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Comics from the future are groovy

by  in Comic News Comment
Comics from the future are groovy

The last time Richard Starkings was nice enough to send me a copy of Elephantmen, I didn’t get a chance to review it until it had come out.  Well, he was nice enough to send me the latest issue, which hits stores tomorrow, and I figured I should give it the old once-over so you can decide if you want to track it down when, like the good addict you are, you head to the dimly-lit cave where you purchase comics and get your fix.

I was ambivalent about Elephantmen #1-2, and I’m still ambivalent about #3.  The comic has a lot going for it, and I would certainly encourage you to pick it up just to check it out.  The story from last issue, in which Hip Flask, our genetically modified hippopotamus, battled a crocodile for possession of a wooden idol, is continued, plus there’s another story pencilled by Tom Scioli.  For three dollars, Elephantmen gives you a lot of content – the two stories, a one-page humor strip starring Brickman (in which Brickman tries to deny rumors that he is, in fact, “zillionaire Loose Brayne”), and a short interview with Dave Gibbons – find out about the beatings he endured!  So there’s a lot going on, and I appreciate the effort that goes into each issue.

As for the stories – the “main” story, illustrated by Moritat, is the weaker of the two.  Hip Flask, beaten nearly to death and unconscious, is chanced upon by Miki, a buxom lass who cleans up his blood, muses about how beautiful he is, and checks his … well, his equipment.  A girl’s gotta know how much firepower he’s packing, right?  He wakes up as she does this, embarrassing her severely, and then she tells him that the medics are on the way and he’s going to be fine.  That’s it.  It’s kind of strange that Starkings would tell a longer story in 14-page increments (that’s how long this section is, but I’m not going back and counting the page length in the previous issue) and use one whole issue for basically nothing.  Miki, presumably, will be important, but she could have been introduced and the plot moved along a bit more.  It’s a charming little scene, but it still feels too drawn-out.

Meanwhile, the first story in the book stars Ebenezer, our friendly Elephantman, who gets a tip that some guys are illegally trading in exotic animals, and when he goes to check it out, it turns out that they want him – whole and stuffed.  He goes berserk and does some major elephantine damage.  This story is very good, actually – in 11 pages, Starkings gives us a nice look at how these genetic hybrids function in society when they need to eat 50 pounds of vegetables a day, how their creation has altered the way the world looks at endangered species, how abominable their very creation was, and how distant they still are from actually fitting into society.  When Ebenezer fights the bad guys, I remember something from a movie or a comic book – my memory is often shot – about a girl liking a guy until he goes apeshit and then she’s horrified by him.  I’m sure it’s happened in several movies and comic books – it sounds like a perfect Wolverine story – in fact, wasn’t it in Origin?  Anyway, no one witnesses the fight, but if they had, they might feel even more disturbed by these strange animal-man hybrids walking the streets.  It’s that kind of weird dissonance that makes these stories interesting, and why the second story is redeemable, even if it’s not that great.  Miki is turned on by the exotic, while others might be horrified.  Even she doesn’t see Hip Flask as a real creature – if this book took place in the 20th century, he’d be the black man that she’s intrigued by because her conservative parents would hate him.

So on many levels, Elephantmen continues to be an interesting comic book.  Why am I ambivalent, you ask?  Well, that’s a good question.  On a visceral level, it’s not thrilling me.  I don’t know why.  However, it’s certainly something you should consider, because with only a few scenes, Starkings and his artistic compatriots dredge up far more interesting ideas than most mainstream comic books do.  And, of course, a big elephant-man goes apeshit.  What more do you need?

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