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Comiculture #2

Posted: Saturday, May 10, 2003
By: Ray Tate



Writers: Various
Artists: Various
Publisher: Mad Science Media

To be honest, I never believed I would see another issue of Comiculture. However, Steve Bucellato was kind enough to send me the current issue and helpfully point out that the next issue can be ordered from this month's Previews. Look under Mad Science Media. The magazine deserves your attention.

Comiculture first of all comprises in its magazine format ninety-three full color pages. This means that if you copied it at the library--assuming it was available--the task would cost you nine dollars and thirty cents. You save two bucks or so by buying the book.

The content in Comiculture is presented in a thoroughly professional manner. I'm even impressed by the self-imposed mature readers label since there's nothing in these pages that will alarm the sophisticated twelve year old. There's some swearing that has impact. There's some skin but nothing explicit. The warning however is a kindness and shows the seriousness in which the Comiculture staff take their project.

The first story "Full Moon Station" by writer/artist Don Hudson and David Wohl benefits from Comiculture's lack of theme. It's a brisk tale with it's genre only becoming apparent at the O'Henry style ending.

The second story, which concludes near the end of the book, was clearly inspired by Captain America's silliest villain, and perhaps the silliest villain of all time, Batroc ze Leaper. Steve Buccellato introduces readers to the French, frog-costumed Croak Monsieur and pits him against a thinly disguised Starbucks. The outcome surprises, and the artwork pleases with a Bill Watterson vibe.

Ben Raab and artist Allen Gladfelter continue "The Lost Tribe" chapter-play opened in the premiere. It's an interesting super-hero take within a Jewish community and invoking Hebrew mythology. No offense met. I'm agnostic. Every religion to me is mythology. The dialogue between the two police officers is a little clunky and could use some sort of personality, but the artwork reminiscent of Charlie Adlard and the staging of the confrontation catches the attention.

Rob Tokar and Dean Kurbina bring to the pages "Space Monster." It's a pretty decent CGI science fictioner, and bars all the assets and deficits inherent to the technique. The setting and mecha look smashing, but there's something off about the people. Still, Mr. Tokar offers a number of inventive twists and the moral of the story is felt rather than crammed down the throat. The robot Captain is nice oddity.

Jessica Wolk-Stanley's "I Loved a Zombie" exhibits stylish cartooning with a Ren & Stimpy kind of exaggerated and stunted anatomy. The story is amusing. Unfortunately an episode of Angel beat her to the punchline.

"The Secret Origin of Comicraft" is a fun biographical brief by Richard Starkings. I particularly liked his farewell, an homage to the Wizard of Oz, to the anonymous creators off panel.

Mr. Buccellato returns with the second chapter of the Joey Berserk and Claire Donner adventure "Lost Souls." By looking at the aftermath of a crime scene, readers who missed last issue can catch up; those already familiar with the plot can enjoy a well-written police procedural and enjoy a small step taken in the story that may impact on Joey Berserk’s origins. You'll notice in the artwork a different more realistic style as well as a strong use of colors that set the mood.

M.J. Siry continues "An Alien Ate My Brain." The artwork is fine, and the story's mighty weird but comprehensible. It's presents a sort of different spin on alien body snatching and the Transformers. The aliens seem to be everywhere but hidden within human forms. When the humans transform, the aliens pop out of their hosts like Basil Wolverton creations. Very bizarre but entertaining.

"Gunpowder Girl and the Outlaw Squaw" impresses with Don Hudson's precision schooling of anatomy that is unhampered by an action-packed and emotional chapter. The plot again blurs white and black hats. Gunpowder Girl and Squaw exhibit loyalty and regret. G.G. even gives the opposition a chance to walk away. This makes sympathizing with the ostensible antagonists much easier. Kudos also for the fire lit colors.

Between each story, Comiculture breaks, a very good idea, with various features and columns. An essay by Klaus Janson explores the similarities and differences between comic art and film. Karl Alstaetter provides reviews of two CDs. The staff informs the readers of their best comic book picks of the previous year. Monica Kubina and Kevin Targ contribute video game reviews. Buddy Sclera and Brian Smith offers a two-page joke.

This issue contains three meaty interviews on scant pages. Troma's Lloyd Kaufman explains the meaning of a plutocracy and how it pertains to film. Leela Corman talks about Subway Series and Kerry Callen speaks about Halo and Sprocket.

Final items of interest include a tribute to Jorge Zaffino and a coming attractions page which makes me wonder why Alan Evans was never tapped by Dark Horse for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Something this thick would seldom fail to earn at least four bullets, but this second issue of Comiculture is actually better than the first. Its presentation is smoother, and the overall genre content combined with the breaks filled with interesting articles makes for a more satisfying read.



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