Between the Panels: It's The End of the World By Lance Victor Eaton (April 2007)
Whether we are actually in apocalyptic times or not, it's safe to say we have a certain obsession about how life will end. Maybe it's to do with love for the underdog or just our way of vicariously experiencing a world in more dire straits than our own. Regardless, we produce stories by the boatload about humankind's enduring ability to survive catastrophic events. We love to ask ourselves what life would be like on the brink of Armageddon. Well, here are three rather interesting takes on it.
In Samurai Elf by Miguel Guerra and Suzy Dias, Ardan has led a fairly normal life with his grandparents in the remote village of Nassbeth. But when a traveler appears, his life irrevocably changes. His grandparents give him a family relic and send him away with the stranger just before their house is attacked. Ardan soon discovers that he is the last in a line of elves sworn to protect the planet Tyr, and that he must embark on his training. But before he can complete it, the dreaded Horde attack and he escapes with what lessons he has garnered. The last of his kind, he is hunted by a ruthless enemy. Samurai Elf is a fun, light-hearted tale with a good share of action and suspense. Guerra and Dias blend an interesting concoction of fantasy, technology, and martial arts. Though the tale incorporatees various clichés within the fantasy genre, it still manages to elicit amusement and intrigue.
Computer-generated art can be very tricky. It's easier to create (and more important, re-create) but also can feel inauthentic. It is often more cartoonish in appearance than artistic. Paint (or pen/pencil) strokes are not to be found, which can detract from nostalgic elements of comic art. That being said, Samurai Elf does use computer-generated art and though it doesn't always produce the best images, it works well enough throughout the story. It does work quite well in some of the action scenes and while this graphic novel is set on a grayscale, it's clear that if it were published in color, the vibrancy of the colors would make up for the drawbacks.
In contrast, Jason James's Johnny Repeat is much darker - a chaotic and violent musing on the end of the world. Is Johnny Repeat a sadistic killer, all-knowing prophet, or ten year old kid? It's the end of the world, so you know the answer is going to be all three. Though his reasons are not entirely clear, the threat is imminent and time is running out. He has cast his die and picked three companions to help. The Dragon Slayer is a bum wandering the city streets and claiming to have been alive when dragons roamed the earth. The Woman with No Name might be the ultimate weapon. Nathan is a recovering sex and nicotine addict who sees more than he lets on. This first volume focuses on gathering the players and providing brief backgrounds, but little doubt exists about the darker realms into which this series will plunge.
The black and white art is stark and gritty, reinforcing the sinister mood of the book. Adding to the erratic energy that the story embodies, James does not tell his tale in a linear fashion, rather piecing together chapters and interludes to provide insight and sometimes (purposeful) confusion to readers.
Of course, Revved by Jeremy Hall and David Nakayama provides a unique biblical take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Drawing on the Book of Revelation, the series poses the question, what if the horses were in fact cars, but John (writer of Revelations) could only describe what he understood and hence named them horsemen? What follows is an exciting and intriguing tale about four individuals who come to power and experience first hand how said power corrupts.
After his father gambled away more money than he had, Jack found himself stealing cars in order to help save his father from his lenders. But when he's instructed to steal a car that induces a vision, he discovers his steed. His employer Grubner informs him that he is part of a quartet of players who have been bequeathed supernatural powers linked to vehicles. Jack plays along until Grubner's missions start to become more and more deadly. He decides to leave, but Grubner and the others are not going to let him go so easily. How do you step down from the position of Horseman of Apocalypse without adversely affecting the plans of the Almighty?
The story flows pretty well and straightforwardly. While this volume is self-contained, it leaves room (and desire) for further adventures. Speckled throughout the graphic novel are smaller pieces on the Horsemen's cars, their background, and the interpretation of Revelations. While the cover reads Piers Anthony Presents, it's a bit misleading - while he does provide an interesting Foreword, he appears to do little more than that. The colored art and glossy pages differ from the previous books discussed herein, and for this piece, it works. The strong reliance on blue hues and tints throughout the artwork avoid the overuse of colors that can sometimes plague colored comic books.
These are but three ways comic books chose to conceptualize battles at the end of the world. Some clichés and misinterpretations may lay within them, but convention is the mother of genre, so we can only expect in the expanding genre of apocalyptic fiction, that some things will continually be repeated.
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