Today: A comic you might think would be as painful as some of the ones I've read in the past, but is surprisingly not. What could it be????
As I always do, I link to the ground rules for these posts. It's the reason I'm often not as hard on these comics as I might be otherwise!
Cursed #1 is written by Fiona Kai Avery and Tippi Blevins, drawn by Romano Molenaar, inked by Kevin Conrad, colored by Brian Buccellato, and lettered by a bunch of people from Dreamer Design. It was published by Image/Top Cow, October 2003.
On the face of it, this appears to be yet another Top Cow book starring a hot female who gains superpowers, sheds clothes, fights some supernatural evil, and is drawn with ridiculous proportions. This cover (there were two different ones for issue #1) at least indicates that our heroine starts out with clothing on, but there are zombies, ready to ... rip her clothes off, revealing a tiny costume underneath?
Only our imaginations know for sure!
However (and a bit surprisingly), this issue, at least, features none of that. Perhaps because it's written by two women, our heroine, Shan Beaumont, leaves her clothes on throughout, and even though her skirt is a bit short, it's nothing that you wouldn't see on many professional women (she's a journalist). There is a naked woman in this issue, but it's not gratuitous at all and the shade from palm tree fronds covers her more than a typical bikini. For a Top Cow book, this is practically Puritan.
That doesn't mean it's a good comic, though. Let's break it down! We begin in 1800 Egypt, where a hunky white guy holds a glowing amulet thing and asks Osiris to forgive him. This scene is being narrated, apparently, by a dude lying in a hospital bed, explaining that the hunky dude was his ancestor and now he and his daughter are cursed because of it. His daughter, of course, is the aforementioned Ms. Beaumont, who's coming to visit him - it turns out he's in an asylum in New Orleans (New Orleans - default American city for the weird and supernatural!). We get an example of her deductive prowess - she's like Sherlock Holmes! - and then she visits her dad. He has photographs of dead people on his walls, dead people who we see haunting him while Beaumont is in the room. We also see he has the glowing amulet around his wrist, which leads his daughter to proclaim that she doesn't believe in curses (oh, but she will ... SHE WILL!).
Her dad flashes back to a year ago, when he apparently was able to see through a killer's eyes as he butchered some dude. The killer is apparently called "Victor," and he called the victim his "chosen" as he ripped out the dude's heart. Beaumont still isn't convinced, and she runs from the room. So sad!
She immediately gets a phone call from an old lover, a police detective named Kelly Medina. No, she's not a lesbian - Kelly is a man, dude! He tells her he needs her help on a case - a murder!!!!! Before she can join him, we switch to a Greek island, where a strange-looking lizard chick sacrifices a hot young chick and apparently steals her skin. This is, I would surmise, a villain in the piece. Her servant shows her a newspaper clipping about some dude with feathery hair, she asks Osiris to "open the doors of perception" (who is she, Jim Morrison?), which shows her our heroine on the phone, and then tells her servant they're going to visit "Mr. Hahn" - presumably feathery-hair dude. Then it's back to Beaumont!
She shows up at the crime scene and sees that her photographer, Winston, is already there.
When Medina calls her "Shannie," Winston gets all protective and also gives us some of Beaumont's biography - it's awkwardly written, but I suppose we need some of her credentials! Medina shows Beaumont the body, which has had its heart ripped out. Above the head is "chosen" written in blood. Oh dear. Beaumont tells Medina about the case her father worked in which they believed Victor Hahn was the culprit but couldn't prove it. Hahn, it turns out, is director of the Museum of Antiquities in Stuttgart, and he has an air-tight alibi. They also found a broken canopic jar near the body, and Beaumont handily tells him - and us - what a canopic jar is: Egyptians used it to store the vital organs of the dead. She shows him an amulet she's wearing - different from the one her father had - and says, "Pharoahs used the Isis and Osiris amulets to commune with the gods in the underworld. Dad says this one was broken in 14 pieces along with Osiris's body ..." So, she owns a piece of an amulet that was part of a myth, and even if it isn't, is thousands of years old? And she's wearing it around her neck? Man. Beaumont decides to go to Stuttgart to check in with Victor Hahn.
In Germany, Hahn is about to open en exhibit that shows ancient Abydos, which is where the hunky white dude in the beginning found the cursed amulet. Hahn has found "the Isis amulet," which will allow him to control Osiris. He reveals the exhibit - the temple of Osiris - and opens the floor to questions. Of course, Beaumont is there, asking him if he worships Osiris and if the cult engages in human sacrifice. That's an odd question at a museum exhibit opening. Hahn pulls out the Isis amulet, which freaks Beaumont out and transports her ... someplace else. It looks like the temple, but she's surrounded by creepy dudes who look like this:
Man, that has to suck. On the other hand, it's a good way to diet! Beaumont begins bleeding from her eyes, and suddenly she's back in Germany, and she runs from the hall. Winston begins to chase her, but suddenly, the no-longer-a-lizard woman appears and says, "She's seen something." Winston asks how she knows, and she answers, "Because I've seen it, as well."
If you think it's to be continued, then you've read a comic book before!
As I wrote above, this isn't a terribly good comic. However, it's not awful. Avery and Blevins give us a set up and put some pieces in play, and they end the issue on a creepy high note. It's somewhat convoluted, what with everyone just assuming that Egyptian gods wandered the Earth building temples and interfering with mankind, but whatever. This really fulfills all the requirements of a first issue - we get the principals, the villains, a basic framework of a plot, and a sort-of cliffhanger ending. Avery and Blevins aren't the best writers, so some of the dialogue is fairly bland and occasionally tortured, but it's not laughable. Molenaar's art reminds me of Brandon Peterson's when he drew Uncanny X-Men, which means it's not as bad as some Top Cow art. Beaumont is always dressed normally, nobody thrusts out their pneumatic boobs at inappropriate moments, and nobody pulls out guns that are bigger than their entire body and holds it with one hand. It's a bit refreshing, actually.
As it's a #1 issue, I'm not surprised that if you were a first-time comic book reader, you'd be able to follow along perfectly well. I have no idea if the subsequent issues in the series were as easy to follow as this one, but this, at least, does a nice job enticing you back for more. It's up to the reader whether this is interesting enough to return (it's not for me, but that's why we have different tastes!), but they certainly won't be lost.
All in all, Cursed isn't bad. It's not brilliant by any means, but issue #1 does its job. Who would have expected a Top Cow book to do that?