Monday, July 14, 2008

Pilot Season: Urban Myths #1

A detective tale in the same vein as Icon Comics' Powers, Top Cow's Urban Myths sets its roots firmly in the realm of fantasy. Rather than Brian Michael Bendis's city of superheroics, Myths populates its streets with every variety of mythical creature imaginable. A Centaur policeman races through the alleyway in pursuit of a terrified suspect, while a Minotaur toils in nearby traffic. The story's lead, Jack Kaklamanis, just so happens to be the private-eye son of Medusa. His steel mask a precaution against the curse of his inheritance, (remember what happened when his momma stared into that mirror?) he doesn't object to removing it when a situation warrants swift action.

Jorge Molina's artwork flat-out steals this show. It's absolutely fantastic, like watching a top-notch animated film in a printed format. His work has the simplicity of Bruce Timm, the depth and detail of Joe Madureira and the rich, moody palette of Dreamwave Productions. His noir-inspired dark, dilapidated city fills the issue's backgrounds with substance and character, but only enhances the occupants of the foreground and never interrupts the story's flow. I must've spent fifteen minutes simply absorbing and admiring the intricacies of these first six pages.

Molina's character designs overflow with authenticity and personality. Their roots set in the real world, the denizens of Urban Myths stomp around in everyday attire, offset by little touches of individuality. A steel mask here, a single glaring eye there – the absurdity of each character's nature is granted a certain amount of believability when paired with the real-world roots of the remainder of their wardrobe. When he's illustrating a pair of hillbilly Cyclopes, they look, move and act like you'd imagine redneck one-eyes actually would. Bulky and top heavy, they lumber awkwardly across the page. Their buckteeth and permanent slouches only enhance the nature of their personalities.

Fortunately, writer Jay Faerber gives the artwork all the room it needs to shine. Heavy on concept but not necessarily on words, Faerber's writing delivers imaginative ideas without an excess of narration, which leaves his artist plenty of room to play around in the panels. While this issue's underlying storyline is fairly straightforward and rudimentary, the real focus is on introducing readers to this fantastic new world and cluing them in on the possibilities contained therein. I'm not sure that detective stories are Faerber's forte, but set against this kind of a backdrop I'd read just about anything competent. He fills the reader's head with deep, visually surprising characters at every turn, which keeps the theme alive and the story truckin'. Jack's detective work gives him a rare glimpse at all of the city's highs and many of its lows, and as such provides an excellent perspective.

Urban Myths is the kind of book that lives or dies based on the reader's willingness to surrender their preconceived notions, the writer's ability to convince them to do so and the artist's talent to deliver on its big ideas. It connects big time on all fronts. It's a fantastic journey, and hopefully it's just the first of many to come. I'm signing on for the whole series if it ever gets off the ground, and with any luck I won't be alone. Buy it. Vote for it. Make it a success. Great collaborations like this one don't come around that often.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9.5

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