Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Golly #1-3 the Were-hog of Silloville

"Golly" was originally conceived as a 3-issue Phil Hester mini-series, but Image decided to continue publishing it as an ongoing title. Due to his commitments on penciling the "El Diablo" mini-series for DC, and writing both "the Darkness" and "Firebreather" for Image, it's easy to see why Hester had to bring in Brook Turner as a penciler for the project.

The result is a high-concept series, starring Golly, a carney mechanic, and lovable loser cast into the role of divine champion/supernatural investigator. Now, this type of premise is commonly seen in comedies, but it also echoes a lot of other comic-book series, as diverse as "Preacher", "Goon", and most recently "the Helm". Perhaps the greatest similarity could be found in Marvel's original "Ghost rider", due to the fact that "Golly" uses the traveling circus as a means of spotlighting a different adversary in every town the posse find themselves in.

In fact, the authors take full advantage of the carnival theme to set up a diverse and memorable cast of characters. Golly's friends are given such lively roles, that Hester and Turner actually go to far in setting up Satan, a minor player in the opening story-arc. Character designs are solid throughout and the down on their luck performers never shy away from voicing their unique points of view, all the while helpfully referring to one-another by name.

Hester doesn't pull his punches when it comes to the profanity, but most of the rather inventive swearing is as quirky and good natured, as his characters. On the other hand, some of the physical comedy crosses the limits of good taste, particularly in a delightfully anti-climatic finale, but even then, the authors manage to portray it as a plot point, no matter how hilarious.

Having said that, the book is definitely not for people who find themselves easily offended when it comes to the matters of faith, seeing as it constantly deals with religious themes. The turning-point in Golly's life is thus a prophetic vision, with Satan's look-a-like that believes he's the Biblical Devil as a cast member. Considering that even the were-hog threat is eventually explained as to have an origin connecting the supernatural with Christianity, perhaps the authors have had their share of jokes, and will be satisfied to downplay that particular element in the future.

As for the general tone, Hester and Turner are quick to establish a formula, a necessity considering the story's original format. This means that most of the humor comes from the relations between the characters, as they are spontaneously geared towards the threat that is set up in as serious a manner as a book like "Golly" allows. The results are hysterical,but in the long run the series could benefit from developing it's protagonist, as the drama generated by spoofing horror conventions could potentially become repetitive. Of course, this doesn't take into account the delays, which could make the audience lose the interest in the property.

And that brings us to the chief problem for "Golly" - the presentation. Visually, the book is very dark, betraying the rushed, almost unfinished look by the art department. Working from Hester's character designs, Turner doesn't always manage to continually depict characters in a coherent manner, with their features sometimes changing from panel to panel. Coupled with a general lack of background presence, his art makes for a bleak circus, culminating in a "destruction-derby" scene that is almost completely devoid of energy. The bleak humor and a strange atmosphere do come out of his pencils, but it's imperative that he should be fitted with an inker, to smoothen out some of the rough edges, and help-out with the details.

Ideally, the whole project could be written and drawn by Phil Hester, but he's proven in the past (with "Coffin", and "the Atheist") that he's unwilling to abandon the financial security of a day job of working at DC and Marvel. Thus, the best chance "Golly" has of succeeding in the market is by both of it's authors devoting even more effort in making in the book. As it stands, it's a fun read, and, despite the subject matter, a well-though out comic, but it could achieve greater success if the writing was even more satirical and the art rendered with a higher degree of detail. That way, the series would be much more appealing, and judging by the solicitation for the next arc, this is precisely where it's headed.

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