge number of Tarzan clones in both comics and pulp magazines. One of the better ones, I’m led to believeâ€”I haven’t actually read any of the originalsâ€”is Ki-Gor. As with many of the better but lesser known pulp characters, the original ‘Jungle Stories’ tales are being collected by Altus Press in several volumes. ‘Ki-Gor’ and the Spider Men of Wubatu’ is written by Andrew Salmon, author of a number of â€œNew Pulpâ€ novels and short stories. Salmon doesn’t try to hide his Burroughs influences in a story that features the kidnapping of Ki-Gor’s mate and six-limbed aliens. I think I’d have actually liked it better if it had been expanded into a prose novella, rather than an 8 page comic strip. At one point, he erroneously refers to a spider as an insect, which is a minor point, but I tend to get pedantic about such details. The art by Kelly Everart has a nice ’60s feel to it. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Charlton, or Gold Key comic book of that period.
‘Gideon Cain’ is a â€œNew Pulpâ€ original character, and this story, ‘The Devil You Know…’ is written by the original creator, Van Allen Plexico. It’s a clever little tale, which is difficult to say much about, without spoilers. I suspect it works even better if you’re familiar with the sort of menace Gideon Cain usually faces. The art (and lettering) is by publisher and editor, Rob Davis with inks by G. Carratala.
‘Dillon and the Escape From Tosegio’ features another â€œNew Pulpâ€ character, written by his original creator. It’s also another character I have yet to read the prose version of, although they’ve been on my list for some time. Derrick Ferguson’s story is scripted by Russ Anderson, which leaves me wondering if it’s actually an adaptation of one of the prose stories, rather than an original. The art by Alex Kosakowski and Andrew Magnum is some of the nicest in the book, although it is a little cluttered in places. It might be slightly clearer were it in colour. The story leads into the first Dillon prose novel, ‘Dillon and the Voice of Odin’.
Ron Fortier’s Brother Bones story, ‘Needle Justice’, tells the uninitiated reader just enough about the character to encourage them to check out the prose adventures. It’s fairly successful in this aim; at least it was for me. The art, by Joe Arnold, is a little scratchy in places, but nicely laid out and it has a suitably noir feel to it. His style kind of grew on me, the more I looked at it.
‘Robin Hood and the LionHeart’s Gold’ surprised me. I really wasn’t expecting to like it much. I.A. Watson gives us a classic adventure tale, which reminded me of some of the better ’60s comics published by the smaller companies such as Charlton and Gold Key. It takes skill to squeeze much of a story into just six pages, but Watson manages it. Rob Davis’ artwork had a similar ’60s feel. Like Joe Arnold’s work in the previous strip, it grew on me as I read it.
Sean Taylor’s ‘Wing Tips and Neck Ties’ teams up Bobby Nash’s ‘Lance Starr’ with his own character ‘Saint Devil.’ This is a definite case where a page giving brief overviews of the characters would have been useful. One has to assume that ‘Monique’ is the ‘Saint Devil’ mentioned in the credits, but she’s never referred to as that in the story. She knows the villain, but we’re not told how or why. I suspect this one would work a lot better for readers who are familiar with the prose material the strip is based on. Aaron Meade’s artwork is odd. I can’t make up my mind if I like it, or not. His style reminds me of something, but I can’t quite put my finger on what.
If you’re the sort who occasionally buys comic books simply for the art, then you’ll want this issue for Lee Oaks’ superb work on Todd Jones’ ‘Black Bat’ storyâ€”’Shootout at the Dry Martini’. It really is gorgeous. The story isn’t bad, but it does suffer from the lack of pages, as Jones pretty much skips over the detective work, to get to the climactic battle.
It hadn’t occurred to me when I read issue #1, but the overall style is not only a tribute to the pulp magazines, but also a nod to the golden-age anthology comic books that were contemporary with them. I stated in my review of #1 that I’m not generally a lover of 6-10 page comic strips, but the format does give the book a nice period flavour. Some of the stories might be a little lacking in substance, but as an introduction to the characters and concepts they work pretty well. I’m sure fans of the prose works will also find these strips an enjoyable addition. I was actually a little disappointed that there wasn’t a follow up to #1’s ‘Green Lama’ tale, but I’m sure it’ll be continued somewhere soonâ€”possibly in a prose collection.