Monday, July 30, 2007

Shanna the She-Devil #1

Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Khari Evans have come together this week to give us Shanna the She-Devil #1: “Pirates, Gangsters and Sea Monsters.” Originally brought to the Marvel collective as the wife of Ka-Zar, Shanna was reimagined and relaunched by Frank Cho just a few years ago, losing her association with the Lord of the Jungle and many of her inhibitions along the way.

This book looks, acts and reads like the kind of softcore porn that fills Cinemax’s airwaves after 10:00 on any given weeknight. Some rudimentary thought is given to developing a very basic story, introducing a cluster of paper-thin characters and bringing them all together into a common locale, but that’s not really the main order of business here. Shanna is designed to deliver two things: action and pin-ups, and it balks at neither mission.

The story wastes little time on introductions, throwing most of the lead characters into the fire on page two, which makes for some difficult initial reading. One second you’re following a squad of nameless goons, the next an entirely different squad of nameless goons is being mowed down in a hail of gunfire. It took me a few minutes to realize that the entire cast hadn’t been obliterated before the series had finished taking its baby steps. You’d think that some time would be devoted to further developing this team as the issue carries on, but no such insight is forthcoming. Since the entire story focuses on three main characters, it doesn’t really mean anything when some of the aforementioned goons meet a grisly demise about twenty pages later.

Khari Evans’s artwork is often interesting, and his paneling style gives the issue a unique, lighthearted flavor that sets a tone, presumably, for the entire series. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so the reader doesn’t need to either. Evans shows flashes of brilliance here, especially when he’s tasked with illustrating a crazy action scene, an extinct species of wildlife or a scantily clad lady, but he has some problems with consistency. His interest is obviously in the above subjects and little else, as the quality of his work suffers when there’s nothing exploding, stripping or attacking on-panel. He seems to grow bored with the subject matter, and as I quickly found out, a bored Khari Evans makes for a dull visual.

In those instances, though, the work of colorists Paul Mounts and Christina Strain make up for the artist’s shortcomings. They really do provide an excellent splash of life to the issue, and their work on the frequent splash pages is downright stunning.

So long as you know what you’re getting into with this, it won’t disappoint. Men fire guns. Women strike awkward poses that serve no purpose but to highlight certain aspects of their anatomy. Dinosaurs attack and blood flows freely. You’re not going to get any philosophical insights into the human condition, but if you were really expecting that after a peek at the cover, maybe that reveals a little something about your own internal wiring. This would make for a great bachelor pad bathroom book, but if you anticipate company at any point in the next two years, you might want to settle for a flip through in the store. After twenty seconds with the issue, you’ll have absorbed just about all it has to offer.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5

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