Over the past year, in the course of working for CGM, I’ve found myself dabbling more and more with comics published by Image Comics, which have provided a respite from the more standard super-hero fare published by DC and Marvel Comics. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed those offerings, but it’s nice to read a comic book that’s a change of pace from the norm, and that’s what reading Image’s recent books has provided me as a reader. I’ve heard of the Elephantmen before, but had never before read any comics with those characters, nor had I really heard of the Hip Flask character prior to reading this book. Based on the solicitations that I found on Image Comics’ website, it makes this issue sound like the penultimate in a series, which definitely gave me some necessary context that I was missing when I first sat down to review this issue.
Richard Starkins is playing with some heady concepts in this book, namely how time is perceived and manipulated, both for good and for evil. The story is laid out first as a science fiction story, and then it becomes more clear that although it’s a time travel story first, it’s also got elements of detective fiction in it as well, mixed in with what can only be called fantasy. In the future world that is presented in this narrative, there exist creatures which basically look like anthromorphic animals, which can speak, reason and, for lack of a better word, act human. They co-exist, seemingly, with so-called regular humans. I only discovered after having read this volume that this volume takes place somewhere in a grander narrative, and thus my confusion made more sense in retrospect. This is a tough book to read if you’re a complete newcomer to the concepts, because it just jumps in and goes from there. There’s a certain beauty in that, as the book doesn’t spoonfeed its concepts to the reader, but it also makes the narrative at times quite difficult and challenging to decipher.
My biggest disappointment that came from reading this story is that it didn’t actually end, as it stands to be continued, if the final pages are to believed, in December 2013, which seems far too far away to be legitimate, and yet there is the date in print. It doesn’t feel like there could be that much left in the story, based on the ending, but I’m interested to see what comes next. However, I doubt that this interest will last the amount of time that will pass before the next instalment actually comes out. The writing by Starkings tries to be quite intelligent, and half the time it pulls it off quite well, but then there are other moments where it feels a tad too pedantic, as it enjoys its own cleverness.
The artwork by Ladronn is majestic, and laden with a surprising amount of detail, which you may miss upon your first inspection of the artwork. His artwork feels like an onion that is peeled open the more you look at it, and examine its intricacies.
Overall, this is a fairly enjoyable book, although it’s most certainly not for everyone. The science fiction bent is strong here, and it must be taken into account before one makes the decision of reading this story. As I stated previously, I was disappointed that the story seemed to end so abruptly, and it will be some time before the story finally reaches its conclusion.