MONKEYS AND ALIENS
Kevin Lau's XIN: LEGEND OF THE MONKEY KING is a big dumb videogame comic. Everything about it screams Nintendo to me. You have a lead character making his way through a series of lesser fights against a cast of colorful and multi-powered characters who all look like they've recent stepped off the covers of videogame magazines. Xin fights the lesser bad guys and gals until he beats them all and gets his chance at the Big Boss character at the end. Those two are more evenly matched and so Xin must resort to clever thinking to beat the adversary.
Sounds like every fight game ever made for a video game console system, doesn't it?
There's nothing terribly deep about this comic. Everything is laid out for you on the page, save a couple of mysteries that will no doubt unfold themselves over the course of the three issues of this mini-series. The fun in the book is in the fight scenes and the look of the art, overall. At times, even the logic displays serious lapses. Case in point: Xin challenges a group of his enemies to take him on at the same time. They move on him en masse and thus follows a series of one-on-one fights until they're all dispatched. Huh?
Omar Dogan and UDON are responsible for the digital painting of the book, and deserve much praise for it. The color pages are breathtaking, with a rich and often painted look that adds depth and dimension to the artwork. If you get the chance to see the pages before and after coloring, you'll see what I mean. The coloring not only makes the book beautiful, but it's integral in some of the storytelling and in showing off some of the powers on display.
Jay Faerber is tasked with the dialogue for the book, and does a good job of it. Xin's dialogue portrays him to be the arrogant ass that he is, and the rest of it works to convey the storyline and let the reader know the capabilities of each of the fighters.
(In case you didn't read the correction that was printed later in the day in Tuesday's column, UDON did not do the coloring for EDEN'S TRAIL. It's a similar style, but that title's creator and artist, Steve Uy, did it.)
The thing is, XIN: LEGEND OF THE MONKEY KING is not a bad book. I know this review sounds harsh, but I enjoyed the book for what it's worth. Check your brain at the door, go for the kicks and explosions, and you're in for a bit of a ride. XIN #1 is a Hollywood special effects-driven show, where the plot serves at the pleasure of the effects, and those effects are quite spectacular. There is a larger story at work, and perhaps the book will delve more into it starting with the second issue. I hope so. If not, Kevin Lau is going to have to come up with some spectacularly creative fight scenes in the second issue to maintain his audience's interest.
Ryan Woodward's THE INVINCIBLE ED #1 is the story of a high school geek named Ed who is accidentally gifted strange and terrific powers (maybe) by an alien race that wants to save the earth from itself.
The concept itself is not a terribly original idea. As always, ideas are a dime a dozen and it's the execution that counts. Woodward does a great job in creating an easily accessible and entertaining book that's easy on the eyes.
The book opens up on an alien planet world that just screams of Michele Gagne's ZED. It's all there, from the funky designs to the lettering layouts. I was relieved when I read on the text page at the end that Gagne was a mentor to Woodward, who's a professional animator by trade. Artistically, Woodward's art might remind you a little bit of fellow animator Mike Kunkel's. He doesn't quite go as far with showing the guidelines and faded pencil lines, but some indicators are still present, and the art carries that kinetic animated look. Storywise, you might see room for comparison to CrossGen's titles, where you have an odd outside character set to act as mentor to the person (or persons) who wields the new powers bestowed upon them. This book is played much more for laughs, though, so don't expect an epic saga here.
Despite all the easy comparisons, the book stands well on its own. It has a nice sense of humor to it, with some funny gags sprinkled throughout the book. The characters may seem one-dimensional at first, but Woodward quickly adds something to each of them to make them interesting. The alien mentor hates earth. Ed, the geek, doesn't think of himself as a geek. Football player Lance is your stereotypical aggressive dumb jock. OK, so you can't win them all.
Little nits to pick: The coloring could use some work, but I think that will come with more experience. The cover, in particular, has an unfortunate color choice. The bright explosion in the bottom right corner leaves the lead character spread across the rest of the cover in a dark color, which keeps him from sticking out on the stands towards potential new readers. On the lettering side of things, Woodward commits the cardinal sin of using the "I" character with the crossbars throughout the book, instead of only in the cases where it begins a sentence or is used for the personal pronoun.
The first issue is $3.50 for 24 full color pages. It's been out in comic shops for awhile now, but is also available for reorder in this week's new PREVIEWS. The second issue of the series is also solicited in that same PREVIEWS under the publishing company, Summertime Books.
If you enjoy the animator-driven style of comic books that we have right now, I think you'll enjoy this one. It's fairly breezy, but it goes down smoothly.
Woodward's personal web site is also a lot of fun to peruse. He has great samples from his animation work, much of it in special effects from the likes of OSMOSIS JONES and THE IRON GIANT. There is also some character design work, coloring work, and animated storyboards to be seen. (I think the Gagne influence shows in the special effects and character design work.) Give it a looksee. Just be warned that it's aimed towards broadband users.
Don't forget -- the deadline for entries in the STYLISH VITTLES contest is Friday night (27 September 2002) at Midnight my time. (USA, East Coast) Send your name and mailing address to me in an e-mail with a subject header of "Stylish Vittles" and you'll be entered in the contest. Limit one entry per person, please. One winner will be picked at random, and the rest of you will have your e-mails deleted. I'm not compiling any mailing lists here.
The winner will be notified this weekend and announced next week in Pipeline.
This week, VariousAndSundry.com has covered radio censorship, interesting tech articles, and some celebrity weirdness.
More than 400 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.