- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils.

So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and come on in to:

Mr. Zad’s comic critique

• Lone Wolf 2100, Vol. 1: Shadows on Saplings and Lone Wolf 2100, Vol. 2: The Language of Chaos, trade paperbacks (Dark Horse Comics, $12.95 each). Manga master Kazuo Koike’s 1970s sequential art epic about the protective bond between a samurai and child in 17th-century feudal Japan gets reimagined in a futuristic setting and becomes a graphically powerful series with Mr. Koike’s blessing.

The first eight issues of Lone Wolf 2100, compiled in two separate paperbacks with pages smaller in size (6 inches by 9 inches) than its original, standard-sized comic presentation, relay the tale of an advanced Emulation Construct (organic android), Itto, sworn to protect the female child Daisy, who may be the key to curing a worldwide plague.

Surviving within a Mad Max environment, the pair travel across barren landscapes loaded with chilling, bloodthirsty enemies and occasional friends while avoiding capture by the Big Brother military-industrial Cygnat Owari Corp.

Writer Mike Kennedy portrays a bleak dystopian world, 100 years in the future as one of desperation as the human population succumbs to disease and the android population seeks a bit of respect.

The line between man and machine has also been beautifully blurred by Mr. Kennedy as he offers Itto as a concerned caretaker to Daisy, versus Itto as the perfect, nonemotional killing machine utilizing sword skills, dead aim, combat strategies and detachable fingertips any time she is in harm’s way.

Additionally, even though the writer’s subject matter must pay a slight homage to the post-apocalyptic plot threads highlighted in such works as “Waterworld,” the “Planet of the Apes” television show, “Logan’s Run,” “Escape From New York” and “The Postman,” he manages to keep his vision fresh by maintaining strong, empathetic character development, crisp episodic storytelling, and shocking glimpses of a human population struggling with Darwinian adaptation.

Artist Francisco Ruiz Velasco perfectly illustrates Mr. Kennedy’s world of android assassins, cybernetic nomads and morally bankrupt individuals by creating nightmarish characters and pulling no pencil when it comes to the means it takes to destroy them. Decapitations, vivisections and plenty of blood get brilliantly juxtaposed against the purity of a child’s face, who many times witnesses Itto’s carnage.

Bottom line rhyme: Lone Wolf and Cub rises again, taking readers on a thrilling ride of science-fiction discovery to places they’ve never been.

To the point

A selected peek at titles that didn’t inspire a bloated evaluation:

• Across the Universe: The DC Stories of Alan Moore, trade paperback (DC Comics, $19.95). Author Alan Moore has left a legacy in the sequential art world in the past 15 years through such epic and groundbreaking series as the Watchmen, Swamp Thing, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Miracleman.

During the early years of his career, Mr. Moore sharpened his prose skills through short stories that were illustrated in comic book annuals, back-up features and occasional short stints on titles chronicling DC Comics’ stable of superheroes. A 208-page trade paperback relives some of these spectacular reads, offering 11 reasons why Mr. Moore is one of the best comic book writers on the planet.

Care, detail and surprises pepper Mr. Moore’s prose as he offers such memorable moments as Superman getting an unusual gift from his nemesis Mongul in the Dave Gibbons illustrated “For the Man Who has Everything,” from Superman annual No. 11; to a quick perspective on the relativity of time told through the vignette Brief Lives, from the Omega Men No. 26; to the unlucky love life of Clayface seemingly plucked from a Dr. Phibes movie in “Mortal Clay” from Batman annual No. 11.

Overall, this mixing of Moore madness shouldn’t be missed by anyone in love with the comic book art form.

• Samson: Judge of Israel (Metron Press, $7.95). Too often sequential-art adaptations of the Bible have been dumbed down or simplified for a younger audience — supposedly the only demographic on the planet that would dare read a comic book.

A fairly new company wants to change that and succeeds with its first release chronicling the tale of a powerful Israelite who, through a bad haircut from his supposed sweetheart, went from champion to slave. Writer Jerry Novick takes on the Samson mythos and follows the New Testament version of the hero from his great battles with the Philistines, to his tragic love affair with Delilah, to his toppling of a kingdom.

Artist Mario Ruiz offers a Cecil B. DeMille illustrative style to every colorful page that reveals the largess of an arrogant hero reduced to a humbled man asking his God for a chance at revenge.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail [email protected] or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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