Reviewed by Ryan Rutherford, Fri., Nov. 17, 2006
Godland Volume One: Hello, Cosmic!
by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
Image Comics, 144 pp., $14.99
Godland Volume Two: Another Sunny Delight
by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
Image Comics, 152 pp., $14.99
Rocketo Volume 1-6: Journey to the Hidden Sea
by Frank Espinosa
Image Comics, 304 pp., $19.99Among the many independent-minded comics desperate for new readers, two current ongoing titles emerge as most deserving of a much wider audience: Godland and Rocketo. Both are creator-driven works that were recently compiled into graphic novel form by Image. Each title is set within the pop-culture confines of the superhero and adventure genres, but the creators spin their stories off in exciting directions, free from the drag of continuity and familiarity that can sometimes bog down mainstream releases.
In Godland Volume One: Hello Cosmic! and Volume Two: Another Sunny Delight, writer Joe Casey and artist Tom Scioli riff on the cosmic adventures that Jack Kirby produced with Stan Lee during the Sixties heyday of the Fantastic Four and on his own during the Seventies with New Gods and the Eternals. Casey with tongue firmly planted in cheek has crafted a sci-fi superhero epic following the adventures of Adam Archer, an astronaut who returns to Earth with cosmic powers after a disastrous mission to Mars. As expected, Archer puts his new powers to work as a superhero, aided and sometimes frustrated by his three sisters. As the story begins, an alien canine arrives to help guide the hero down the road to cosmic assimilation. In comic books, a hero is only as interesting as his villains, and Casey and Scioli have crafted a bevy of weird characters to torment Adam Archer. These include Friedrich Nickelhead, the torture-loving Discordia, and, best of all, Basil Cronus, a disembodied head floating in a glass jar who is looking for the ultimate high.
The story moves rapidly, with Casey throwing out wild ideas on every page. With its pseudoscience, hipster dialogue and overblown narration, the story displays a sense of humor and fun that is sadly lacking from most modern superhero comic books. Scioli's art, which is reminiscent of Jack Kirby's style, enhances the story. He has a knack for conveying energy and action with his drawing. With Godland, Casey and Scioli are clearly enjoying themselves. In turn, the reader will, too.
Rocketo Volume 1-6: Journey to Hidden Sea is unique in the current comic-book market. Closer in spirit and style to an old storybook or such classic adventure strips of the Thirties as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, this book feels like a labor of love. Writer/artist Frank Espinosa and co-writer Marie Taylor have crafted an all-ages story that is a blend of the adventure, fantasy, and science-fiction genres. Their tale is set in the future, 2,000 years after the Earth has been shattered by an evil from the depths of space. It is a world populated by mutants, monsters, and hybrids. The story focuses on Rocketo Garrison, who comes from a race of men called the mappers. In a world with no magnetic field, the mappers act as a compass for Earth. They explore the broken planet, creating maps and guiding the ships.
Although the premise of the story might seem ridiculous, Espinosa and Taylor have created a charming, complex piece of work. Journey to the Hidden Sea includes seven issues of the title, touching on Rocketo's childhood, his days as a soldier, and leading up to his expedition to the dangerous waters of the title. Along the way, the story delves into themes of loss, loyalty, betrayal, and heroism.
Although the narrative is intriguing, the star here is Espinosa's artwork. It's a combination of techniques from illustration, animation, and comics, vibrant with an unusual coloring palette effective in conveying tone and atmosphere. The only flaws in Espinosa's illustrations are when a few of his panels become too impressionistic, leaving figures and action muddled. But this happens rarely and detracts little from the tale.