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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Battlegods - From 2000

The year is 2065 A.D., and from all over the world, the most talented and dangerous warriors gather in Mexico in order to test their skills in the most grand expression of "El Lucha Libre(Mexican wrestling);" the Chaak.

That's the premise of this action-packed series from Dark Horse comics. Unfortunately, action, and lots of it, is all Battlegods has going for it.

Battlegods is written by Francisco Ruiz Velasco, who obviously possesses a passion for ancient Mayan culture and Mexican wrestling, as they appear to be his sole inspiration for this series. His influences are not the problem, however. The problem is characterization; there is too much, and none of it is done very well.

From issue one, Velasco stuffs and crams characters into his story, depending mostly on "fighter profiles" in the back of the books to inform the reader on their various pasts and significance. Perhaps if these numerous, brand-new characters were struggling to overcome some profound evil, or there was some serious personal development being witnessed through internal struggles, their proliferation would be much more tolerable. But, no, they are simply on their way to compete in a glorified wrestling match, albeit one in which various weapons, and even magic, are not against the rules.

Velasco also handles the art chores, and many of his character designs are quite striking. His style, however, though replete with clean lines and nice use of textures, lends nothing new to the already-overused Manga style.

Arguably, the most important, and lacking, quality in comics today is good characterization. The number of characters in Battlegods should be trimmed down, or special emphasis placed on a precious few. Since it is a limited series, however, this is not likely to happen. Action will continue to be the main draw, until the book ends, not with a shout, but with a barely-audible whisper.

Battlegods can be obtained through comic shops, or by logging on to

Review by Mark Allen

Battle Pope - From 2000

Of what use is a beautifully wrapped package of sewage?

Battle Pope (Funk-O-Tron Publishing) is a new comic book that answers that question. Its art is outstanding. Its content stinks.

Its best use is as landfill.

The premise of Battle Pope is simple. A Pope who has committed every atrocity imaginable stands in judgment before God to receive a commission to fight against the creature he emulates, Satan. His sidekick is to be that 'inept' Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Ignorance is no defense of his excesses because the writer of Pope understands the principles that he trashes. Save your breath if you would claim the exaggeration of satire or the broad brush of parody as justification. Satire seeks truth as well as yaks, and the only goal of parody is laughter. Battle Pope falls far short of anything approaching humor or truth.

Christians will find Battle Pope blasphemous. Most other readers will find its graphic sex, violence and profanity tasteless, excessive and unentertaining.

The best scenario is this pretty package won't be found at all.

Review by Michael Vance

Comic Comment Anthologies - From 2000

I frequently call attention to anthologies that contain several months' of reprinted comic strips. These are a valuable way of retaining permanent copies of popular comics since the paper is better and the comics are in a format larger than in newspapers.

A trend in these anthologies is the inclusion of commentary from writers and artists. Andrews McMeel published two such examples in late 1999. The cost, $14.95 each, is high, but the information about how comics are created is priceless.

The first is Baby Blues: Ten Years and Still in Diapers, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. This is the second Baby anthology to include comments in the margins and I would prefer more on how a particular joke or story line was developed and received.

Baby pushes the envelope more than most comics and provokes considerable reaction from readers. Even Bill Keane's Family Circus has drawn criticism from readers concerned about inadvertent depiction's of situations hazardous to small children. The wide popularity of Baby Blues provides a barometer of what the reading public will accept.

The second volume, Lynn Johnston's The Lives Behind the Lines: 20 Years of For Better or Worse, contains considerably more commentary than comics. What is useful is Johnson's extensive background material on the characters. She is careful to distinguish between the characters and her family. This is useful corrective to the myth that the strip is almost entirely based on her family.

Much of the commentary comes as a revelation because her insights are not always described in the daily episodes. I admit that my readings of some characters were erroneous. Many novelists could take lessons from Lynn Johnston at creating characters.

We would be fortunate if other writers and artists would put down their thoughts on the creative process in this format. Many creators have left little or no autobiographical material. The recent loss of Charles Schulz and Peanuts reminds us how easily we can lose our legacy.

Review by Dr Jon Suter