Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Engineer #1

By Brian Churilla (writer & penciller) and Jeremy Shepherd (writer & colorist), and Sean Glumace (letters)
Published by Archaia Studio Press

Hannibal Tabu, who writes “The Buy Pile” for comicbookresources.com, gave this comic a “WTF award”. I agree with him, except that i liked it, and he didn't (apparently). There is a lot of crazy stuff going on here.

There is a definite “cosmic” element. The hero, as i mentioned in an earlier post, travels between dimensions/worlds searching for parts of a mystical device. Is it mystical? It looks mechanical. It bestows godlike powers upon whoever wields it. You decide.

Actually, now's a decent time to wander into a discussion of what makes a comic cosmic. Does this subgenre even exist outside of comics? IDK. You know when you watch a documentary about the universe, about how stars are born and die, or the age of the cosmos, or how the best scientific minds can't find a huge chunk of the matter in the universe, or anything about quantum mechanics or string theory, and it starts tripping breakers in your brain that are usually tripped by mythology or ghost stories? That's the area that “cosmic” adventure comics inhabit, with superheroes and spacegods thrown in, natch.

Pages one and two set up the “big concept” backstory for the series. Page three drops us into the middle of the Engineer's latest mission. He's running from a huge, stoney spider-ish monster that wants to crush him. He's also running from the antler-crowned humanoids who worship the big stone spidery thing.

The three sisters appear. These are the mysterious beings who set the Engineer on his quest. They look...kinda like dolphins in long, ghosty cloaks? As all strange mystical beings should, they speak cryptically and never give the kind of help you ask for. They do (kinda) tell him that the piece of the konstrukt he's looking for in this world is inside the giant monster that's trying to crush him.

Once that is resolved*, the sisters do something very extreme to, in their minds, deal with the monster. The Engineer is very upset about this. This is not simply a good-guy-quests-against-evil kind of story. The hero's benefactors, while they are trying to save the universe from a force that would destroy it, are alien and uncaring when it comes to individual people or worlds within said universe. So the Engineer has to struggle with not just his enemies, but his allies as well.

The bizarre concepts don't stop. In that way, this comic is akin to Atomic Robo, but the tone is different. The Engineer is decidedly more melancholy, but that imaginative spark, the reckless creativity, is there. I've criticized a lot of comics for being too self-conscious: whether that meant being “cool” or “adult” or “edgy”. These comics blissfully avoid that. That makes me happy.**

I love that music is what powers the transport from world to world. The music/math or music/science connection is one of those phenomena that, while completely logical, always strike me as not quite right. Yes, i understand how math and music relate, but the experience of each is so disparate. (Especially considering that i love music, but am barely on speaking terms with math.)

The art has touches of Kirby and touches of Mignola, as you'd expect given the tone and cosmic-ness.

It's good. Look for it. Bug your comic shop if the didn't order it, because i think they can still get it. I've added it to my subscription list.

*I'm trying to find a synopsis/spoiler balance here; forgive me if it's awkward.

**This is an attitude i bring to all media, i think. Nothing kills a story, a song, or a film quicker than if i think the creators are trying only to look cool, or, even worse, trying to avoid looking uncool.