Sean Maher's Quality Control

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fused! Tales - brings a full deck o' cards

So, it looks like the rumors are true! Small Gods is returning!

The cover and preview artwork is fuckin' smoking... I can't wait for this.

I was mostly interested in Fused! Tales because of Joshua Fialkov’s contribution. Most of you probably know how much I’m enjoying his writing on the Speakeasy book, Elk’s Run, but he also did some great work on another self-published endeavor, Western Tales of Terror.

Both books make great reads and I figured I’d check out Fused! Tales when I saw him attached. Also, Boom! Studios has been getting a pretty solid record in my book, pushing pretty hard with this 48-page, $6.99 anthology format. It's not a push I'd have expected to be very successful - anthologies are a tricky business, usually suffering from the ol' "one good story out of every four" syndrome and collecting meager talent to fill out the pages left by the one or two "name" talents involved. But from the start - which I believe was Zombie Tales, back in July, Boom! has brought a fucking A-game with every effort. They've had Mark Waid, Steve Niles, Kieth Giffen, Ron Lim... but the thing that really sets their books above the bar is that even the guys I've never heard of do great work.

Fused! Tales is a great example. Steve Niles writes the opening story (apparently this is his character - I'd gotten it confused with a Joe Casey property, probably because both books had Ashley Wood doing art at some point) and it's drawn by someone known only as Chee. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more books with this guy's art - there's a few pages in particular towards the end that just blew me away.

Oh, but then, I realized I didn't explain the setting for the art. Fused, we're caught up to very quickly, is about a scientist who got trapped in a giant mechanical body. He has conversations with his "CPU", the computer running the robot body, is alienated from his wife, and has to deal with constant malfunctions in the machinery of his new form. It makes sense, when you think about it - if a dude got stuck in the thing, it stands to reason there'd be other troubles with the prototype. So now he goes around helping The Government and bringing his regular-Joe perspective to the wild world of a giant mechanical weaponized robot. A lot of this makes me think of Mignola's Hellboy (Fialkov even writes in Hellboy's signature line, "Oh, crap"), and I think fans of that property would find a lot to enjoy here.

So, the sequence that Chee draws that really knocked my eyes out was when, keeping security tight in Iraq (Niles writes a touching solider story that parallels our hero's tale), the robot-guy has to tackle a van carrying a suicide bomber, flip over the top of it, and chuck it way the fuck into the sky so it'll blow up without hurting anyone. That part fucking rocks.

Fialkov's section is a fun, Mignola-esque mini-adventure with some intriguing artwork by Nick Stakal, and the real fun here is watching the dialogue within the robot body between man and computer. There's a sense of levity here that sets off the more serious tone in the other stories and makes the collection feel well-rounded and thorough.

The final story is the quietest, as our hero uses his giant robot body to help his wife move out of the house they'd bought together. Writer Christopher E. Long does a lot with very little space, bringing a real sense of history to the dialogue between the two characters. Neither one is unsympathetic - there's no bad guy, just two people struggling with the embers of their dying love. It's bittersweet and melancholy, and artist Andrew Ritchie responds to this by brining a unique design interpretation to the physicality of the robot body. It seems more frail and delicate than the versions by Chee and Stakal, somewhat more expressive and vulnerable.

All told, I'm left with a new interest in the character (who's had two previous mini-series, it seems) and curious to see what anthology Boom! will hit me with next. I'm surprised and impressed with their work so far, and look forward to more.

(Also, for you tradewaiters - I'm looking at you, Franck! - there's a spine on these things. Sit on the bookshelf just fine, which is a great idea.)

Listening today to my Shitkicker Mix, which includes Robert Earl Keen's "The Road Goes on Forever" and Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels (To Be Me)". And "Filipino Box Spring Hog" by Tom Waits. So, yeah, I'm having a great fuckin' time!


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