Saturday, February 27, 2010

Well-endowed Sci-Fi . . . . . . . . . .

SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED #1  (ZENOSCOPE ENTERTAINMENT, released February, 2010)  Mature Audiences Only.  Features one complete story, 48 pages from cover to cover.  $4.99 price.

          I am always on the look-out for quality horror and science-fiction comics.  When I find a new title worth exploring I’ll review it here.  Sometimes I’ll even focus on some titles that miss the mark for me, yet bear enough promise that I still want to point them out to others and let them choose for themselves.   For me, these comics provide a nice break from the super-hero and crime titles  that account for a huge chunk of my regular comics reading habits.  I like the variety.  I also recognize that if these books don’t get enough support they won’t become available on a regular basis or fade out before they can realize their potential.   Long-time comics readers need our choices.

          Zenoscope Entertainment built its reputation on mature re-telling of traditional fairy tales, adding a little spice as well as producing some of the best-looking books (art and color) on the marketplace (and not just for lovers of female anatomy, but they don’t disappoint in that respect).   As they grew, Zenoscope has added some original works to their stable of titles, and now venture into the science-fiction / fantasy arena hoping for similar success with this new anthology series.   Fans of their GRIMM FAIRY TALES will be very comfortable with SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED.

          The back cover issue description promises a blend of science-fiction, fantasy and horror and I give them credit for living up to that promise.  The first issue has elements of all those genres, although it leans heavily towards what I would label as “dark fantasy”.   This is not high-concept, technically stylistic science-fiction but rather a return to the early days of the form, with a speculative tale reminiscent of the classic pulp magazines.  Those early magazines always featured a buxom female in need of rescue on the cover and usually had nothing to do with the contents of the magazine.  SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED’s  cover is an homage to those pulp covers, but what you see here is what you get inside.   I also appreciate the clever border around the front and back cover, with frayed and missing edges, creases and tears as if to suggest you are looking at one of those classic pulp magazines.

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          Issue #1 features “The Perfect Mate” with story by Zenoscope president Joe Brusha and luscious art by Claudio Sepulveda.  If you are well-versed in the early works of science fiction, especially the short stories of Bradbury and others, then the theme of this will seem very familiar.  It’s been done before, but Brusha’s version of the newly-purchased robotic lover/companion is very entertaining and worthwhile.  I could see that ending coming, but I enjoyed reading and viewing “The Perfect Mate”  anyway.

            The pacing is just right.  Bruscha’s dialogue and script are complete and concise and allow the art to tell the story.  I also love the overlapping panels over a black background that highlight most pages.   Artist Sepulveda makes great use of body language to convey the main character’s mood.  The slumped shoulders and disheveled gait in the opening pages  indicate his  loneliness and solitary bachelorhood.  Later he dresses better, walks with an energetic bounce, and smiles a lot more (who wouldn’t?) .  And of course later we see boredom and then shock manifest in his features.  The art has a good deal of depth to it, almost as if it exists somewhere between 2-D and 3-D.   There are no inker or colorist credits given, but they enhance the line work of Sepulveda immensely.

    This story would have made an excellent teleplay reminiscent of the classic Twilight Zone and Night Gallery tales, and it has a more mature, modern appeal similar to the late lamented revival of The Outer Limits on premium cable television.   It will be interesting to see what type of stories are told in future issues of SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED.  I’m guessing this will be a quarterly title.  This one is worth checking out.

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