Published by: Image Comics
Story By: Chip Zdarsky @zdarsky
Art By: Kagan Mcleod @KaganMcLeod
Now when I signed on as a contributor/slave here at the paradigm altering Graphic Novice I found an interesting addendum to my contract, it read as follows:
3(a) All staff of the corporate entity known as Graphic Novice must at all times express love and admiration for Chip Zdarsky regardless of format (podcast, blog post, article, ect.) or risk disciplinary action.
For those of you who avidly listen to the podcast each week, you will be well aware of Nickel’s unhealthy bromance with Zdarsky which started with the release of Sex Criminals in 2013. However now that Zdarsky has turned his talents to writing with Howard the Duck and his new Sci-Fi title Kaptara I was really looking forward to ridiculing Nickel for his bias and inability to see the flaws in these new offerings from his god like hero Zdarsky.
To say I went into my reading of Kaptara with the hope that it would prove an unmitigated disaster would be an understatement of monumental proportions. I hoped Kaptara would be a train wreck. Nay!!!! I hoped that the train would strike a semi-truck head on, while on a bridge. In my mind I dreamed that the rail cars tumbled off the bridge and fell a hundred feet through the air, end over end, and finally came crashing to the earth, smashing and flattening a tour bus full of nuns. I had HIGH hopes for badness and Kaptara seemed to present all I could hope for.
- It was about space (and few comics about space are good)</li>
- It featured a protagonist ill-suited to space travel (and most geeks are really into the idea of being astronauts)
- And finally it features a fantasy world that seems like it was stolen from Gil Kane’s preposterous 1980s Sword of the Atom (Which I do have to confess that I own, however I do not recommend any one else read.)
Yes on paper Kaptara was going to be my moment, Nickel was going to finally pay and go off crying in corner like the little girl from whom I just stole this teddy bear. Nice teddy bear. Good teddy bear. But then something interesting happened… Kaptara… ended up being… pretty good.
In Kaptara we meet Keith, a bio-engineer astronaut who seems to spend all his time playing video games and annoying astronauts around him, but never, ever doing anything that one might call productive or astronaut-y (look ma, I made up a new word). When Keith’s ship enters a wormhole and is destroyed he and the rest of his five person crew are stranded on an alien planet filled with dangerous beast and a an alien society which seems like it’s made up of medieval fairies, but who for no apparent reason have more scientific knowledge than space faring apes that are humanity. Once upon the planet Keith proceeds to:
- Run around screaming
- Fall down and hurt himself
- Get his teammates killed
In other words, Keith isn’t very heroic. However despite creating a plot that is most aptly described as extremely juvenile, If not downright banal, Zdarsky’s Kaptara ascends to heights of absurdist delights not often found in comic books. The stupidity and wit intermingle in that rare way often found in cult films and Kaptara feels like a bizarre mix of John Carter of Mars and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (Yes I went Bogus Journey, I did it because it’s BETTER! Get over it!).
While it may be a difficult to get through the first few pages of this book, as Zdarsky sets up his characters, once this story gets rolling the laughs come loud and often (that sounded dirty) and by the end you won’t be shocked at all by the level of selfishness demonstrated by Keith in any given scene. In a world full of superheroes who take themselves too seriously and comic book writers who spend all day long thinking up reasons to alter the sex, race, creed, religion or sexual orientation of the characters under their charge, Kaptara is a breathe off fresh air, in that it doesn’t really care whether or not it’s hero is in fact a hero. All that matters in this series is whether or not you like Keith (Here’s a hint Keith is good. KEITH 2016!).
Kagan McLeod’s art helps reinforce much of the absurdism in this book by rendering the characters around Keith in ways that make them look like more traditional comic books heroes, while depicting Keith himself as alien looking. One can’t help but feel that Keith is out of place when viewing his soft facial features and super elongated fingers, in comparison to the characters around him.
McLeod’s art is more than a little rough around the edges at times and lacks the polish of what you traditionally see out of Marvel and DC, however it sets itself apart from similar Image books like Low, as McLeod doesn’t feel the need to clutter frames (and confuse the audience) in order to mask weak points in the art. This gives the book a clear easy to follow style which remains at all times consistent with the tone of the storytelling and allows the reader to dive head first into Zdarsky’s strange and amusing story.
As per usual (or at least until Convergence ends) I heartily recommend this book as a replacement for some useless tie-in, be it Convergence or Secret Wars related.
4.5 out of 5 stars