October 7, 2009

The Wacky Month of Zen Part II

The Wacky Month of Zen Part II
Zen Commemorative Edition #1 Review

Welcome back to The Wacky Month of Zen feature going on all throughout the month of October here at! During The Wacky Month of Zen, the Wacky Comic Wednesday column will be spotlighting various Zen Intergalactic Ninja comics since the late 1980s. Today we take a look at the comic book that began it all for the blue alien: Zen Intergalactic Ninja #1 published by Zen Comics. Released in November 1987 in Auburn, Maine, this premiere issue of Zen was originally printed in black and white as was the trend of other indie comics of the day (like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Clint: the Hamster Triumphant). Plus, it was also cheaper to manufacture the book without color. Even so, artist Dan Cote had colored the issue in full via air brush, so it was unfortunate that the complete spectrum of his work couldn’t be viewed during Zen’s premiere.


The cover to the original issue. The Commemorative Edition is slightly different in terms of formatting.

Enter the Zen Commemorative Edition #1, which is technically the comic being featured here today. In 1997 this new edition was released as a reprint of the original issue but with the glorious colors of Cote’s airbrush work added. The issue also has an introduction by writer Steve Stern and an interview with both he and Cote.

So what is this first Zen story about?

Well, it’s pretty direct in terms of plot; Zen has to acquire the Jewel of Forgetfulness and give it to El Nobus, a weird lizard-buddha-esque looking dude, in order to collect his booty. Oh yeah! The writing is straightforward too, lacking any drawn out inner monologues or lengthy speeches, allowing the reader to just kick back and enjoy the action. The story begins in the Zardeff Galaxy with Zen transporting himself from his ship in space to a far away alien planet. His method of doing this is a cool one that reflects his name; he meditates himself through space in a blue bauble. Honestly though, aside from that and a healing mantra he recites later on to cure himself of poison, I’m not really sure what’s so ‘zen’ about Zen as he kicks the living crap out of many a space monster. Also, I can’t figure out why he can’t just use his spaceship to traverse space, but whatever, I’ll roll with it!

Anyway, when his meditative transport bauble crash lands in a swamp, Zen is immediately ambushed by these crablike-slug/frog things whom he makes short work of with his spear. He’s then incapacitated by long, semi-sentient vines and is subsequently surrounded by a group of red crustacean aliens, who remind me a lot of the characters Scul and Bean from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures series published by Archie Comics in the early 1990s. With Zen immobilized, the Jewel of Forgetfulness is revealed to him; it’s lodged in the forehead of (what I can only assume) is the Queen of the planet. The female alien looks exactly like Zen (aside from her DD rack and rocket nips), but why she has the Jewel of Forgetfulness lodged in her face below her actual crown is beyond me.

Whatever the reason, seeing his McGuffin motivates our blue hero, and he uses his guile to break free of the vines and proceeds to lay a beat down on the Queen’s red crustaceans. This scene is where my favorite panel of the story appears; it’s a shot where the reader is looking over the shoulder of one of the red aliens, and Zen thrusts his spear right through the creatures head! It’s freakin’ awesome. Zen then realizes that the Jewel has a symbiotic relationship with the Queen- meaning he’ll have to kill her in order to claim the Jewel. Without a second thought, he hurls his spear through her and takes the gem. Bad ass! With his prize in hand, he makes a run for it to his meditative bauble to get the hell off planet before the enclosing mob of red crab people capture him. After taking a few poison darts to his body Zen gets free, and while meditating his way back through space, he thinks of how rich he’ll become upon delivering the jewel to El Nobus. His mind also wanders back to the dead Queen and her pointy nips.

But when Zen begins to contemplate what’s in the name of the Jewel of Forgetfulness, he and the reader are left to figure that out on their own; Zen looks at the jewel, thinks about the name and- BAM! The panel goes to black. The end.

As previously stated, Stern’s dialogue isn’t much, but much isn’t needed to tell the story since it mostly flows through the art. Stern says it best in his forward of the issue where he playfully┬ástates that writers are quite often “in the shadow of the artists.” Despite the fact that I personally dig Cote’s art, I can understand how this early work could come off as amateur to someone giving the book a passing glance as it has a cartoony feel and bodily proportions can be awkward at times. However, the reader needs to consider the time period and other comics that were being published at the end of the Bronze Age; the work that Cote produced was pretty damn groundbreaking! I mean, how many comics can you think of that were produced with the air brush medium? The sometimes awkward bodily proportions didn’t really bother me considering all the characters in the story are non-human. I thought the style and bright coloring complimented the book very well, especially the neon sky tones on the alien planet. Still, I’m left wanting to see Zen in a more mature, dark setting.

I’m almost positive that my wish will be granted before the end of our event… Be sure to check back in Sunday for more Zen goodness!

Andy Liegl



  1. Eli

    Ninjas are cool, and intergalactic ninjas are even cooler. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this at my lcs.

  2. Did the story imply that Zen was feeling remorse for killing the queen, and the gem helped helped him forget the heinous act? I’ve never read this one but, that’s kinda what it sounds like.

  3. Not really. He felt like it was a waste of a hot alien, but that’s about it.

    Be sure to check out Part III for a little more about this story…

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