Review: Strange Nation #1-4

The comic industry has this fascination with Sasquatches that I’ve really never gotten into. I’m not really a fan of Sasquatches in my comics. I think Marvel is probably the grandfather of this problem with their Alpha Flight characters “Sasquatch” and “Wendigo” (which is really just an albino Sasquatch). If Marvel is the grandfather, then Image and their titular series Proof are the father of the problem. Proof put the urban legend in a suit and I guess made that cool. I never got into Proof and since then I could name you a dozen or more books that have put a Sasquatch on a team or even in a suit. You can imagine my response when I saw a damn Sasquatch on the cover to the first three issues of Strange Nation. I wasn’t thrilled, but I’ve read enough comics to know that you should never make expectations based on the cover. Hell the “big two” make their living pulling bait and switch with their covers so why not give this a chance even if it looks packed full of Sasquatches.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. So much so that after the first issue I just kept reading. Usually I don’t like to bunch reviews together or read the issues all together because each issue really does deserve its own praise and space, but Strange Nation was so immersive that I couldn’t stop reading it.

The world is actually very complex, but thankfully doesn’t take itself very seriously. I mean everything that’s happening is serious, but it’s all handled in this very calm and orderly way. The series begins by introducing us to Norma Park as she’s breaking the biggest story of her life… a secret cult of rich people being attacked by wild Sasquatches and aliens. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a legit reporter so it’s no bullshit. Everything she’s discovered is true, but the world being what it is doesn’t believe her. She becomes ostracized from the normal media and ends up working for a tabloid newspaper called “Strange Nation.”

Strange_Nation_04-1Here’s something you may not have known about me, if you find a way to work the name of your story into the story I will love your story. There are times when it doesn’t work and shouldn’t be done, but for the most part I will love your story for doing that. So when I read that the paper she was working for shared the title of the series… I was down from that point on. Sasquatches or not.

What we learn from the beginning of the series is that Norma is investigating a company that does nothing. They have employees and tons of buildings but no product. She breaks in and discovers a Sasquatch wearing a suit named Joe and gets an interview with him. He tells her about a scientist that left the company and had once offered him the chance to leave with him. Norma begins searching for the scientist and in the fourth issue she’s finally found him… and he’s a fucking alien!

The fourth issue is definitely the most revealing of the series. It honestly lays out the plot and pulls back the veil on the mystery. It’s a good issue and it really makes you curious about where the series is going from this point.

It wasn’t just the name of the series being worked into the story that won me over; it was the writing and art. The issues have this great pacing that only a Monkey Brain title seems to know how to do. It doesn’t waste any pages hanging out or just to have a lengthy conversation that only serves the conversation. It just keeps moving and moving. I couldn’t stop reading it and just went to the next issue because I was annoyed that the story stopped. It’s like catching your ear buds on a corner or something and thinking that someone grabbed the cord, but really it was you. You’re still annoyed even though it was your fault. Sure I shouldn’t have been annoyed by the issue ending, but I enjoyed it so much that I was.

Writer Paul Allor made me like Sasquatches… okay not all Sasquatches, but I like the Sasquatches in this book at least. The pacing is again the key to this series success and Allor packs every page with either character development or plot development. There’s also a bit of humor in the series which I won’t spoil for you, but again it doesn’t take itself 100% seriously. After all the entire premise is basically “what if every story in the Weekly World News was true?” There’s humor. There’s light-heartedness to story, but then there’s also a lot of heart. Norma has several great moments between her friends and family that add depth to her character and the story.

Have you ever seen a street full of rampaging Sasquatches busting up a suburban neighborhood? I have and I have Juan Romera to thank for that. The fourth issue starts off with a fantastic and humorous scene of Sasquatches harassing a secret alien neighborhood. Romera’s art work brings a lot of emotion to the story. The facial expression from the characters is where the heart comes from in the story. I want to say more about Romera’s art, but I feel like it would be more of a check list: detailed panels and expert layouts? Check. Physical humor? Check. I mean the list goes on and on. I will say that his coloring is vibrant and gives the book this warm spoofy feeling. It’s strange to say this, but it really does come off like a 70s sci-fi mixed with Weekly World News. That won’t make any sense until you read the issues, but trust me it’s good.

Issue four marks the half way mark on the series, which is good to know that there’s an end in sight. I was surprised by this series in the best of ways. I mean just looking at the covers it would have been something that I passed over normally, but instead it’s a must follow mini-series. If you like crazy worlds that have some semblances of reality to them, then check out Strange Nation… or if you just like fucking Sasquatches.

Score: 4/5

Writer/Letter: Paul Allor Artist/Colorist: Juan Romera Publisher: Monkey Brain Comics Price: $.99 each Release Date: 1/15/14 (Issue #4)