now and again, I pick up a graphic novel or trade that I know
absolutely nothing about: no buzz had been read, no pages
am basically basing my decision to part with my meager amount
of funds on the cover and whatever little description is printed
on the comic.
you can imagine, this strategy does not always work out to
my advantage, but every now and then I'll end up with something
of value. That something this time was Hectic Planet: Dim
Future from Slave Labor Graphics, written and drawn by
Evan Dorkin. (There are three volumes in the series. --
be honest: I've never read anything else by Dorkin (#4 on
the Comic Book Ten Commandments is "Thou must readeth
Milk & Cheese before thy death.") but I've
heard he's a good comic satirist and comedian. So, when I
saw Hectic Planet sitting on my favorite store's shelf, with
its cartoonish cover chalk full of quirky looking aliens,
I was expecting space comedy. Instead, I got a book that was
very funny at times, thrilling at others, with a cast of characters
that are fully realized and at times interestingly emotional.
in the future, the story is about a group of space pirates,
The Jersey Devil Crew, getting saddled with an unpleasant
job by a government official after botching a break-in. Their
captain, Ronald Chitin (green, four-armed alien who looks
just as dashing in a trench coat as battle armor), is obviously
unhappy as he and the crew fly off in search of something
called the "source of life," the consequences of
not finding it being a few quaint little prison sentences.
really makes the book shine is Dorkin's touch with the characters.
He never falls into the trap that a lot of sci-fi television
shows (and comics) fall into: having a cookie cutter crew
that includes characters like "Captain Stalwart N. Moral"
or "Science Officer Straight Man." Dorkin makes
his characters interesting and realistic (as realistic as
bug-guys and chicken men can be), not to mention likeable.
The Jersey Devils are "a rarity as far as most Pirate
Corps go" (quoted from Datsun, the medic/chicken man
the business of crime only because the technology is at the
level where they don't have to kill people to get the job
done, they're moral (in a criminal way). Dorkin uses this
as a great storytelling device throughout the book, managing
to reach some emotional depth I really didn't think was possible
in a book like this. That guy just keeps surprising me.
misunderstand; the book still has plenty of wacky hijinks
and reveling to be read (Dorkin balances out the depth with
set ups like Worldwide Planet Extermination Parties and other,
more psychotic pirates who are just plain wacky).
also happen to like Dorkin's art style. Sure it's a black
and white book, but Dorkin's line work is detailed and the
inks do a great definition job (it's not incredibly clean
line work, but it fits a book with "Hectic" in the
title). Dorkin does great plash pages too; full of sight gags
and usually brimming with action.
was my first book from Slave Labor Graphics but not my last;
120 pages for $12.95 is helping me avoid abject poverty. Hectic
Planet was Dorkin's first solo work in comics but it certainly
doesn't read like amateur stuff. So if you're looking for
a good read, head to the store or click the link. You won't
be as pleasantly surprised as I was you'll get all the fun
of alien mercenaries, killer robots, angry ex-girlfriends,
and a whole planet of drunks (and who can resist a whole planet
of drunks what with their drinking and vomiting and accidental
revealing of your most personal and embarrassing secrets?
Oh those drunks).