Sunday, August 13, 2017

Zagor faces new kind of horror in "Fear"

There is a scene late in 1000 Faces of Fear (Epicenter Comics, 278 pgs, $15.99) when Zagor, a.k.a. The Spirit with the Hatchet and undisputed King of the Darkwood Forest in the North American wilderness, attempts to build a new hatchet for himself using a wooden stick, a common rock and some rope (just where he got rope in the middle of nowhere is beyond me, but I digress) in order to take on two US soldiers who've come to jeopardize the safety of his ally, the Native American Crow tribe.  Surprisingly, Zagor's new weapon falls apart on its own, a product of clumsy and uncoordinated concentration, and for the first time in this Italian comics franchise, our hero comes across as... average.  "Surely", his countless fans across the globe thought, "he's still recovering from the spirituality-inducing potion he drank earlier with his Native brothers, 'cause that doesn't resemble the Zagor we're use to."  

Zagor, The Ambassador of Peace and Public Relations in Darkwood.

Called by the Osage tribe to investigate US military's intention to build an Army Fort on a sacred Native American ground, Zagor's quest is soon complicated by the introduction of Captain Flint, an angry, vengeful and arrogant leader for whom the Natives are nothing more than "ignorant beggars". When soldiers mysteriously begin to get slaughtered in the middle of the night by a monstrous creature who appears differently to everyone who lays eyes on it, The Spirit with the Hatchet realizes that he's not dealing with an ordinary foe, but an otherworldly one.  Perhaps a monster from beyond the stars, as the Natives seem to claim.

Captain Flint, US Military hero and a skeptic of all things Native American.

Created by two late great artists of Sergio Bonelli Editore publishing house - writer Ade Capone and illustrator Gallieno Ferri - 1000 Faces of Fear is a morally complex and horror inducing tale for this particular series, one where the newly evolved violence no longer shies from displays of decapitation and hearts being pulled out of characters' chests.  In Flint, Capone creates an adversary whose past has experienced tragedy similar to that of Zagor, but who's chosen to deal with it differently: to intimidate and displace the Native Americans at the expense his own personal vendetta.  More than just a Wild West cliche, Flint is a fallen angel whose new plight has blinded him completely to his previous morals, and as such he's a worthy antagonist to the King of Darkwood, whose ideology is the complete opposite.
No longer your child-friendly and carnage-free comic it once was.

Ferri's illustrations typically shine in the darkness and shadows of black & white artwork, something that Zagor's readers have grown accustomed to over the decades, since the regular series in its native Italy is published in such color-free format.  However, his faithful fans need not worry, for I can assure you that the ominous tone of the story and Ferri's starry night skies looks just as impressive in color, and lose very little, if any, of the visual tension and suspense.

Stick to heroism and bravery, Zagor; just stay away from crafts.

And as long as Zagor's attempts to build new hatchets with limited materials result in the weapon collapsing to pieces in his hand while his foes prepare to pounce, it won't matter whether it's a b&w or color version of his adventure we're reading.  Imperfection is an underlying trait of any timeless (super)hero, and only by being fallible will Spirit with the Hatchet continue to elevate to the ranks of most celebrated comic book characters the world over.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Elsewhere" resurrects aviators of the past

Escaping from the clutches of evil Lord Kragen, the prisoner duo Cort and Tavel accidentally run into a woman whose parachute has left her hanging from a nearby tree, leaving her vulnerable as potential prey to any passing predator.  The two men - if in fact they can be called that, since they resemble elf-like creatures from a fantasy novel - are perplexed by her presence and general strangeness.  "You're obviously not from around here", Cort tells her after hearing her speak.  Little does he or his friend know, however, that the lady in question, dressed as a twentieth century pilot, is none other than the famous missing aviator, Amelia Earhart.

Elsewhere #1, the new Image comic from writer Jay Faerber and artist Sumeyye Kesgin (colors by Ron Riley, lettering by Thomas Mauer), is an imaginative and at once captivating debut.  Packed with clever one-liners and eye-popping illustrations, its energy soars from page to page like a visually stunning animated movie, and its juxtaposition of real-life missing aviators/pilots and high octane fantasy, reminiscent of Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy, is a recipe for a promising story arc.

The last page is particularly intriguing, since it sets up a potentially compelling scenario few would have thought of.  Here's hoping that Faerber and Kesgin keep the surprises coming, and that Elsewhere runs for many years.