Featured Columns

July 27, 2012

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: Xoc, Aesop’s Ark and Super Dinosaur!

From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.106: Tomorrow, Maybe You and I Are Moving To the Moon

Aloha, awesome surfer of these interwebs, and welcome to another edition of your source for all-ages comics reviews, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! Hey reader, remember that old Fox TV show, Hunter?

Kay. Now, did you know that the Olympics have their big kick off ceremony tonight to celebrate world wide unity through competitive sportsmanship, but actually the games already started on Wednesday? Now you may be asking, what do Hunter and the Olympics have to do with each other? The answer is: nothing! NOTHING at all! Ha! Ha! Haaaaa! Okay, but seriously guys, let’s get down to these comic reviews!

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Xoc: The Journey of a Great White
Publisher: Oni Press
Written and Drawn By: Matt Dembicki

Three words: Bold. Unflinching. Important.  These are not the most common compliments involved with all-age comic works, yet I would be reluctant to describe Xoc: The Journey of a Great White as anything but.

Xoc, pronounced “shock,” from the Mayan word which “shark” originated from, is an engrossing tale of the oceans crafted by Matt Dembicki. The graphic novel follows the life of a female great white shark, from her journey off the coast of California over 2,300 miles to Maui. Along the way this “beast” of the sea goes from predator to prey herself at the hands of killer whales and dolphins (who actually brutally attack sharks), as well as deals with pollution flooding the waters, men illegally finning, and picks up a sea turtle ally of sorts, who is on the same path as her to their final destination (which I’ll save the spoiler and list here).

Dembicki’s art and writing here fuses together to give us a great comic. Art wise, it looks great. It had a slight European feel to it visually, like Tintin, yet used modern North American-style layouts, to give us a great range of visual coolness along Xoc’s trek. His numerous creatures of the ocean, as well as the deadly pollution that hangs throughout in one part, are illustrated with a great blend of cartoon-meets-realism. Story wise, what is crafted here is a book you’ll want to read all in one sitting and not put down. Much of the writing is narration on this journey, with dialog between the numerous ocean characters that live on these pages, but all with purpose and a great sense of world building for a place that actually exists in reality. All of this aside, the book has a message not just about the circle of life in the oceans, but how human beings over the years have drastically begun to alter life in the oceans, dynamically changing it, some in part for forever. It’s an important message that Dembicki gives to you as the narrative rolls out, but doesn’t beat you over the head with it, making everything feel natural, and perhaps the message even the more powerful because of it.

Xoc: The Journey of a Great White was released this week from Oni Press, a highly recommended pick-up for readers, no matter what age you are.

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Aesop’s Ark #1 (currently digital only)
Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Written By: J. Torres
Art by: Jennifer L. Meyer
Cover by: Dylan Todd

A few weeks ago a new comic label was launched digitally, called Monkeybrain Comics. These comics, in a variety of genres and from some really great creators, have been quickly gaining attention around comic book circles, and for a good reason: they’re good. Also, you can’t beat their price at 99 cents to 1.99 a digital issue, which many including this reviewer here, argue is the correct price for a digital book. One of the strongest titles from this new label’s batch of great titles is an all-age gem titled Aesop’s Ark.

Aesop’s Ark takes place on the Ark of Noah, as it’s caught in the great storm flooding the Earth. The numerous animals on the Ark are busy doing their own things to keep occupied and pass the time while on the Ark, including telling stories and fables to each other. In the first issue, a turtle is upset because her husband is plugging a leak on the ship and no one else will take a turn to relieve him of this duty. The lion, Aesop, tells her a tale of working donkeys to pass onto the others so they can see the value of what the turtle is doing and help. The tale is passed and a variety of animals learn to work a little bit better together.

Admittedly, this may not seem like the most exciting concept for some readers, especially in the world of digital first competition amongst numerous action-packed DC titles and other comics. The key with this little title is the execution of Torres’s writing in combination with Meyer’s art, and that is where the magic of comics comes into play to change a very basic sounding concept into something almost magical on the page for a reader. Torres’s writing is great here. He creates characters with their own little personalities, gives them a little dramatic scenario, a simple solution packaged with how words are power, and a great execution to tie up all of these things within just a few pages. Meyer’s art looks really great on this title. For the world of the Ark, all the drawings are in black and white, still looking as though they are the original pencils with a little roughness here and there. It then goes into full color for the fable itself when told, giving a contrast between the two worlds. Because the comic’s “reality” is in this pencil-visual style, which eats up a majority of the comic, the art isn’t going to be for everyone unless you dig that visual vibe. Aside from the contrast of worlds, she just knows how to draw good looking animals that have an array of expressions in this first issue, making them all come to life in style.

Aesop’s Ark is off to a great start! You can check it out for just 99 cents and find it on comiXology.

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Super Dinosaur #12
Publisher: Image Comics
Written By: Robert Kirkman
Art By: Jason Howard

Since last year, you couldn’t bring up all-ages stuff that rocked without talking about Super Dinosaur or Reed Gunther, and while Reed Gunther has recently gone on a hiatus, Super Dinosaur is continuing to do what it does best, and that is to rock out with each new issue, keeping the bar of fun each previous issue had. Twelve issues in, it’s still fresh feeling and still cool to read.

This issue picks up after Derek has been kidnapped, and Doctor Dynamo’s team, including Super Dinosaur, try to come up with a game plan to find and rescue him. Meanwhile, Derek trudges through Inner-Earth, held captive by Exile. Derek tries to make the best of things, using this as an opportunity to study some dinosaurs up close, and all seems good until a huge meat-eater attacks. Back above ground, Super Dinosaur and friends figure out where Derek is, and decide to sneak off to Inner-Earth and not beat around the bush with the adults so they can save their buddy. Below though, Derek and Exile reach their final destination, which is quite a surprise.

Issue #12 sets up the story arc to rescue Derek, but not without some signature action and dinosaurs, which is why folks keep coming back to this title. Although no great revelations take place, Kirkman seems to be having fun writing these characters now that they’ve all been established, and just coming up with a cool rescue story. Howard still dishes out some nice looking art, his dino-attack in Inner-Earth a great little action sequence.

In a comic market also filled with the similar titles TMNT, Jurassic Strike Force 5, and Battle Beasts, it is still nice Super Dinosaur hasn’t lost sight of what it is and keeps giving us a solid comic to come back to month after month. Issue #12 was released both in print and digitally this week, check it out today!

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That’s it for this week! See you next, folks! And what????? You still don’t remember Hunter?! What about 1990s ska-band Five Iron Frenzy? Maybe?

Drew McCabe
drew@comicattack.net






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