Monday, August 11, 2008
the Perhapanauts: First Blood
Todd & Craig
I'll start of by saying that "the Perhapanauts" is a brainchild of writer Todd DeZago and artist Craig Rousseau. I've known DeZago from "Tellos", a fantasy comic he did with late Mike Wieringo, while Rousseau is an artist with a long list of titles he's worked on.
Their collaboration is noted on the covers by their first names only, and I must admit that it was seeing "Todd & Craig's" listed above the comic's title, coupled with the cute character designs, that drew me to check Perhapanauts out in the first place.
Now, the title's actually one of the things I have problems with. I know that it sounds like a strange thing to say, but consider that I'm not a native English speaker. Anyway, the word "Perhapanauts" strikes me as hard to pronounce, and I actually had trouble learning to spell it correctly.
Presumably, the creators wanted the name to carry part of the comic's odd charm, but I'm not sure that this was the way to go, especially if merchandising is taken into account.
Speaking of media crossover appeal, I find that "the Perhapanauts" has the same animted movie-like sensibility that I found in DeZago's "Tellos". The concept of an SF team consisting of several distinctive races working together also reminds me of RPG, and could even be adapted as such.
As for the elevator pitch, that of the monster hunters being monsters themselves, at first glance it seems like a fresh idea, compared to the mainstream sf/horror movies. On the other hand, it's been tried in comics already, and to the mixed results. Both DC's Creature Commandos and later on Marvel's Howling Commandos tried to make the same premise work, but have failed to catch on with the readers. Dark Horse's own B.P.R.D. arguably achieved the most success with the idea, but it must be taken into accound that its cult status largely stems from the Hellboy connection.
Now, what are "the Perhapanauts"'s chances of succeeding where the others failed? Well, it spotlights "B.E.D.L.A.M.", a supernatural investigation agency that is much more light hearted than the average group of mad scientists working for a corrupt government. The agency employs a strike team of particular operatives, designated by the marker "Blue", whose character designs look pleasant and familiar in all the right ways.
All in all, the book is perfectly set up for a nice mix of horror and SF adventures, injected with a healthy dose of humor. It's not the most original concept around, but it's soundly set up, and with a proper execution could still prove enticing enough to attract readers.
The characters themselves are a well-thought out mix that works. They look interesting, and each possesses very specific character traits, that help further distinguish among them.
It hels that the mysterious aMG and psychic Arina, the two human characters, are wisely the foucs of the first mini-series. Molly the insecure ghost and two evolved monsters, scientist Big(foot) and a kid Chupacabra take supporting roles the first time around. That was more than enough to propel Choopie, an obvious creator favorite, to get in and steal the show.
The cast is set up in such a natural way that the reader accepts without thinking that there the team numbers two females (one a minority at that) , which would seem forced in almost any other comic.
In fact, the creative team manage to find a way to even give us a peak on the rest of B.E.D.L.A.M.'s facility. Thus, we the readers are also provided with a look at the characters who will become more important later on, setting them up right from the start as the Blue team's collegues and superiors.
"the Perhapanauts" open with an excellent first issue, featuring an action-packed encounter that serves to introduce the cast in the best possible way. The character's mission is framed around a sequence that is not only informative, but also manages to end the episode on a great cliffhanger.
By the second issue, the creative team shows us that they don't plan on letting up, and the previously established threat only grows in proportion and importance. Even after the monster's seemingly dealt with, in the third issue, the villian continues to indirectly shake up the team.
All the while, important character subplots pop up in the background, urging the reader to invest in perhapanauts' next adventure, however random it may turn out to be.
However, the creators decide not to end the first mini on an idea story point, which puzzlingly happens in the middle of the third issue. Instead they choose to use the rest of the pages to rush the new story's prologue.
On the surface, the fourth and final issue of the mini is expected to work as a one-shot adventure, but the overabundance of subplots that are carried over serves to steer the reader towards the bigger picture. Thus, my attention was drawn from the fight with a generic villain to the cliffhanger that serves as a prologue to the next mini, building directly upon the events of the previous issues.
And that brings me towards the first mini's major flaw - it's simply not meant to be read on its own. Otherwise, "First blood" is a fine example of the storytelling ideally suited for an ongoing title.
My final word is that "the Perhapanauts" is a much better developed comic then if appears to be at first glance. It has many strengths, and is definitely a fresh and much-needed addition to the American comic-book market.
Let's just hope that it lasts long enough to tell all the stories the creators can't wait to get around to.