I thank DC for producing a new anthology comic, and with a title I remember from childhood, no less. In the Seventies, Weird Worlds ran for 10 issues and mainly featured the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Spotty distribution in the UK meant I never read a single issue.
It's easy to find any comic I want these days, so here's Weird Worlds 2011, starring - among others - Garbage Man. Reading the strip, I'm disappointed by the blatant Swamp/Man Thing-riffs. He looks like Swamp Thing, right down to the flat nose. He homages (to be kind) Man-Thing's origin, with our hero the victim of a super-soldier experiment gone wrong. That the evil - sorry, eeeeeevil - scientist behind the illegal doings jokes about the fact that searching for a super-soldier serum is a cliche doesn't make use of said cliche any more palatable.
Doing my research (now that's weird), I find that writer/artist Aaron Lopresti was asked by DC to create a Swampy substitute back when the muck monster was locked in the Vertigo dungeon, so I shouldn't be too hard on the chap. And yet ...
The first instalment, 'Reborn Identity', has Garbage Man wake up in industrial slurry, wonder what's happened to him, remember the experiment and vow revenge. Oh, you guessed that? The story's strong point is great-looking pencils from Lopresti, with more experimental layouts than we've seen in his work in Wonder Woman, Ms Marvel and elsewhere. The story's weak point is less-than-sparkling dialogue from Lopresti, which aspires to be smart but reads as self-conscious. Lopresti's regular inker, Matt Ryan, adds luscious finishes, the colours of Dave McCaig are Heap big perfect and letterer Jared K Fletcher whips out a scratchy font for full EC Comics effect. Just look at those panels (click to enlarge).
There really is no denying the talent here, but Garbage Man feels over-familiar. Still, this is just episode one, and it could be that we're being faked out, and next issue will subvert our expectations with pizzazz. In Joey Cavalieri, Lopresti has one of the best editors in the business at his disposal, so I expect improvement. The strip has the basics - with a sharper script and more original, amped-up weirdness, we could have something special.
Also appearing in this first issue of six is Lobo, the cocky cosmic assassin with the healing factor. As we join him in 'The Jawbone of an Ass', he's dead, apparently the victim of a rival bounty hunter. It turns out that there's more to the situation than that and there's fun to be had in waiting for Lobo's inevitable return. There's also a little twist which is guessable, but enjoyably so.
I enjoyed this well enough - it gets a little too gory for me, so I expect Lobo fans will love it. Writer Kevin Vanhook captures the Czarnian's personality, while artist Jerry Ordway shows that he's second to none when it comes to knockabout DC Universe fare. There's a classic vibe to his sturdy pencils and inks - to my eye Lobo actually looks as if he were drawn by Superman legend Curt Swan in a bad mood. The colours of Pete Pantazis, muted and bloody by turns, are just right, while that man Fletcher experiments with fonts once more, giving the rival assassin suitably raggedy speech.
And finally we have space totty Tanga, a name which, in the UK at least, is synonymous with 'thong'. And that's a UK thong, not an Australian one - undies, not sandals. This may or may not be coincidental. Unless all those wibbly wobbly marks are tattoos, Tanga has one of those costumes which almost fully covers her, yet leaves her looking a smidgen underdressed. She's sexy cute.
And part of that sexiness is her fun nature, revealed in the frustrated running commentary. Writer/artist Kevin Maguire doesn't tell us much about elfin-eared Tanga in terms of background or origin, but there are one or two interesting tidbits, such as an unspecified 'misunderstanding which I'm very eager to clear up one day' with the Green Lantern Corps. I'll pay to see that.
What we do learn is that Tanga is a free spirit, with immense power that manifests when she gets mighty peeved, as she does here when a spacecraft seemingly ignores her friendly approach.
Maguire's script is souffle light but, as with any successful souffle, the effect likely took a lot of work. As ever, Maguire doesn't skimp on the expressive faces (actually, face-singular, as this third 10pp strip is all Tanga) and the action looks fantastic. It's an artistic tour de force from a classic cartoonist. The vibrant colours are by Rosemary Cheetham, making a comics debut as impressive as Tanga's; the choices, the modelling, the effects - there's real talent here, and raw it ain't. Plus, there's more terrific lettering from the tireless Jared K Fletcher.
Akin to Starfire without the angst, Tanga is someone I can't wait to see more of, and the most likely enticement for me to try next issue. Extra points to Maguire for teaching me a new word, 'distrait', which is the title of Tanga's tale.
Good covers are a help too, and this issue looks excellent thanks to a DC Icons design featuring a striking image from Justiniano. I'll also be back next time to see how they follow that.