Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Apparat Reviews Roundup

The last two of the Apparat books have come out so it's time for a look at the whole shebang.

My favorite of the bunch was Frank Ironwine By Warren Ellis accompanied by Carla Speed McNeil.

Frank Ironwine is pure, unadulterated Warren Ellis. From the zen master detective, Frank Ironwine, who goes on a bender after soving a case then sleeps it off in a garbage bin to the new case he's called on to solve. There are no apologies here. Like it or don't. I like it.

I'd been looking forward to the Apparat stunt for a while. For those of you out of the loop on this, Ellis talked the people at Avatar into creating a fictional comics line for one month. (But just how fictional is a comics line that's being published, even if only for one month?) Ellis has written four first issues of original creations. He hand picked the artists he wanted to do each book. The books were all supposed to be released in the same week, but scheduling problems scuttled that plan. However that's a minor detail. Carla Speed McNeil (Finder) does a solid job on the art. I can see why Ellis likes to work with her.

The book is a little pricey at $3.50, but there is a lot of story here. This isn't the epic, decompressed story telling of Ellis' Planetary or Ulitmate Fantastic Four. There's a lot going on here and it's nice to pick up a comic that takes more than 5 minutes to read. Frank Ironwine is a book I'd buy again, if there were going to be another issue.

The next book out was Quit City with art by Laurenn McCubbin.

I'm not sure what Quit City is supposed to be. It's an interesting concept. Emma Pierson has come back home after quitting her gig with Aeropiratika, a group of adventurers something like DC's Blackhawks from what I could gather. What happens to somewone who was tapped to be a hero and it just didn't work out? The problem with this book is that it doesn't feel like it could go anywhere from this first issue. I know it's only an imaginary line of comics, but I thought the idea was that these were first issues designed to bring us into the world of this comics line. Unlike Ironwine, I wouldn't bother to pick up the next issue of quit city, if there were going to be one.

The biggest problem I have with the book is Laurenn McCubbin's art. It just doesn't work for me at all, from the loose rendering to the in the camera's face story telling. Her work looks like she took photo reference of every single panel then traced over it with her left hand. I know Ellis is a big fan of her art, but I just don't get it.

The next two books actually came out in the same week, only about a month off the original schedule. In case you didn't get it there, that was sarcasm. These books were all supposed to be out the same week. As a stunt it might have worked out a little better had that happened.

Anyway, the next book in our roundup is Angel Stomp Future with art by Juan Jose Ryp.

I've never seen Ryp, work before, but he must be a second cousin to Geof Darrow. The art is filled with lots of fiddley detail, which can be fun when it's not distracting. Unfortunately without color to hold the layout design together most of the pages turn to gray. On a few of the pages Ryp uses larger areas of black and white and the pages are more readable, but still distracting. The cover is nice though, so I suspect a good colorist really could have helped out the readability of the art on this book immensely. Don't get me wrong, Ryp can really draw, but it's too easy to get lost in the detail.

The story in this one is really more of an essay from the future that a story. The main character, Angel, breaks the fourth wall and lectures us about the future through the entire issue. Interesting as a one-shot, filled with many interesting concepts, but not really entertaining as such. I wouldn't pick up another issue of this if the series were to be continued. That's enought about that.

The final book is Simon Spector with art by Jacen Burrows.

I liked this one quite a bit. The art Burrows was clear and crisp and fit the the story very well. There's a bit of Doc Savage and The Shadow in this one and it's an interesting jumping off place for a possible series. What happens to a hero when he faces an adversary he can defeat only by compromising his own code of ethics. Where does he go from there. This is similar to the idea explored in Quit City, but I found it to more interesting here and the characters far more sustainable.

Best to worst.

1) Frank Ironwine - I'd definately give this a look as a series. By far the most successful book of the Apparat line.

2) Simon Spector - I'd give this one a few more issues to see how it delevoped.

3) Angel Stomp Future - A one-shot concept. Interesting but not entertaining. If I want interesting I generally read nonfiction.

4) Quit City - This one might have moved up on the list if the art had been more accessable. As it is this is the one book of the series I wouldn't have bought if I hadn't pre-ordered.


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