Monday, February 16, 2004

Epic Anthology #1 - A Review

Sleepwalker: New Beginnings

Written by: Robert Kirkman
Penciled by: Khary Randolph
Inked by: Pierre-Andre Dery
Colored by: Kanila Tripp
Lettered by: Rus Wooton
Editors: Teresa Focarile & Stephanie Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Young Ancient One: The Mark of the Ancient Ones

Written by: Rob Worley
Penciled by: Andy Kuhn
Inked by: Andy Kuhn
Colored by: Bill Crabtree
Lettered by: Dave Sharpe
Editors: Teresa Focarile & Stephanie Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Strange Magic: New Sheriff in Town

Written by: Jason Henderson
Penciled by: Greg Scott
Inked by: Greg Scott
Colored by: JD Mettler
Lettered by: Ed Dukeshire
Editors: Teresa Focarile & Stephanie Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics

By now most of you have probably heard the tale of Marvel President Bill Jemas and his great plan to revitalize the long (and debatably rightly so) defunct Epic imprint of Marvel as a showcase for new talent and forgotten characters. Sadly, with such lackluster stories, such as “Trouble” and “Crimson Dynamo” coupled with Jemas’ ousting from his job, the line was quickly scrapped by the new Powers That Be, in the grand old political tradition of destroying all the old boss’ pet projects so that nothing successful can be connected to his name.

That brings us to this: Epic Anthology #1: three books in one, all Epic projects that were poised and ready for publication that will allegedly, if they prove popular in this volume, be given a chance as an actual title.

So how do these almost lost “treasures” stack up? Not very well, sadly…

Sleepwalker is perhaps the most typical of the three stories and it is also the most annoying and unappealing. The plot, such as it is, centers around a “poor little rich boy” who is going to film school on his parents pocket, slacking off, getting a rather cute geek girl to do all his work for him and is generally living like your average CEO. He gets hassled by a group of black men (who are never introduced as anything other than… a big hulking gang threatening the nice rich white boy!) because his mom rented the indoor basketball court to throw him a party while they had to practice on the outside court in the rain. His defense? He didn’t even want to have it in the first place. Yes, folks. This is our hero.

We are supposed to feel sorry for him when.. gasp… mom and dad threaten to disown his lazy ass if he doesn’t graduate this year! Unable to think of anything, he turns to the geek girl who bails him out again… and… well, to cut this short… Sleepwalker doesn’t even show up until the last panel and we have no indication of his involvement in any of what is going on other than he has been breaking into the rich spoiled snot’s apartment at night. It doesn’t tell you anything about the character and I can’t honestly seeing anyone wanting to read issue two of this, even ignoring the central character’s total lack of likeability and the borderline-racist subtext.

Call Sleepwalker a 2.0 out of 10.0

Young Ancient One has a silly title, but is actually the best bit in the book. Kuhn’s art is appropriately atmospheric and while a manga look would not have been inappropriate to the story, the approach here is like a more heavily inked Kevin O’Neill. The plot centers around, oddly enough, the adventures of Dr. Strange’s mentor, The Ancient One, as a young man protecting his villages from unjust taxes disguised as the vigilante Spirit Leopard.

This book is chocked full of Kung-Fu action and comedy, with Leung (The Ancient One) quipping like Spider-Man in his battles. The only time the story really falls apart is when some common slang slips into the dialogue. And I know that the book could just be a loose translation of an ancient story… it still makes me cringe to hear trained ninjas say “Awesome” outside of a Ninja Turtles cartoon.

Call this one 8.0 out of 10.0.

Strange Magic is, appropriately enough, the strangest story of the three here. Seeming more like a Vertigo title than anything Marvel would publish, it centers around a girl named Sofia Strange. She just moved to New Orleans and despite the protests of her Aunt Vesper, has determined to use her magic powers (Sofia is a sorceress) to police the magic-heavy city of all the various magical nasties that tend to swarm around such places. She gets a start at this by helping a guy named “Detroit Mike” to help find his sister, who ran away to New Orleans to join in a live-action role-playing game.
This isn’t all that bad of a story, but I’d give it another issue before deciding if I wanted to keep reading it or not. Sofia is interesting and has a perky personality and sense of humor unlike most of the magicians in the comic world. And unlike most of them, she also seems to be actively looking for trouble rather than sitting around contemplating the world and waiting for the next big disaster. Still, the story is nothing we haven’t seen before in Hellblazer and Books of Magic so the character winds up driving things more than the plot. The art is about even with the story, reminding me of a clearer and brighter Alex Maleev (Daredevil).

Call this a 6.5. Better than average, but not great either.

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