Digital comics giant ComiXology have turned publisher with their new collection of ComiXology Originals. This opening collection of four titles include all ages superhero adventure Super Freaks; a new series of Richard Starkings’ long running Elephantmen; a Starkings original called Ask For Mercy; and Savage Game from NFL player Ryan Kalil.
Super freaks #1-5
The best of the bunch by far, Super Freaks has an all ages superhero appeal, but is smart enough to leave some meat on the bones for adults to read and enjoy. When all the superheroes disappear, the sidekicks must step up to the plate but they aren’t up to the task when an alien invasion called The Crisis looks set to defeat them. At a time when people online are grumbling about not being able to get their superhero fix from the Big Two, Super Freaks is a really fun and very readable ‘capes’ adventure in a very classic mould. The characters are interesting and diverse without feeling like a box checking exercise, and the story even include super villain side kicks which add a nice twist to it all. The artwork is vibrant and colourful with bags of expressive facials and some eye popping visuals. The dialogue crackles with youthful banter and is augmented with social media and instant messaging to make it feel young and contemporary. It has that same sense of vibrancy that Ultimate Spider-man had when it burst on to the scene and mixes a smart understanding of superhero lore with some enjoyable story-telling to make a really great combo which makes you remember how great superhero stories can be when done right.
Elephantmen 2261: The DEath of Shorty
An exclusive new chapter of Richard Starkings long running anthropomorphic sci-fi series is a fantastic jumping on point for this classic series. It’s written with a very easy and accessible approach that allows new readers an entry into this long running series but with enough depth to make longtime readers not get put off. The story focuses on Shorty a veteran elephantman who is shocked when he discovers a group of tortured and crucified animals. This sets him off on a path to track the killer and also sees him cross paths with veteran characters Hip Flask and Jack Fareell. As with all Elephantmen books the star is the art with Axel Medellin’s rendering of the animals truly breath taking. The level of detail in places is phenomenal with every hair and wrinkle and eye lash being rendered in immaculate detail – especially in the opening crucifixion scenes. However this level of detail can also cause problems with some of the other panels as at times the wide angle artwork can look a little simplistic compared to some of the more detailed close ups. It’s still an amazing book to look at and an intriguing glimpse into what makes this long running series such a firm favourite.
Ask for Mercy
Another offering from Richard Starkings, it opens with an estate agent trying to do business over the phone when a mysterious stranger strikes up a conversation. He persuades her to come and meet some friends and takes her though a mysterious red door into another world. It’s here that things get really interesting as it is a parallel world filled with monsters and strange shape shifting beings. This idea of a supernatural world existing in a layer beneath our own, feels very Neil Gaiman-esque and it toys with the idea of whether it is heaven or hell which also evokes his best work. The introduction of this otherworldly realm allows artist and co creator Abigail Jill Harding the chance to cut loose with some spectacular visuals thank to her painterly, mixed media style that reminded us a of a more intricate Lyndon White. Her work is the real star of this fantastic first issue as there is not much story to discuss and the character work in the first half feels a bit formulaic. Fortunately the outstanding world building in the second half more than makes up for this flat start and creates a book that is definitely worth peaking behind the red door to find out more about!
A mix of Jurassic Park and the Running Man with hints of The Island of Dr Moreau, Savage Game sees scientist Conner Bowen heading to an island to visit his estranged brother, a world famous bioengineer who is splicing plant and animal DNA to help revolutionise the agriculture industry. However he has also been working on a sideline of genetically altered animals who he pits against each other in deadly combat, known as the Savage Game. Writers Ryan Kalil and Shawn Kittlesen have crafted a fairly generic, albeit very readable, thriller with the odd interesting twist along the way. The artwork from Chris B. Murray is a mix of quite slick line work on the people, mixed with some interesting, albeit slightly cheesy animal hybrids that feel more like cut and pastes of lots of creatures rather than an interesting genetic development. With slick and gaudy digital colours it lacks anything that really makes it really stand out, but at 60 pages you at least get a full story for a bargain price and so at the end of it all, Savage Game ends up not being a total beast!