Anything under the Dark Horse Originals imprint is an instant check out for me. After all, the first two titles on the line, Reset and Mind MGMT, turned out spectacularly. Just from looking at this cover I knew I was going to like the book at the very least, but once I dove into the issue I found it to be very entertaining and more than what I was expecting. This is the first DH Originals title to appear digitally exclusive and for the price I would definitely suggest checking it out, hell I’m counting down the days until the hardcover’s release. The story is structured liked a circle. We’re dumped in at a point and from there the story goes around until it’s fully explained itself. We open with a man who looks like he’s just been beaten within an inch of his life. He kneels wet, broken and bleeding when suddenly the wind brings him an omen in the form of a flyer. The man stares at the flyer which is for a muscle-building program to shape frail and sissy men into power dudes. He approaches the mountain he’s supposed to climb and stares at the top for a moment. He takes a moment and looks at a figurine in his hand and then begins his climb with conviction.
Once he reaches the top he finds a strange creature floating at the top; the creature as a third eye sitting above its face and for the first time in the issue the man speaks as he asks about the flyer. The creature silences him and points his finger at the man changing him into the creature from the Black Lagoon. He points again and again changing the man into a variety of anthropomorphic creatures and even homage to other franchises. With one last flick of the finger he turns him into a Sabertooth Tiger holding a sword. He raises his sword and gives a magnificent monologue about evil and shit, until the sacred creature silences him and points to another creature asleep on the mountain top. Our Sabertooth Swordsman receives his first test to past as he must defeat the awoken creature in order to survive.
That’s about half of the story and I understand why the creators began the way they did. The second half of the story is amazing. It’s emotional and very moving, but only because we have the first half leading into it. It sucks you in making you think that it’s just a fun action adventure story, which it still is, but then it adds this layer of character development that’s completely unexpected. I was shocked when I got to the ending and then jumped back to the beginning to re-read the start again. You could keep reading it like that in an endless circle and it would probably become better each go around. There is a great amount of humor to the story as well. There’s a one sheet listing all of Sabertooth Swordman’s powers and just on that page there are jokes sprinkled in. In a weird way the humor only makes the serious moments more intense.
The art is in all black and white so it won me over on the very first page. Seriously though, it works for this story and allows for a level of detail that very few artists can manage in color or black & white. In some ways it reminded me of James Stokoe’s style, but with its own unique twist to it. The characters have exaggerated features and the world is very cartoonish at times. The style is fantastic and made reading the story all the more enjoyable. It also does an amazing job of telling the story visually as most of the issue is without dialog.
Literally the first half of this issue is silent and yet it’s brilliant because of it. I was blown away by how great the story was and the quality of the art. I didn’t doubt that the story and art would be high from Dark Horse, but I’ve been burned by “digital only” titles before, so a level of caution is always exercised before going into to a title. There’s a tremendous amount of effort, skill and dedication put into this issue and it’s sold me on checking out the rest of the series. If you like action, adventure, humor, underdog stories and Sabertooth tigers… then this story is for you. If you don’t like any of those things (how could you not!?!) then it also has bullies… you’re probably a bully if you don’t like all those other things.
Story by: Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley
Writer/Letterer/Tones: Damon Gentry
Artist: Aaron Conley
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 6/5/13