Weirdworld #2

Mike Del Mundo and Jason Aaron keep the swashbuckling strangeness going in "Weirdworld" #2, another snappily paced, outrageously drawn issue that's somehow got me excited to read more about Arkon (yes, Arkon). Admittedly, the plot and characterization aren't particularly inventive or memorable; Aaron writes Arkon as an archetype, the lines between hero and villain are kept quite obvious and I haven't been surprised by any of the plot developments. However, Mike Del Mundo and Marco D'Alfonso draw an unforgettably outlandish high-fantasy world. The artwork in this issue is a treasure trove of colors, verve and creativity that merits a reread the dialogue doesn't necessarily require. Taken as a whole, this is a remarkably fun read, and "Weirdworld" is one of the most satisfying series to come out of "Secret Wars."

Del Mundo and colorist Marco D'Alfonso are just unreal on this book. Arkon's long journey home is so fun to follow because of the sights and sounds he journeys through. From a sheer spectacle perspective, the splash pages and character entrances are arresting and lavish. The dragons, witches and underwater apes all look like classic pulp creatures, but injected with the moodiness and striking poses that Del Mundo's known for. It's not all set pieces, though. Del Mundo also has a great sense for the physicality of a fantasy world: the creatures feel believably strange, the monsters look believably meaty and the underwater fights are believably clumsy, all desperate palms on faces. There's even winking humor in some of these panels, which gives the artwork room to breathe and freshens the whole book up. "Weirdworld" wouldn't work if it took itself too seriously.

The colors are also a real boon to the book. Sometimes Del Mundo's colors can obscure his work, but here he and D'Alfonso are quite clear and effective. It's hard not to love it when they really let loose with thick crimsons and midnight blacks and those colors create some of the most satisfying single pages, but the team also knows when to tone it down. The lush reds and swirling greens can give way to harsher, lighter colors when the scene calls for it, and the book looks less like an explosion and more like a narrative as a result.

Jason Aaron also knows how to pace a story. "Weirdworld" #2 never dawdles and, as a result, the more convenient elements of the story -- like dropping Arkon right into Morgan Le Fay's lair -- read speedily and forgivably. None of the characters here are complex, but they're not trying to be. This is a book that knows what it is, and Aaron has the confidence to let it run its course. He balances Arkon's humorless narration with irony and absurdity in the rest of the world and, as a result, the tone is as effortless as the plotting. I love a good high fantasy that isn't constantly apologizing for being high fantasy.

A gorgeous little diversion, "Weirdworld" offers all the fun of Marvel's more forgettable titles with the luscious artwork of its most serious. I'm so excited that Aaron and Del Mundo have used the "Secret Wars" premise to make this odd, wonderful book.

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