And Then I Read: STORMS AT SEA by Mark Schultz

StormsAtSeaImage © Mark Schultz

This is not a comic, it’s a novella with full-page illustrations similar to the one on the cover on every left-hand page, and text on the others. Mark Schultz excels at both writing and art, and this 80-page 11 by 9 inch hardcover is a fine example of that. I just got it at the San Diego Con, and enjoyed reading it a great deal.

The feel is pulp and noir, with elements of science fiction and monster films like “King Kong” and “The Lost World.” The setting is a near future when energy stores are depleted, and our civilization is failing. Ex-scientist and tough guy Griff is summoned to the laboratory of Arthel Vermund by his daughter Asha, and is soon hearing an almost unbelievable story about who Arthel and Asha really are, and the secret new energy source Arthel was working on. Asha is sure Arthel’s death was no accident, and the story reveals why — a powerful, hidden group of puppet masters for the entire human race called the First Order don’t want Arthel’s discoveries to become known. They’re based on an energy source from a mysterious South Seas island called Pushkara, where the First Order are based, an island with all sorts of monstrous creatures as well as the energy source, itself of biological origin. As Arthel’s body lies on his laboratory floor, Asha reads his notes to Griff, and is herself amazed by parts of them even she didn’t know. Meanwhile, tension builds as we wait for someone else to discover what’s happened, or perhaps to come and finish the job.

This book reads like an introduction to a series, with most of the content a history and explanation of the First Order, and action coming just at the end. Despite that, I was thoroughly drawn into the world Mark Schultz has created, and found both the story and the art very entertaining and satisfying. Hope he gets the chance to do more.

Recommended

And Then I Read: THE AUTUMNLANDS 6

Autumnlands6Image © Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey

Over the last few issues of this title we’ve seen the wizards and residents of the fallen city beset by many squabbles within their own ranks, but the man they’ve pulled from the distant past to be their champion knows the real threats are from outside: the army of bison-men led by Seven-Scars in the forefront, and others waiting to see if they have a chance for plunder. The Champion, Learoyd, has been carefully crafting his plans surrounding a parley with Seven-Scars. Or will it be a duel to the death? Writer Kurt Busiek knows how to build suspense, and how to deliver the action. Artist Benjamin Dewey is equally skilled at the quiet character moments and the heat of battle. The characters in this book are anthropomorphized animals, but at heart this is a human story where heroism and smart thinking can save the day, or lose it, depending on how things go. There are twists and turns galore. This issue ends the story arc, but not the series, and I’m looking forward to more.

Highly recommended

And Then I Read: LITTLE NEMO RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND 4

LittleNemo4Image © Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez and IDW

The final issue of this storyline (and the last for now) is just as visually stunning as the others, with excellent art by Rodriguez and bright, rich colors by  Nelson Daniel. The storyline takes some entertaining twists, like having the lead characters slide into an underground kingdom, and later fall into a lake made of black ink. It all comes back to the palace and the decision of the new Nemo: will he stay in Slumberland as a companion of the princess? The story is light-weight, but the same can be said of the original Winsor McCay strip, and Shanower does a good job with it. I found issue 3 of the series the best and most creative visually, but all are good, and Eisner voters agree, as it won for Best Limited Series.

Recommended