Black Eyed Susan #1
Writer: Patrick Neighly
Artist: Donny Hadiwidjaja
know, despite all our efforts to make the world see comics
as a sophisticated, mature medium, there are still times
when we just want to pick up 20-some pages of ridiculously
huge guns and the colossal explosions that result from them.
Black Eyed Susan is more than that. It’s
a whole 46 pages of guns, explosions, spacecraft, heavy
ordnance, and drooling, snarly Martians!
on a human colony world in the distant future, the comic
begins when Mel, a mechanic aboard the spaceship Tigerlily,
is rudely awakened by her alarm clock. Actually, she just
thinks it’s her alarm clock. It’s really the
ship’s siren going off because they’re under
attack by overwhelming Martian forces. Of course, Mel doesn’t
figure this out until a hull breech has sucked her and the
jet she works on into the upper atmosphere.
manages to steer the plummeting craft into a soft crash-landing
and, following standard procedure, calls for help and sits
tight. A day later, Mel gives up and repairs her jet, then
speeds off in a random direction and chances upon a city.
A completely abandoned city filled with smoking craters.
Oh, and Martians, too. Luckily for Mel, a stoic little boy
with a big freakin’ bazooka saves her bacon and proceeds
to ignore her questioning until she proves useful by repairing
his land speeder. She is a mechanic, after all.
follows the Kid home in her jet and tries convincing her
silent young charge to come along with her to the capital
rather than stay in the boondocks when a Martian Tripod
appears and remodels the Kid’s bedroom into a breezeway.
Following some running and panic fire, Mel notices a pyramid
of fuel canisters and looses them in the Tripod’s
direction, carefully aiming once they’ve come to rest
underneath the enemy and equally carefully missing every
damn one of them. Thankfully, the Kid’s a better shot,
but the canisters still aren’t enough to fell the
mighty beast. Then the cavalry arrives.
Patrick Neighly again proves himself a wise author, keeping
his characters silent except when absolutely necessary and,
even then, parceling out such small pieces of information
that we can’t help but keep reading to solve the mysteries
of where the hell we are, why the Martians are attacking,
and why Mel is completely clueless about practically everything.
most of the credit, good or bad, goes to Donny Hadiwidjaja
(Damn. You can’t buy a name like that!). Hadiwidjaja’s
layouts are clean and interesting, owing a little to the
“widescreen” style, but never enough to come
off like a Bryan Hitch-wannabe.
mechanical designs are so old school it’s almost painful,
borrowing in equal parts from BattleTech mecha
designs and Jane’s Recognition Guides (Mel’s
jet, for example, is a variation on the Korean War-era F-86
Sabre). The result makes for a deliciously gritty, heavy
industry look that lends an air of credibility to the book,
despite the fact that the technology is seriously outdated
for the era.
wish I could figure out how the Kid’s speeder can
fly a banner that billows forward when it’s mounted
in front of the main turbine. I mean, it looks sweet and
all, but obvious little things like that make you wonder
how the machine works in the first place and bring the suspension
of disbelief crashing down.
character designs, on the other hand, aren’t very
consistent and some of the anatomy is just appalling. Mel’s
waist alternates from normal human proportion to a wasp
shape far too often, even shrinking down thinner than her
neck a few times (though her neck extends and retracts so
much, it’s hard to keep track of exactly what’s
out of proportion). It’s a real shame to see this
when he does such a good job of making the Martians so completely
alien, but I’ve gotta call it like it is.
like to believe the rough work on some pages are due to
a rush job to make a print available at the APE con (where
I found it), but the inside cover is marked as a retail
edition, and, from all indications, this is the book that
hit the stands. After taking a look at the production sketches,
I really wish they’d spent more time on the art and
done a better job of inking. The talent’s there, but
the result is muddled.
Black Eyed Susan #1 makes for a fun book full of
explosions and big action. It’s a pretty impressive
production for such a small press, but the $3.50 price tag
may be a bit more than readers want to spend on a black
and white comic with inconsistent art. Personally, I think
you’re getting your money’s worth with the amount
of story included in the first issue.
just hope the bi-monthly schedule will give Hadiwidjaja
enough time to avoid the mistakes he made this time around.