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Monday, November 23, 2009

Hip Flask. Unnatural Selection. Richard Starkings (Writer), Joe Casey (Writer), Landronn (Artist). Active Images (2003)


A fantastic concept, luscious art and brilliant execution make this book a superb comic and outstanding science fiction. In 2218 Dr. Nikken is involved in creating human animal hybrids and having failed to do so successfully using an artificial womb uses living women instead. The monstrous hybrids are trained to be violent soldiers, an army in the service of MAPPO. They have a human intelligence and stance with the heads and other features of the animal they were crossed with. The MAPPO base in North Africa is stormed by UN troops and Dr. Nikken is arrested after a fierce resistance by the hybrids. The hybrids are escorted from the site and in a flash forward at the end of the book appear to be integrated into society and referred to as Elephantmen. The book is a set up for a continuing series called Elephantmen.
This book takes the unlimited capacity of comics to describe and explore fantastic ideas and really embraces it, this is top flight science fiction. The opening pages where Dr.Nikken is introduced and his appalling plans are revealed is both wonderfully economical and savagely informative. The art conveys the scale of his ambition in the vast industrial process he in involved in, the words convey the extreme poverty of his spirit and motivations.
The Elephantmen themselves are astonishing, Ladronn has managed to subtly combine the animal and human elements is a unified whole that breathe personality and rage. They are the visible monsters in the book, the real monstrosity of Dr Nikken is nicely underplayed by contrast.
The urban context for the story is a Blade Runner like setting, the art uses the similarity without being drowned by it. The discipline in the art is extraordinary, the details are numerous, they never overwhelm the whole, they give it depth and solidity. This set up does exactly what it should, it provides a vivid and deeply enticing introduction to the on-going series as well as being a very memorable piece of work in its own right. Fantastic.

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