Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Elephantmen Volume 1: Wounded Animals TPB
Starkings, Moritat, Comicraft, Cook, Bachalo, Flint, Hine, Kelly, Scioli & Ladronn
A series that has been on my radar for a while but I just haven’t had time to catch up speed yet, finally got my awful attention span for a reading. I came into this thinking I would like it because I like messed up stories set in the future, especially involving genetics and war. After reading Richard Starkings introduction I became a little concerned because many of the sources of his inspiration are either works that didn’t interest me much or are works I’ve never read or seen, like Countdown, Look-In or Doomwatch. I became a little more put off when I realized the story was starting beyond the war when the Elephantmen were being re-assimilated back into society. By the end I was completely hooked and found this series to capture everything that a serial or classic pulp fiction should contain to keep the reader coming back for more. I’m in full throttle now.
The concept is pretty basic. Human females carry to term mutated animals that can think and act like humans, but have animal instincts and looks for the most part. The hybrid creatures are churned out to fight a war. The war ended and now these things are left to figure out the world.
For the most part each issue in this seven issue collection is split into two stories. The stories weave their way through the lives of four or five key characters with multiple intersections between character A and B and then A and C and so on. The Elephantmen make up of more than elephants which makes character profiling a little more distinct.
The core characters that are the animals are an elephant, hippo, crocodile and rhino. There are a couple of human characters mixed in as well as other animals too. For the most part the stories center around the four key animals finding their place in the “real” world.
What this collection offers is series of stories showing how rotten humanity really can be. Humans created these war animals for profit, sold them into war and then once the battles were over they didn’t know what to do with them so they placed them into controlled environments in society and actively monitor them.
The simple question is why not just kill them? Another question is why not resell them but for use as labor? There is more at work here but this trade isn’t giving away any of the major details just yet. Even the war itself is only touched on in places and not really fully explored. But as a good serial does it leaves you wondering more after each issue is read.
The trade provides some excellent character studies. For example, two characters find themselves fighting to the death for what seems to be a statue. We don’t know why the statue is important, but we learn a lot about what makes these creatures tick and we see a bit of their souls in how they fight. In many ways they have the feelings humans have with regard to possession, but the savagery overtakes their decision making process when pushed too far.
The trades also has plenty of interesting characters. From the caricature of Howard Stern to the little girl that befriends one of the beasts to the taxi driver who is a little bit too interested in the animals for her own good, we have a cast that is compact but finely crafted to the point that they are distinct and not at all boring. Add in that the comics waste little time developing them and you have yourself a terrific base for characters coming in fresh or ones seen in previous stories.
The artwork has a wide range of styles and strengths. I can say that there is a consistency in the dark tone and the menacing look that the animals give off. Sure there is plenty of gore and a few fights that are a wash of red, but for the most part the art gives off its vibe when the humans are interacting with the animals. In almost every interaction I’m waiting for the Elephantman in the room to bounce on the human and mangle them. Whether it happens or not is another story.
This collection also gives you plenty of extras. You get the lengthy intro by Starkings, plus you get short bios for almost all of the credited creators and you also receive each cover with the intro text reprinted, all on thick paper. It’s a fine book to have and I imagine the hardcover is even nicer.
This series is probably not in everyone’s wheelhouse. If you like science fiction works like Blade Runner or some other dark version of the future this might interest you. More importantly, if you like story telling that puts things together by weaving in one character into another’s path, sometimes out of order then I think this might be something you’d like a lot. The collection has a retail price of $16.99 USD which is a bargain for what you receive. I think ideas in here are among the most interesting and have the most potential to have a long life in terms of characters and engaging stories this side of Walking Dead. It’s on my list now, check it out.
5 out of 5 geek goggles