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Friday, October 26, 2012

Stoned Ape Society : The Rise of Blue Eyes. James E. Roche (Writer), Rudi Sucipto (Art), Michael Syrigos (Colours), Brant W. Fowler (Letters). www.jameseroche.com/stoned-ape-society (2011)

A clever idea and great art are held back a little by sometimes clunky writing. A pre-human group of apes in particular one ape with blue eyes, witness the impact of a meteor in the clearing where they live and pay not attention to the event. They are preoccupied with the daily struggle to get enough to eat. Frustration leads the blue-eyed ape to discover a dark garden of mushrooms, eating one unlocks some of the potential of his mind. The blue-eyed ape becomes able to plan and trap prey and trains the others how to do the same. When the prey animals flee the clearing blue-eyes is left with a significant problem. How he resolves it and what he realises when he does so it the footing for the continuing story. The story threads are very well set up and the dramatic possibilities are clear.
The theme of the story is not new, the rise to power and then the struggle to maintain it have been staples of dramatic fiction for a very long time, what matters is how the story is told. James E. Roche has chosen a very interesting and unexpected context for the story, the point of human evolution and the underlying cause of it. The stoned apes, their minds altered by the drugs in the mushrooms develop a new way of seeing the world and with it the complex emotional responses that are essentially human. The novelty of the situation in the world is a great storytelling asset, the rise of the apes is reliant on an external factor, control that and you control the emerging society.
The slight failing in the writing is James E. Roche's tendency to show and tell at the same time, he does not rely enough on the superb art to convey the story to the reader, he will add words to underscore the point. This means that the reader is reading the panel twice and not getting something new for the effort, where he does allow the art to do its share and uses to words to add to it the story lifts strongly. The reader is invited into the space between the words and the art and has a chance to become involved.
Rudi Sucipto's art is a joy, slightly cartoony it gives the community of apes great expressiveness and the body language is very strong. There is a welcome variety with the panel placing and sizes, it gives the story a considerable tempo. In particular the close-up shots of the faces are full of life and expression, they give the personality of the character.
The colours by  by  Michael Syrigog are fantastic, bright and sharp they give depth and definition to the the cast, the context and the action. There is a moment when Blue-Eyes stands in the mushroom patch in a shaft of sunlight that captures some of the main themes of the story in a subtle and very effective way.
Brant W. Fowler manages the difficult job of lettering with care and skill, providing emphasis and effect without attracting attention to itself.
It is a pleasure to see a creative team working on an interesting idea as well as they do with Stoned Ape Society, the comic is available as a download from the website listed above and is well worth getting.

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