Take MYSTERY DATE, for instance. A lighthearted tale about a college coed who tries to 'sweet talk' a better grade out of her professor-- only this professor turns out to be an alien!.
I can imagine what most comics creators would do with that scenario-- a little bit of cheesecake, a heapin' helpin' of tenticles, pseudopods, and double-entendres. Hasn't HEAVY METAL cranked out this plot about a zillion times?
But the difference is, MYSTERY DATE is set in Anvard, the mysterious domed city from McNeil's award-winning series FINDER. And the political/ cultural/ anthropological/ biological complexities of that city and its inhabitants carry over into this new story, with fascinating consequences.
In fact, the coed, named Vary, seems to be going to a college for prostitutes-- but in a cultural context very different from our own. And her romantic entanglement is not with one professor but two. The first is human, a repressed xenologist named A. A. Zivancevic; the other is Shar, a member of the Laeske species.
The Laeskes are a stunningly imaginative creation, immense beasts resembling a cross between dinosaurs, lions, and flamingos. Shar's sexuality is savage and strange, and quite unrepressed. There isn't anything Vary can do with Shar except ride upon his back, but the creature derives intense pleasure from this.
Shar and Zivancevic are a study in contrasts, and so is Vary, a carefree girl who nonetheless wonders about her own ethical responsibility-- 'I had this idea that if I didn't MEAN any harm, I couldn't be DOING any harm..' And yet her doubts persist.
Reprinted from MYTHOGRAPHY, this two-part miniseries is a welcome dose of McNeil's imaginative universe, while we wait for the FINDER trade paperback in August, and the return of FINDER #15 in November. Did I mention the art, by the way? It's terrific!!
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
Tales of the Great Unspoken
This is an impressive post-modern comic, elaborate and mysterious in conception, tight and polished in execution.
'The Great Unspoken' may refer to the several silent sequences which dominate the book, suggestive of loneliness and existential anxst. A young man with horns (called 'The Dignified Devil' on the back cover) sits drinking in his apartment; then he visits a cafe to purchase coffee and donuts from a silent young waitress with dark eyes. Returning to his apartment, he discards the purchases and goes on drinking, his fleeting contact with humanity having led to nothing.
In a longer sequence, the Dignified Devil is a salesman being subjected to a cruel test by his boss: he must make a sale to the most stubborn client the firm has every had, and on top of that, he must sell him an item in a briefcase without knowing what it is. A pointed social commentary, with a bizaar, ambiguous ending.
Aaron Augenblick is an artist to watch-- unpredictable, alternately serious, comical, and surreal. Great Unspoken is an attractive package, too, with full-color and duotone pages (thanks no doubt to financing from a Xeric Grant!)
Top Shelf Productions
P. O. Box 1282
Marietta, GA 30061-1282
Jenni Gregory's style is a radical departure from the tough-guy superhero fare that dominates modern comics.
Her title character, Karen Brinson, is in a way a superhero, with the ability to traverse the dreamscapes of others, and send their lives in new directions. But unlike the typical caped escapade, her stories are not about action, but about feelings.
Take for example the character introduced at the beginning of the latest Dreamwalker saga. Eleanor Tobias is a middle-aged science fiction author who's stopped writing after the death of her husband. Upon meeting Karen, Eleanor begins writing again, in the form of a journal. She has a lot to write about, because she recognizes in Karen a fellow psychic traveler, and doesn't know quite how to react to it.
Most authors would simply make the two next door neighbors into fast friends from the start. But Gregory's interest in character and relationships leads her to explore this budding acquaintance more fully.
Recognizing Karen's standoffishness, Eleanor invents a subterfuge to get closer to the young woman-- she asks her to babysit her cat, Pandora, while Eleanor is at an SF convention out of state. But Pandora is no ordinary cat-- Eleanor has a psychic link with the feline that allows her to enter into Karen's dreams.
Carousel follows Karen through several dream adventures, as she struggles to find her place not only in the dreamscape, but in the real world. And her most pressing conflict is trying to find a job where she fits in and is capable-- imagine that, a superhero who still has to earn a living!
Gregory's writing is subtle and graceful, always dancing in step with her visuals. Her images sensitively convey the characters feelings, and portray the dreamscape as a playful wonderland. The cover images are magnificent, and the interior art employs a spectrum of grey tones to take the edge off of the black and white.
All in all, a high-quality series worthy of your attention. Watch for the second series from Avatar, 'Summer Rain,' coming in July, and 'Autumn Leaves', listed in this month's Indypreviews!
9 Triumph Dr.
Urbana, IL 61802
A combination of legend, political commentary, and fast-moving action scenes, PEACE PARTY is a comics fantasy/quasi-superhero thriller set in compellingly offbeat world of an Indian reservation.
Native Americans Oliver Gee, Billy Honanie, and Drew Quayatt get in a car accident on a lonely desert highway near the Moenkopi Hopilands. Unconscious, Billy and Drew experience an encounter with a supernatural tree-like being, only to awaken to find Oliver injured in the back seat.
Leaving the scene to go find their friend help. Billy and Drew encounter hoodlums preparing to ace a stool pidgeon. Manifesting an inexplicable power to materialize an attacking rattlesnake, the two heroes manage to escape from the criminals, but are pursued in in an elaborate chase.
Meanwhile, journalist Jemm Begay is probing a mining company's attempt to tap into the water table of the reservation. Is there a tie between the mining company and the hoodlums? I can hardly wait for issue two to find out!
By Rob Scmidt, Ron Pattioruso, Mike Kellsher.
#204, 6150 Buckingham Pkwy,
Culver City, CA 90230