HE'S ELECTRIC, HE'S GOT A COMIC BOOK FULL OF ECCENTRICS
I love mail.
And I really love getting surprises in my mail.
Yesterday I got home to find a manila envelope propped up against my door. It was nice to see it, since Saturday someone stole some Buñuel and De Sica DVDs from the same spot. I'm not a complete lightning rod for thievery yet. Maybe the contents of the first package scared them away. "These movies ain't even in English!"
Anywayyyyy...this Jolt Cola style of writing I have been inspired to is a result of what was in that manila envelope. A copy of the new book by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders, The Five Fists of Science (Image Comics; in stores tomorrow).
The slug line is both simple and complex. Simple because it's a pretty straightforward story, complex because you can't be a dimwit or you'll have no idea what it's on about. You see, at the turn of the century, noted author Mark Twain and noted nutjob genius science Nikola Tesla both want to end war forever. Apparently, that whole build-up of arms that I talk about in my review of Why We Fight has been a concern for people for many, many eons. The thing is, Tesla has an idea for how to do it. He's built himself a little gizmo that works like what we might call "virtual reality" or "motion capture." A man puts on a suit and when he moves while wearing it, a giant metal automaton performs the corresponding movement. Bingo! No men of flesh and blood need ever fight again. Twain figures if they can get each country to buy one, then everyone will have equal power, and they'll start leaving each other the hell alone.
Bad news for them is J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, Marconi (he plays the mamba), and Andrew Carnegie are in a Lovecraftian cabal who are building a tower to give evil a central action point for taking over the planet. Peace is bad for business.
If it all sounds a little crazy, well, that's because it's written by Matt Fraction, and despite his moniker, he doesn't do anything by halves, quarter, or thirds. Fraction is a go-for-it kind of guy. The thing is, when that kind of attitude finds the right outlet, it makes for a whole lotta fun for the audience. The Five Fists of Science is a whole lotta fun.
I wasn't sure about Steven Sanders' art from the preview pages I had seen, but seeing it printed in gorgeous color on glossy paper, all doubts were removed. My favorite thing about his work is the sense of color. Particularly in the big battles, when the big guys are tossing electricity around like silly string, I was really digging it. His pencil style--and sometimes his facial expressions--actually reminds me a bit of Bill Plympton, a comparison that makes more sense when you consider how much comedy is on the page. Fraction puts a lot of business in his panels, and he doesn't take time to pause for the middle moments. He needs an artist that is willing to jump first and look to see if the bungee chord is attached later. Sanders fits the bill. Check, for instance, each time Tesla's assistant Tim (the fifth fist in the Five; one hand is prosthetic) gets socially cockblocked by his boss. Tim is stopped before he starts all in the space of one panel, and it always comes off.
The Five Fists of Science isn't a perfect graphic novel. Like so many stories of this kind, I felt like maybe the writer was enjoying the set-up a little too much and didn't save as much room as he should've to finish it off. Also, sometimes Sanders' digital effects are unnecessarily fluffy (ex: Twain moving through a blurred crowd). Yet, these are minor quibbles in the face of solid entertainment. As the summer begins and the big cinematic blockbusters are already starting to disappoint us, The Five Fists of Science kept me intrigued from page the first to page the last. It's the comic everyone tried to convince me League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was but that I never found that book to be: good ol' pulpy adventure with familiar faces living out the roles we always imagined they could.
Current Soundtrack: Thom Yorke, The Eraser
Current Mood: nerdy
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich