Posts Tagged ‘Mirko Colak’

Everyplace is going to hell in a handbasket these days — even Camelot.

Or so Cullen Bunn (who seems to have stepped into the role once occupied by the likes of Brian Michael Bendis and, later, Charles Soule as “the guy who’s writing every other comic on the stands”) and Mirko Colak would have us believe, at any rate — and why not? Every other legend has been deconstructed (if not outright obliterated) in contemporary fiction, four-color or otherwise, so why the hell should King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, and the rest be let off the hook?

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see Guy Ritchie’s latest cinematic iteration of the Arthurian mythos (nor, apparently, did anyone else), but he’d have had to work pretty hard to equal the tear-down that Bunn, Colak, and colorist Maria Santaolalla perform on it in the twenty pages of Unholy Grail #1, their new series from Aftershock Comics. Purists will no doubt be alarmed, perhaps even outright mortified, by the alternative vision on offer here, but what the hell do we care what they think, anyway? For my part, whatever it’s worth, I absolutely loved it.

The story jumps around in time a little bit, which adds a pleasing bit of post-modernism into this ancient fable, alternating between the period after Camelot’s fall, when the knight Percivale returns (too late?) from his Grail quest, and the period before its rise, when Merlin, who often claimed to be the son of either a demon or Satan himself (comics fans may remember that no less than Jack Kirby himself hinted at this in the pages of The Demon and that Matt Wagner really picked up and ran with the idea about a decade later with his now-largely-forgotten revival of the character) meets up with an actual escaped denizen of Hell, and —- well, nah, that might be giving too much away. Suffice to say that the machinations and manipulations the wizard gets up to after this harrowing,  fateful encounter cast the entire story in a new, and decidedly grim, light that I defy anyone to find less than absolutely intriguing. Sometimes the stories we think we know best are actually hiding the biggest secrets of all right in plain sight, are they not?

I’m impressed at how immediately the creative team is firing on all cylinders with this series, which leads me to think that this is a project that’s enjoyed a long and healthy gestation period. Bunn’s lean, sparse scripting feel downright urgent at all times, Colak’s art is luscious, lavish, and borderline agonizingly detailed, and Santaolalla’s colors are just straight-up frigging beautiful. This is a book with a very “Euro” look to it — as one might expect, I suppose, given that both illustrator and colorist hail from the other side of the Atlantic — and it suits the material absolutely pitch-perfectly. I don’t mean to sell the writing short, because it really is quite good and further cement’s Bunn’s reputation as the premier “go-to guy” for horror comics these days, but seriously : even if the script sucked (which, one more time for good measure, it doesn’t), this would be $3.99 well-spent because the art is just that gorgeous. Wrap it all up with your choice of covers by either Colak himself or cover artist extraordinaire Francesco Francavilla and what you have here is some serious eye candy, pure and simple.

There’s nothing simple at all about what our intrepid creators are looking to do with this series, though. This is heady, ambitious stuff and jumping on with issue number one really does feel like getting in on the ground floor of something special. After reading Unholy Grail, I’m thoroughly convinced that all other takes on the Round Table are strictly for squares.

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I’ll admit, I was as psyched as anyone when I heard that Dynamite Entertainment had acquired the rights to the dormant Gold Key characters, and that they were assembling an “all-star roster” of creators to helm the various titles they were planning — and I guess my inner nerd is still looking forward to the debuts of the new versions of Magnus, Robot Fighter and Doctor Solar — but if the premier  issue of the range’s first title, Turok:Dinosaur Hunter is any indication, we could be in for something of a bumpy ride here.

It’s not that writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak have fired off an actively lousy opening salvo here, mind you, it’s just that — well, it’s hard to fathom exactly what’s going on in the book, and characterization is so minimal that we’re left to scratch our heads about why exactly we should even care. It’s a very scant piece of work, all in all, that drops us right into the middle of a situation with no backstory , and the skeletal plot is miles away from providing us with any reason to keep shelling out four bucks month after month to obtain answers to any and all of the questions that will inevitably arise when actual details are this absent from the proceedings.

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As near as I’m able to discern, here’s what’s happening : at some unknown point in the past, Turok finds himself on the outs from his unnamed Native American tribe for reasons that are entirely unspecified. Then some flying dinosaurs apparently known as “thunder lizards” attack and Turok has to decide whether or not to help out the very people that have banished him. Then real trouble arrives in the form of European settlers. The end.

I assure you, the actual issue itself doesn’t take much longer to read than that “quickie” synopsis did. I get that minimalist dialogue is a hallmark of just about any Greg Pak script, but come on. At least clue us in as to why our giving a shit matters.

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On the art front, Colak’s pencils and inks aren’t by any means bad, but there’s nothing too terribly special going to distinguish them from much of the bog-standard super-hero and action/adventure fare weighing down the shelves at your LCS. His works achieves the level of “competent enough” from the outset and never really rises above that throughout. It’s clean and reasonably sharp and easy enough, I suppose, on the eyes, but so is most of what’s out there these days. I believe “thoroughly uninspired” is a fair summation of the state of artistic affairs here.

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This being a Dynamite publication and all, 1,001 variant covers are the order of the day, and I’ve reproduced the ones done by Bart Sears, Jae Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Sean Chen, respectively, to give you some idea of the multitude you have to choose from, but then, I have to admit that I’d be hard-pressed to offer up any actual reason to buy even one of these, much less several. Turok:Dinosaur Hunter was a strictly “one and done” purchase on my part, unless some seriously positive buzz begins emanating from some other quarters about how good successive issues end up being. I’m not holding my breath.