Sunday, March 12, 2006

Script: Phil Amara, Tim McCarney and Mike Russo; Art: Richard Jenkins.

One of my favorite comics series of the last few years was Nevermen, a deranged pulp-adventure pastiche that was immaculately illustrated by Guy Davis and written by one Phil Amara with a sort of deadpan bravado and wacky playfulness, especially in the dialogue, which scanned quite unlike anything I'd read before in a four-color funnybook. After Dark Horse released the most recent Nevermen series a couple of years ago, I've seen nothing from Amara since- until now, when I noticed his byline on top of the latest offering from AiT/PlanetLar, SKY APE: KING OF GIRLS.

Well, his byline flanked by a couple of others, and therein lies the rub as far as I'm concerned, and I don't mean a rub under the table a la Joe Casey. Not much of this reads like what I'm accustomed to seeing from Amara- perhaps the opening page, with its mock-Spillane dialogue, and a few of the stranger non sequitur-laden statements that the hero makes. This leaves me a little unsure about how exactly I feel about this issue- is it a benefit-of-the-doubt type case involving some green talent, spinning off from inspiration or characters/situations provided by Amara, or is this a really disappointing effort from the Nevermen/Marquis scripter, or a too-many-cooks scenario, or...well, I think you see what I mean.

Not that this is terrible- far from it. You all know that I have a weakness for straightfaced absurdity a la Flaming Carrot or Scurvy Dogs, and this is right there in that style. And the lead character is charismatic- a no-nonsense, tough-talking gorilla who wears a jetpack and chomps on a stogie, coming across like a cross of Monsieur Mallah, Nick Fury, and Hellboy. The story itself, an account of a threat from a Politenessman-type character who is taking nerdy losers and transforming them into self-centered lotharios bent on loving and leaving women the world over, and the over-busy Sky Ape's recruitment of a super-team of misfits named "Victory's 13", was a fast-paced read- rarely dull, and laced throughout with some clever quips. This immediately reminds one of another AiT publication, but unlike the sophomoric Mantooth, which didn't work for me at all, there's some genuine wit buried inside the constant pop-culture references and nonsense proclamations and the end result is that one wishes that this could have been just a little sharper, just a little more witty and less self-conscious and less of an aspirant to that Adult Swim-style ethos. It wasn't the smartest strategy to go the tired old super-hero satire route, either- it's been done to death, and with more skill in the past. I don't know anything at all about the other two credited scripters- it's entirely possible that if I read some of their other work, even some other issues of SA (this was my first exposure), I might get a more favorable impression.

Art-wise, it's pretty much the same. Richard Jenkins has one of those angular, cartoony styles, kinda-sorta like Jim Mahfood or Ryan Yount or the guy that draws Amazing Joy Buzzards, but reminds me in places of Pete Bagge, especially in the facial expressions and body language of the Sky Ape himself. He does a fine job- not great, but certainly not bad either.

At the risk of damning with faint praise, Sky Ape: King of Girls was almost not not bad. Wouldn't mind reading more one of these days, but I'm not inclined to go out of my way to do so. Perhaps with time the writers will get a better sense of when enough's enough as well as hone their dialogue a bit more, but after four issues you'd think that would have happened already. Only time will tell! And Amara- get back to more Nevermen, please.B

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