artists: Pablo Villalobos and Mostafa Moussa
Stuart Moore resigned from Marvel, he left behind a legacy
of stewarding their heroes into bold (and some might say upsetting)
directions with the Marvel Knights line and several MAX titles.
It's not surprising that the former editor transitioned into
writing comics with only the vaguest of superheroic flavors,
last year's Zendra 2.0 from Penny-Farthing Press. But
that was just to get his feet wet, dabbling with another's
Moore launches his own title through Penny-Farthing, the mysteriously
named PARA. So far there's not a hint of spandex. Surprisingly,
there really isn't anything very edgy. (Maybe that's saved
for his work for Dark Horse on Lone.) Instead, the
writer offers up a somewhat nostalgic blend of soft science
fiction and horror.
concerns Sarah Erie, a young woman whose father had headed
a supercollider project in San Antonio, Texas. Once dedicated
to science, her thirst for knowledge soured when an accident
took the lives of her father and most of his crew. Still,
as must happen in these kinds of stories, she cajoles her
way onto the exploratory team sent to find out years later
just what happened.
enjoyment of the first issue may depend completely on whether
or not you buy the coincidences involving this group. Straight
out of a fifties science fiction troupe, you've got your older
paternal scientist, here played by Sarah's father's best friend,
Dr. Jonas Andersen. Of course, the military must be represented,
a vague branch manifested in Special Agent Donna Sanchez.
that may be too hard to swallow, however, is with Andersen's
grad student, Roger Max. Despite Sarah having had no contact
with Andersen in fifteen years, pursuing her own goal of becoming
a social worker, the older man just happens to choose to work
with the guy who is Sarah's ex-boyfriend. She may protest
that she wants nothing to do with science ever again, but
that rings hollow if she dates PhD candidates.
may be too convenient for some tastes. It pushed the edge
for me, though except for the coincidence, the characters
themselves are fairly well-done.
redeems himself with a creepy enough set up. Whatever happened
down there seems to involve radioactive frogs, nuclear ghosts
and the strange word (or dangling prefix) "PARA." Echoing
the Jamestown Colony (see 1602) disaster, the spray-painted
scrawl could serve as a warning or the key to the whole mystery.
working to great effect, the moody artwork by Villalobos and
Moussa. The latter is a rather strong inker, making this book
share the tone of The Victorian.
Moussa's inks, Villalobos has a style that mixes a softer,
almost cartoony look with the hard edge of a Paul Gulacy.
The blend works, and with the subtle coloring of Mike Garcia,
helps establish a strong framing sequence involving Sarah's
father appearing in an educational film. Set against the science
team's later exploration of the abandoned supercollider, it
hits the right shrill note of irony without pushing over into
may be the most striking thing about PARA. Moore aims
for old-fashioned science fiction (and, as an extra text feature
at the end proves, he's done his research), more often than
not hitting the mark without resorting to any self-consciously
hip touches. This is plain old good storytelling, and it's
more than welcome on the stands.