Monday, January 17, 2011

Jademan Kung Fu Special # 1

So this past Sunday I went to the Showcase comics in Bryn Mawr and picked up two trade paperbacks, Knightfall part one: Broken Bat (with an awesome cover by Kelley Jones) and a hardcover collection of the Black Panther series by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr. I got these both for 50% off which was awesome, but I also got a 50 cent comic, from Jademan comics, called Kung Fu Special #1. I did not read this comic yet, but found some totally unexpected material inside. They show the process of making the comics, which I always think is awesome. We are also introduced to Tony Wong, the "Master Archited" of Jademan Holdings...or at least the comics. Mr. Wong appears several times throughout, and he is one hip dude.
Pretty Handsome spread right? I really feel cheap laughing at improper English in foreign works brought to America, but for a comic book that was once on American comic shop shelves, it is a little here is a great snippet:

Mr. Wong is also a dashing playboy, as evident by this double paged spread in the middle of the comic:
Here is a pretty decent albeit somewhat tacky portrait (perhaps a self portrait?) you could probably expect to see in your Aunt Vikki's favorite hair salon.
The amount of Wong in this comic is almost baffling. Maybe they thought he could be like Jademan's very own Stan Lee? Here is a picture of him showing his wares. Who wouldn't want the entire Jademan lineup of comics?!

These were a complete surprise gem of hilarity, but back to comics, I really love this page of faces.

Until next time!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Challengers of (Omega) the Unknown

While Christmas shopping at a local mall comic shop, I came across a collected edition of Omega the Unknown, a recent adaptation of a short lived 70s series called Omega the Unknown, by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney. The updated version is by novelist Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak on writing duties, illustrator Farel Dalrymple is both penciller/inker and letterer, with Paul Hornschemeier on color duties (and some short sequences) with an additional few pages by Gary Panter. The book definitely has an "independent" comics look to it, all of the characters, even the superheroes, look like they could be real people on the street as opposed the the uber muscled attractive hero types in any regular marvel comic. Omega the Unknown takes place in New York City, and really plays up the location, something I think more Marvel comics should do (seeing as how New York City in the Marvel Universe is home to almost all of their heroes). Our hero, Titus Alexander Island, is a young man who was raised and home schooled by a very proper couple, who want their son to come more accustomed to the world as he gets older. On their way to take Alexander to a new school, the family has a car accident, and Alex wakes finds his mother's severed head next to him, with wires coming from the neck. Alexander was raised by robots (thus his analytical, cold behavior). From there, Alex is beset upon by a growing cult of attacking robots, protected by a mysterious man in blue tights and a red cape, stalked by a local superhero, The Mink, and forced to adapt to the real world he had been shielded from for all 14 years of his young life.

Lethem does a great job of balancing super heroics, science fiction, and the feeling of city living. The book is laugh out loud funny at times, most especially because of the characterization of the local hero The Mink, who appears frequently on local news programs and game shows, has his own comic book series, and is rather sinister when all is said and done . The Mink has a loyal army of followers, politicians in his pocket, and has his base of operations on a personal island on top of a Daedalean labyrinth in which he throws his enemies. The Mink is possibly my favorite character in this story. He is most assuredly a villain, not to be trusted, but at the same time is unraveling and trying to expose a plague of robots that is slowly taking over the city, through tiny nanobots being fed to the city through a chain of fast food joints and packages infested with the bugs delivered by a fed ex type organization. Our other hero, the blue clad and seemingly mute (perhaps just a man of very very few words) Omega, has crash landed on earth, and is also one step behind Alex for much of the story. He has the Greek symbol Omega on both of his palms, something which also happens to Alex, and gives him strange powers. Omega is one man against two fronts, possibly three. He is utterly alone in the world, battling a secret army of alien robots, and is also relentlessly pursued by The Mink. He has some connection to Alex, but what could it be?

The Art in Omega the Unknown is simply breathtaking (as are all the covers and overall design of the hardcover collection). It does not really look like any other book Marvel has ever put out, and would be just as at home with more independent publishers like Top Shelf. The panel borders are uneven, the entire book is somewhat sketchy and inky, with beautiful hand done lettering. Dalrymple is excellent at conveying the quirky mood of the story, and really helps sell Lethem's story. The big laughs and the chilling moments are only as strong as the partnership of artist and writer, and this combination definitely meshes well. There is an attention to detail here that really sells everything, and is integral to conveying the urban feeling that I think Lethem is trying for. This detail also makes the robots and monsters that much more creepy and impressive.

With Omega the unknown Marvel has put forth a charming and utterly endearing, original series, which ends almost as abruptly as the original Omega: The Unknown ( I think this was likely planned, as Omega the Unknown was cancelled after ten issues). With this, and the recent Strange Tales and Strange Tales II Marvel is covering some ground that is inspiring, and I hope that they continue this trend of unexpected use of their army of characters.