ANT #3 and ANT from Arcana Studio Presents

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Story by Mario and Tina Gully
Art by Mario Gully
Published by Arcana Studio

DISCLAIMERIn an attempt at full-disclosure, Jessi Nelson, my www.KamenComic.com studio mate and girlfriend, has an interview in ANT #3.

NOTE – This review features two of Mario and Tina Gully’s ANT stories: The ANT short story from Arcana Studio Presents (Arcana’s Free Comic Book Day Special) as well as ANT #3.

A while back, Mario Gully told me that every comic studio passed on doing ANT when he was shopping it around (read all about it in The Silver Soapbox: Mario Gully (ANT) Interview). After reading these stories (here’s my review of Ant #1 and my review of Ant #2), I cannot imagine what would possess a company to say no to ANT?! Every issue has it all! Pathos, art, action, dialogue, story telling, everything… all wrapped up in an amazingly personal story (I mean, how many superhero comics are done as a cathartic odyssey through the creator’s life? And in this one, the creator never appears a la Cerebus or Automatic Kafka.) The Gully’s amazing work is rapidly pushing ANT to become my must-read superhero book!

ANT from Arcana Studio Presents (Arcana’s Free Comic Book Day Special)

This is the first ANT short story I’ve read (everything to this point has been full-length comics that are ‘To Be Continued…’). This short piece, nicely packaged as a part of Arcana’s Free Comic Book Day promotion, is cleverly designed for new readers… yet isn’t written in such a way that I’m suffering through endless flashbacks and recaps all for the sake of those people who are just jumping onboard. Instead, Mario and Tina put together a story that introduces the characters (Young Hanna Washington, Mature Hanna Washington, Danny “Big Daddy” Washington, and ANT), the concept (Young Hanna will grow up to be “the greatest hero this world has ever known,” ANT), and the situation (Hanna is the most picked on fourth grader in the world, her life is just awful… but it doesn’t matter, because one day she’ll grow up to do great things as the ANT). For free you can’t beat it! The story introduces new elements of ANT’s origin without getting bogged down in explaining it. And to top it off, Mario really provides some nice, nice, nice art in an attempt to peak new reader’s interest!

This tale gets you to understand where Hanna is coming from and really lets you know that all she has in life is her fantasies about becoming ANT when she gets older, plus her father…

Which brings us to ANT #3, in which Hanna is separated from her diary while the police arrest Hanna’s father, stealing him away from her! Danny “Big Daddy” Washington is accused of murdering his boss (as an added bonus, the boss’ son also happens to be Hanna’s mother’s current boyfriend… that’s a little complicated). Now, Young Hanna has been sent to a temporary home, yet she is certain she can help her father beat this when she becomes ANT… after she grows up… in another decade or two.

So, the sum of Hanna’s life is Big Daddy plus her journal where she writes all of her stories about her future self. Yet, Daddy’s in jail and her journal is at home (while she’s in the care of the government since her parent is in custody). Now, without her father or journal, Hanna has nothing!

And that is why I love ANT! It is a story about truly overcoming suffering! It is a story about perseverance! It is a very human story about someone in an inhuman world!

You see, Superman has a good job, a wife, and the power to take over the world. Spiderman has a job, family, a wife, and enough power to not have to put up with anyone’s crap. The X-Men are all beautiful people who are feared and loathed by people who, uh… seem to dislike models… I don’t get it! Their lives are blessed! They never seem to have any real adversity.

But, ANT is Hanna Washington, fourth grader. Whose father is in jail. Whose mother is a stripper. Whose only hope is that she grows up to see her dream, her one dream, come true – that she becomes ANT. She’s got nothing. Nothing. I mean, Nothing! She’s a little kid that hopes to be something great when she grows up. But until that day, Hanna is in a worse state than you or I or any superhero I know of. And because of that, her struggle is that much more epic, and that much more endearing.

To top off this incredibly complex character-driven comic, this issue sees a profound change in Mario’s story telling. Since ANT is the story of two different worlds (Young Hanna’s “present-day” and Mature Hanna’s “future” as ANT), Mario goes way out of his way to vary the art style between them. He begins drawing young Hanna’s world with additional lines, making it grittier, more unseemly. The characters are rougher and uglier. While taking away from the sexy “superhero-ness of the story, it adds this beautiful element to the story telling. You just feel bad for everyone involved.

By contrast, the ANT-portion of the story is clean, clean, superhero-clean art! Mario puts in some SERIOUS effort to make this the best drawing he has done to date! I mean, it’s pages of ANT fighting The Cockroach and every panel sings! The roach appearance is nasty-gross and their battle is savage! It has this great dynamic feel to it where every shot hurts, every blow counts! I love it!

To cap off this tale is Mario’s column at the end of the issue, The Last Word. This is where Mario really ties the story back into his life. Mario’s made some choices in life that… were not the best. But he has learned from them and grown to be a better person. ANT is not just a spandex book, it is also a reflection on Mario’s life. It is a story about his struggle to grow into the man and father he is today. Oh, in the book the heroes are super, but in life Mario is just a man. A man on a mission. To tell this story.

The last two major features of the book are personal ones for me. First, they quoted me from my review of Ant #1 on the back cover of this issue! I felt that was a personal achievement.

The second is something better for my household, Jessi Nelson, my www.KamenComic.com studio mate and girlfriend, had her ANT #3 San Diego Con Variant Cover debut on this issue (it is one of three variant covers. Hers is available at Arcana Studios online store) and also had a two-page interview with Tina Gully in the issue! That was a terribly good feeling to see Jessi get the opportunity to do that cover and also see her words in print!

So, I’d like to thank Mario, Tina, and the Arcana Crew for providing us (Jessi and myself) with a chance to shine! Thank you so much!

If you want more on Arcana’s ANT, try www.ArcanaStudio.com. And for more on Mario Gully, go to www.MarioGully.com or read my interview with him at The Silver Soapbox: Mario Gully (ANT) Interview.

For more information about Egg, click www.KamenComic.com. Available now, [email protected]: Rough Cut featuring the story, Simon’s Night by Egg Embry and Ben Hall!

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