PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, July 20, 2011?

Marksmen#1_SDCC_Cover      ADAMWEST2

MARKSMEN #1  (Benaroya Publishing / Image Comics, July 2011  $1.00 introductory issue)  Story: David Baxter.  Art:  Javier Aranta, Garry Leach & Jessica Kholinne (of Imaginary Friends Studio).  Cover: Tomm Coker.

The short notes are that MARKSMEN is a post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure.  That brief description may be enough to attract those readers who apparently can’t get enough of this type of story.  Those four words alone have spawned a sub-category of futuristic tales in the science fiction genre.  Those four words alone may cause others among us who have sampled more than their fair share of post-apocalyptic science fiction adventures  to groan and utter “oh no, not again” under our breath before dismissing and avoiding MARKSMEN.  I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.  I empathize more with  the latter reader type mentioned above, yet I read MARKSMEN  in spite of that.  After all, that’s what I’m here for.  I’m glad I did because this book has a lot going for it.  The attractive asking price to sample issue #1 may prompt more readers to at least give it a chance.

MARKSMEN opens without benefit of a summary page or text background and gets right into the action - - the exploration of the devastated ruins of Apache Junction, Arizona by an armored soldier on horseback.   The exact year in which MARKSMEN takes place is not indicated anywhere within the issue.  The current gasoline prices ($3.69 gallon for regular) seen on the partially-smashed sign in the ruins of a former Shell gas station seem to hint that the destruction may have begun in more modern times.  It’s not possible (at least so far) to determine how many years have passed since then.

I received some pre-solicit information from Benaroya that gives more background and explanation of what exactly occurred.  But those details cannot be discerned from reading Issue #1.  Maybe they will be revealed a layer at a time in future issues.  I certainly don’t want to spoil anyone’s detective work - - so I’m only going to refer to events that can be understood from reading Issue #1.

Here is some of the excitement to behold in issue #1:  a visit to New San Diego, one of the few surviving cities to be rebuilt by scientists and heavily fortified and guarded; the bold exploits of Sergeant Drake McCoy as he seeks to obtain some needed computer tech from an apparently abandoned complex; a band of ruthless cannibalistic nomads; an opposing and friendly band from the city of Lone Star who seek to warn New San Diego of the troubles ahead;  conflicts between scientists and preachers (church and state;  oil powered technology versus sun & nuclear powered technology; faith-based communities ruled by a few versus standard organized communities fueled by cooperation and optimism - - and how both can build a following and then inspire and persuade them into action;  politics of government - - and politics of the bedroom; jealousy among officers and power struggles; an organized force to protect New San Diego with a strict military structure; and a driven Duke and his chief officer Deacon who seek to lead their blindly-following congregation on a mission of conquest and death to all non-believers.   Couple this with art that recalls some of the best illustrated science-fiction comics from Epic, Heavy Metal and other sources.  The art team have done a fantastic job with this book from exquisite facial expressions to intricate details and a fine use of depth and shadows, dimension and scale. Add a generous sprinkling of action, along with vivid decapitations and severed limbs and you have a book that should engage the readers and keep them turning the pages.

This is the third Benaroya title I have featured in as many weeks and there’s a good reason why:  Quality - - in both story and art.  While RED SPIKE, SAMURAI BLOOD and MARKSMEN do not share a linked universe and actually take place in different periods  (present, past and future respectively) there is a commonality to these books.  Each title offer a great action-adventure on the surface level plus plenty of layers for those who appreciate more depth and detail. The art is equally above average and worth more than one look.  This leads me to proclaim Benaroya as the small publisher to watch for 2011 - -  “the little company that can be bigger”.  The partnership with Image Comics to provide mass distribution has really jump-started their July 2011 debut of titles in a big way.  I expect to see more awesome works in the future.

THE MIS-ADVENTURES OF ADAM WEST #1  (Bluewater Comics, July 2011)  Reed Lackey, writer.  Russell Dauterman, penciler.  Kamui Ayami, colorist.  Jaymes Reed, letterer.  Created by Adam West and Darren G. Davis.  Covers by Matt Bellisle (A), Russell Dauterman (B), and Lipe (C ).  Cover A pictured above.

Back in 2009 I previewed several books from Bluewater Productions and dubbed them the “little comic company that could” - - praising them for acting as trailblazers for the return of biography to the comics medium.  The success of these books helped finance their exploration of comics in many other genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.  They also were one of the first comics companies (along with the late Virgin Comics and others) to offer writing assignments to acknowledged fiction authors as well as Hollywood script writers.

Once again they dare to venture out on a limb with this offbeat book featuring an actor best known for his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the campy 1960’s television series and several action B-movies, etc. THE MIS-ADVENTURES OF ADAM WEST is both different and quirky, and a fun read.  The basic premise lends itself easily to multiple wild and varied storylines/settings in future issues.

As the story opens a disgruntled Adam West bemoans the current state of city life and yearns for the simpler times when the lines between heroes and villains weren’t so blurred as they are today:  “This city has grown tired of heroes.  Corporate greed, corrupt politics, celebrity scandals. We have no one to trust anymore. . . . . . In my day, heroes didn’t sell short their convictions for a chance at power or fame.”

A courier interrupts to deliver a package and receives a lecture about quality television as West name drops a number of classic series, none of which the messenger recognizes until he sees the Batman mask on display.  In a funny moment, West begins to brag on his experience on the Batman tv show only to learn this person was referring to more recent Batman movies:  West retorts:  “He was the Caped Crusader long before he was the Dark Knight.”

The package contains an amulet and when Adam puts it on following a discouraging meeting with his agent (who wants him to take on more “edgy” roles) he is transformed into a younger version of himself beginning with a James Bond like secret agent referred to as Dominic Cane. Cane has a beautiful and suspicious companion and seems to be engaged in an attempt to save a Senator from assassination.  After a nearly fatal car crash and a later battle with commando-like hit man, he comes face to face with the only person who knows he is Adam West - - - for a very good reason.

It’s weird, like a “Twilight-Zone episode” as West refers to his situation, and very entertaining. It will be fun to continue reading and learn in which direction this book turns next. 

OTHER BOOKS DEBUTING THIS WEEK WORTHY OF INVESTIGATION:  Conan: Island Of No Return #2; Criminal Macabre/The Goon: When Freaks Collide; Daredevil #1; Iron Man 2.o #7; Logan’s Run: Aftermath #3; Locke & Key: Clockworks #1;  Red Skull #1 (second printing); Sergio Aragones’ Funnies #1; Soldier Zero #10; T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #9; Witchdoctor #2.

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