By Dustin Cabeal
There are glimpses of brilliance in the first issue of Modern Fantasy, but just that. The first issue provides all the information that one needs from the story. We know the characters, we understand the plot, and ultimately, we can relate to the main character’s desire for more from her life. Will the story take a dark turn and make our main character regret her desire for adventure? It’s not likely. We’re probably getting ready for a good old fashion romp.
My gripe, the one and only, is with the catalyst for the story which isn’t likely to bother most people. The tried and true storyline of “Oops we stole from criminals, but we’re just harmless drug dealers” is not one that I even remotely seek out. It’s a storyline filled with conveniences, most of them breaking the logic of the criminals and relying on the drug dealers to be forgetful drug users. The conveniences of the storytelling thrust the main character Sage into an adventure which I’m sure will be quite entertaining in future issues because all the story needs is that catalyst and at times it doesn’t even matter what the element ends up being. Which is why most people won’t flinch or dissect this aspect of the story. For me though, I’m not a drug user, and so I find this element unrelatable and full of conveniences and idiot plotlines. The only thing that saves it is the abrupt ending of the comic which is comic gold.
The gist is that Lizard Wizard’s sticky finger boyfriend stolen something from his drug boss and the people want it back. They have a falling out, and the stolen item ends up with Sage who is a data entry specialist that works with an annoying barbarian named Bock-Darr. Bock-Darr is a wonderful character in that he embodies at least five annoying qualities that could have been split and given to other people, but more than likely the story couldn’t support that many characters so he’s doing a fine job of being annoying as shit and funny.
There’s a lot of conversations, and we quickly get a feel for three of the main characters. Which is some fantastic writing. It’s not every writer’s strong suit, and so many comics rely on the “mystery” main character that getting well-thought-out characters in a first issue is refreshing. The dialogue is believable, and Gudsnuk’s lettering brings it to life. When Sage meets her friend’s boyfriend, I laughed hard. Not because of what she said, but how she said it which came through. Frankly, it’s some of the best lettering I’ve seen in comics, and really, it’s a shame that so much of the nuances of conversation are lost in comic books. The blending of the old fashion fantasy with the modern world is nothing particularly new, but Rafer Roberts writes the most successful take I’ve read in recent years.
But, would it kill anyone in the comic industry to write a fucking Android joke? The lack of imagination with Apple phone jokes is maddening. I get it, everyone in comics loves fucking Apple, but the number one platform in the world is Android… try making it a bit more relatable. I don’t even like Android before you crawl up my ass to yell at me for the dumb thing I’m complaining about, I just use it because Microsoft can’t support a platform and had the rug pulled from under them in the early 00’s when they were the only smartphones. Anyway, the iScroll joke didn’t land with me. Maybe if it was an iScroll X and had a notch and someone said, “I hate how Android copied the notch” and then someone else said, “Well, actually the Scroll Plus did the notch first.” Then, and only then would I have been like, “You fucking did it, you made an iPhone joke in a comic that worked and didn’t gush unnecessary praise and marketing towards a company that doesn’t need it. Also, someone at the end would have to say, “I like my Galaxy Scroll 6, it’s still a good scroll.” See what I’m getting at? Phone jokes of any kind, kinda suck.
Anyway, now that I’ve put that to rest let’s talk about the artwork! I was only even here for the artwork. When I saw the first issue of Henchgirl, I instantly fell in love with the artwork. It made it even better that the story that accompanied that art was refreshing and brilliant. Since then I can only imagine that the comic world is falling in love with Kristen Gudsnuk’s artwork and storytelling little by little. After publishing all the single issue with Scout Comics, Henchgirl was collected and released by Dark Horse which is likely how this story ended up with the publisher, and it was a good decision on DH’s part. They need a hit if you ask me and since you’re reading this review, you didn’t inadvertently agree to ask my rhetorical questions that I may present. My favorite color is blue, thank you for asking. See how that works? No there isn’t any problem with Pineapple on pizza and fucking hell it’s 2018 it’s not like we just started doing this, you internet freaks, but thank you for asking.
Gudsnuk’s artwork is magical on this first issue. Not only is her style grown and improved since Henchgirl, but it’s also become more established as her own and is recognizable in a good way. We all know the bad ways an artist can be recognized, floating feet, waxy poses, the thing Jim Lee does at DC that doesn’t quite work because you just want him to draw X-Men again. Gudsnuck brings the characters to life, giving them personality and presence. You understand, relate and appreciate Sage as much for the artwork as you do the writing. The coloring is perfect for the artwork giving it a worn yet magical look. The coloring contributes to much of the art style’s success. It’s simple and brings out so much depth to the story. Also, the visual jokes sprinkled throughout the issue are a treat to any fantasy (insert your specific thing i.g. RPG’s, D&D) thing… I didn’t know how to end that sentence, but you get the idea, Easter eggs for fantasy fans.
Modern Fantasy starts quite well. Granted, I’m not a fan of the catalyst, but I also know that most readers aren’t likely to be bothered by it or even dwell on it. It’s just the thing that gets the adventure going, and we’re all here for Sage’s adventure. We know what type of character she is, and we understand her supporting cast which will be the reason to follow this story, not the catalyst. Adventure awaits in the next issue, and I for one will be there for it.
Modern Fantasy #1
Dark Horse Comics