Monday, April 26, 2010

Hellcyon #1

Set on a recently colonized planet rife with political struggles, government oppression and civil war, Hellcyon is the brainchild of writer / artist Lucas Marangon. Known for his work on several of Dark Horse's Star Wars themed tie-ins and spinoffs, Marangon borrows a few basic storyline ideas from the Lucasfilm behemoth for his independent debut. Let's see - giant empirical oppressors with a significant military advantage? Check. Flimsy, disorganized resistance movement filled with outlaws and freelancers? That's another check. Haughty gold cyborg with a classically-trained British voice? OK, he's missing that one.

The specifics of the story itself are more original than I'm letting on. Rather than focusing exclusively on the conflict itself, Marangon spends a fair amount of time on the political atmosphere and public opinions that led to such an explosive situation. In this case, Earth is the asshole oppressor, eager to hoard anything of value and make a profit at every opportunity. Halcyon, a small colony on the outskirts of civilization, has become the center of media attention after declaring independence and standing up to overwhelming odds. The success (or lack thereof) of this planet's movement could set a tricky precedent for future uprisings, and for that reason alone the galaxy is keeping a close watch on Earth's reaction.

It's a familiar story with a more modern slant. The parallels to current events aren't especially difficult to spot, either. Don't let those mature undercurrents fool you, though, because Hellcyon can be a wild ride when the time is right. As the first in a four-issue mini series, the story doesn't waste a lot of time on set-up, which isn't to say it's lacking in detail. It gets you up to speed quickly and efficiently, but when the explosions start dropping Hellcyon hastily transitions into a slick, fast-paced action book. It's one of those rare instances where a story can be both intelligent and exciting.

His previous experience with the Star Wars properties is most apparent –and perhaps most rewarding – in Marangon's artwork. His compositions have taken on the same cinematic, breathless quality of that well known megafranchise, especially when setting the scene with an exterior shot of an enormous space station or battleship. By weaving in bits and pieces of his manga influences along the way, Lucas produces an interesting marriage of visual styles and inspirations. His machinery has the daunting, impressive scale made famous by ILM, but also the organic curves and more elegant shape of a Masamune Shirow mech.

Lucas's artwork makes a good allegory for the issue as a whole: although it stumbles from time to time, when it clicks you'll be hooked for the duration. Many of the story's ideas teeter on the edge of plausibility, but they never quite tip over into the brink. Though it does sometimes feel like Marangon is testing waters that might be a bit too deep for his skill level, he's produced a genuinely entertaining first issue in spite of that. The overarching premise isn't quite as profound as Lucas would like to think it is, but it's good enough to stand on its own and the action scenes more than make up for any shortcomings. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8

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