Monday, October 09, 2006

Elephantmen #1-3

Richard Starkings is a gentleman known throughout the comics industry as one of the pioneers of digital lettering that has subtly and greatly changed the face of the books we read today. However, I didn’t know that he was also a fantastic writer! Starkings writes an anthology of stories for his gritty, dark, sci-fi noir, Elephantmen, by Image Comics.

I’ll be honest. I have an aversion for talking animal comics in general, especially if they are presented in a real world setting. I never gave Elephantmen much more than a passing glance in the past. And, now I’m deeply regretting this decision.

The Elephantmen are the result of Doctor Kazushi Nikken’s wicked experiments creating human-animal hybrids. These hybrids are generally ostracized by human society despite their rather human tendencies. The Elephantmen is also general term for any human-animal hybrid which can include human hybrids with Crocodiles or Hippopotami.

Starkings does a great job of portraying the plight of the Elephantmen who want so desperately to acclimate with modern society. However, it appears that their general dislike may not only stem from their rather inhuman appearance, but also is rooted to their bloody pasts. The Elephantmen were initially bred and trained to be fighting machines that would show no mercy to their enemies. In the first issue, Starkings powerfully uses flashbacks to provide readers telltale snapshots of their bestial, warlike pasts. Starkings’ writing is both powerful and cinematic as it captures the baseness and brutality of their origins; as well as capturing our sympathies since they were trained to be this way and may not have wanted it in the beginning.

Much of the artwork is beautifully illustrated by Moritat. His line work can capture both the elegant and the brutal as he depicts the Elephantmen wreaking havoc against one another as in issue 2. Moritat’s artwork and colors further accentuate the density and volume of these human-animal hybrids as well as their sheer enormity and power as they dwarf their human counterparts. The imagery of a half-man, half-croc never hit me in the past as it did when seeing Elijah Delaney make a guest appearance at a shock radio studio.

The Elephantmen is truly sci-fi noir at its best. The undercurrent of fear and prejudice towards the unknown is powerfully used to heighten the tension of the human-animal hybrids in ways that the X-men could never portray. It is to their credit that Starkings and Moritat can effortlessly depict these inhuman beings in ways that can win over your sympathies or dredge up fearful imagery that make you pause for moment to catch your breath. The Elephantmen is not just sci-fi noir at its best; it’s an entertaining read that displays some of the best storytelling in the industry today…period.

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