Outer space outpost stories have become a dime a dozen these days, especially, I feel, in comic books. So it’s hard to know which one to pick up and follow. Might I, then, point you in the direction of the oddly named comic, Storm Dogs. So far, this series has proven to be a reasonably soothing salve for my sci-fi itch ... which I should probably get looked at by a licensed physician. But (potentially) fictitious STDs be damned ... on with the review. (Nailed that intro!)
Storm Dogs #5 sees our Union investigative team trying to figure out how the technologically reclusive Elohi people of the planet Amaranth, and their more communicative cousin-race, the Joppa, have sat, seemingly unknowingly, on a heavily-machined civilization, which goes against all preexisting ideas of their more rustic society.
In the last issue, a researcher named Sarlat, who went native and lived with the Elohi, discovered and documented this previously-hidden, high-tech society and tucked it away under his cot before suddenly and mysteriously disappearing; although, we do get a glimpse of where he’s scuttled off to this issue, and suffice it to say that he’s moved somewhere beyond the pale.
Meanwhile, Arcana’s director Kaneko further proves her inherent nefarious...ness by exploiting a rare opportunity, the result of which sees a faithful Elohi unexpectedly kill its forcibly drugged-up Joppa minder, leaving its strange biological diamond unprotected, which thus thrusts the director into a lordly position over presumably both native peoples.
Just as an aside, this chick is TOTALLY jockin’ the flavor of Adam Warlock circa his Soul Gem days, which, frankly, is a bit of a faux pas. If you’re gonna rock a gemstone in the middle of your face, at least have the common decency to feather the shit out of your hair and rock a long pimp cane. That’s all I’m saying. It doesn’t help that the cover shows Director Kaneko rocking the forehead bling with some very familiar looking orange gauntlets. Looks like someone’s got some serious Thanos-envy.
I wrote about “universe building” in my last review, and how well the writer did with it, and I think Hine is reining that expansiveness back here, catering a more character-driven approach. Saying that, we are shown a glimpse of the very big threat that looms in the wings of this book: a transformative rift in time, space and/or reality, which is likened, in the story, to the myth of Pandora’s Box. Mythologically speaking, that’s not a good sign.
All-in, the previously-loose weave in this story is starting to tighten nicely, as the Union investigators’ run-in with the increasingly surly (and rightfully so) natives is directly affected by the tortured Joppa and the resultant pseudo-cosmic cosmetic surgery performed on Director Kaneko, who is in turn influenced (still somewhat cryptically) by the effeminate Jared and his erotic-cum-personal fascination with the interstellar sex worker known as Doll, whose body (by means of “science fiction”) the director also tends to inhabit on occasion. Wow. That was a long sentence.
While I do prefer Storm Dogs’ last issue more, this one was no slouch in the story-building department, even if the pacing and action is slightly slower. It’s evident, however, that Hine has a definitive grasp of where this story, in all of its multi-layered convolution, is heading and he is leading it there with strong dialogue and a restrained, yet expansive narrative.
In terms of art, Braithwaite’s faces have left me a bit cold, thanks to their expressionlessness (at least in his humans), and that holds true for much of the art here, but with a bit more natural fluidity than at other times in the series.
The grit, grime and sucking wounds he draws, on the other hand, succeed in giving this title the thickly visceral, tenderized meat atmosphere to its story. When seasoned with the often incandescent colors from Ulises Arreola, the overall visual experience may seem a bit wooden at times, but it is brushed with a varnish that is exceptional.
This was a solid issue, and even though it’s an Image book, it continues to be a “dark horse” of a series, which I look forward to seeing develop.
Writer: David Hine
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 5/8/13