Weird Worlds #1 review

I thank DC for producing a new anthology comic, and with a title I remember from childhood, no less. In the Seventies, Weird Worlds ran for 10 issues and mainly featured the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Spotty distribution in the UK meant I never read a single issue.

It’s easy to find any comic I want these days, so here’s Weird Worlds 2011, starring – among others – Garbage Man. Reading the strip, I’m disappointed by the blatant Swamp/Man Thing-riffs. He looks like Swamp Thing, right down to the flat nose. He homages (to be kind) Man-Thing’s origin, with our hero the victim of a super-soldier experiment gone wrong. That the evil – sorry, eeeeeevil – scientist behind the illegal doings jokes about the fact that searching for a super-soldier serum is a cliche doesn’t make use of said cliche any more palatable. 

Doing my research (now that’s weird), I find that writer/artist Aaron Lopresti was asked by DC to create a Swampy substitute back when the muck monster was locked in the Vertigo dungeon, so I shouldn’t be too hard on the chap. And yet …

The first instalment, ‘Reborn Identity’, has Garbage Man wake up in industrial slurry, wonder what’s happened to him, remember the experiment and vow revenge. Oh, you guessed that? The story’s strong point is great-looking pencils from Lopresti, with more experimental layouts than we’ve seen in his work in Wonder Woman, Ms Marvel and elsewhere. The story’s weak point is less-than-sparkling dialogue from Lopresti, which aspires to be smart but reads as self-conscious. Lopresti’s regular inker, Matt Ryan, adds luscious finishes, the colours of Dave McCaig are Heap big perfect and letterer Jared K Fletcher whips out a scratchy font for full EC Comics effect. Just look at those panels (click to enlarge). 
There really is no denying the talent here, but Garbage Man feels over-familiar. Still, this is just episode one, and it could be that we’re being faked out, and next issue will subvert our expectations with pizzazz. In Joey Cavalieri, Lopresti has one of the best editors in the business at his disposal, so I expect improvement. The strip has the basics – with a sharper script and more original, amped-up weirdness, we could have something special.

Also appearing in this first issue of six is Lobo, the cocky cosmic assassin with the healing factor. As we join him in ‘The Jawbone of an Ass’, he’s dead, apparently the victim of a rival bounty hunter. It turns out that there’s more to the situation than that and there’s fun to be had in waiting for Lobo’s inevitable return. There’s also a little twist which is guessable, but enjoyably so.
I enjoyed this well enough – it gets a little too gory for me, so I expect Lobo fans will love it. Writer Kevin Vanhook captures the Czarnian’s personality, while artist Jerry Ordway shows that he’s second to none when it comes to knockabout DC Universe fare. There’s a classic vibe to his sturdy pencils and inks – to my eye Lobo actually looks as if he were drawn by Superman legend Curt Swan in a bad mood. The colours of Pete Pantazis, muted and bloody by turns, are just right, while that man Fletcher experiments with fonts once more, giving the rival assassin suitably raggedy speech.

And finally we have space totty Tanga, a name which, in the UK at least, is synonymous with ‘thong’. And that’s a UK thong, not an Australian one – undies, not sandals. This may or may not be coincidental. Unless all those wibbly wobbly marks are tattoos, Tanga has one of those costumes which almost fully covers her, yet leaves her looking a smidgen underdressed. She’s sexy cute.

And part of that sexiness is her fun nature, revealed in the frustrated running commentary. Writer/artist Kevin Maguire doesn’t tell us much about elfin-eared Tanga in terms of background or origin, but there are one or two interesting tidbits, such as an unspecified ‘misunderstanding which I’m very eager to clear up one day’ with the Green Lantern Corps. I’ll pay to see that.
What we do learn is that Tanga is a free spirit, with immense power that manifests when she gets mighty peeved, as she does here when a spacecraft seemingly ignores her friendly approach. 

Maguire’s script is souffle light but, as with any successful souffle, the effect likely took a lot of work. As ever, Maguire doesn’t skimp on the expressive faces (actually, face-singular, as this third 10pp strip is all Tanga) and the action looks fantastic. It’s an artistic tour de force from a classic cartoonist. The vibrant colours are by Rosemary Cheetham, making a comics debut as impressive as Tanga’s; the choices, the modelling, the effects – there’s real talent here, and raw it ain’t.  Plus, there’s more terrific lettering from the tireless Jared K Fletcher. 

Akin to Starfire without the angst, Tanga is someone I can’t wait to see more of, and the most likely enticement for me to try next issue. Extra points to Maguire for teaching me a new word, ‘distrait’, which is the title of Tanga’s tale.

Good covers are a help too, and this issue looks excellent thanks to a DC Icons design featuring a striking image from Justiniano. I’ll also be back next time to see how they follow that.

11 thoughts on “Weird Worlds #1 review

  1. I'd be tempted by the Maguire art. Perhaps they'll release Tanga in a collection of her own?

    Why go to the trouble of creating a new muck monster? Why not just buy the Heap character from early-1970s publisher Skywald (which was itself a revival of a Golden Age thing)?

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  2. Hmm… I was on the fence about buying this… and after your review, I still am. I guess that's the danger of anthologies, huh? I'm glad the Tanga strip is fun, though, and that's important information about the word's use in the U.K. — as far as I know, we don't use it across the pond!

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  3. It's a bit odd to me that mega-talented Kevin Maguire & Jerry Ordway are here, instead of on a proper book or mini… I wouldn't have figured Lobo would be Ordways cup of tea but looking at the previews of this brings back fond memories of his Superman run.

    The Tanga strip looks pretty good, a direct spiritual successor to his 'Velocity' for Top Cow, which I enjoyed very much!
    He's such a good artist and reminds me a lot of the vibe Alan Davis' more fun work gives. Ordway is sort of the same, he likes to have fun too and the warmth in his work really comes through. We don't get artists like this on mainstream books anymore alas…

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  4. Rob, in short, Lobo is decent but missable; Garbageman is uninspiring but pretty; Tanga is gorgeous and promising. I'd say wait for more reviews, with an eye to a Tanga collection later.

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  5. Dave, I agree that it'd be great to have regular Maguire and Ordway. It's good to see them popping up here and there, but the idea of them grabbing an idea and running with it is attractive. Let's see where the creative momentum takes them.

    Heck, they could maybe even team up next time a Shazam reboot is necessary – co-writers, Maguire pencils and Ordway inks. Then swap …

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  6. Thanks, Mart — though just to clarify, I didn't feel that you were unclear at all. That's exactly the impression I'd gotten from your review.

    And yeah, if a Tanga collection is possible (it'd just be 60 pages, though, right?), I'd probably be interested.

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  7. Hi Martin,
    Thanks for the very generous review. This is a dream project for me and I thrilled when people respond positively to it.
    I thought I'd clear up some questions.
    I didn't know that Tanga meant thong until after I announced it.I just liked the word's proximity to manga and tango. It felt right to me.That said, I have no problem with the other meaning. Seems appropriate to her.
    I have an origin for her, but I'll never reveal it as a story.I wanted to introduce a character. When we meet someone, we're never given their entire life story. We learn these things the more we get to know them. I didn't need to know the origin of James Bond to enjoy “Doctor No”.
    The wibbly wobbly lines are a bodystocking rather than tattoos.
    A Tanga collection would be 120 pages, not 60. Weird Worlds is a six issue series, but I wrote twelve chapters and no one has suggested coming up with an arbitrary conclusion with issue 6. The second half of the story will end up somewhere.
    And, yeah, Rosemary's doing an awesome job. She's getting better with each issue.
    Thanks again. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series half as much as we enjoy doing it.

    Kevin

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  8. Cheers Kevin, it's terrific to hear from you. Thanks so much for the clarifications. Now I know Tanga's in a body stocking, I can consider her for cosplay …

    … er, just kidding.

    I rather like the idea that you know her origin, and hints may drop, but we're not going to get it in one lump. I do like a puzzle.

    I've heard crazy talk of a second Weird Worlds to follow soon after the first run. Wherever Tanga goes, I'll be buying, she cheers my cold British heart.

    Have you creative chaps given any thought to a special uniting Tanga, Lobo and Garbage Man?

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  9. Well, Martin,I'd hoped to dedicate a page of the hopefully upcoming Tanga trade paperback to women who cosplay her. But why be sexist? If you've got to courage to throw that outfit on, I'll include you on that page.
    I don't know where the story will be continued, I've just been assured that it WILL be continued. After that, where Tanga goes up to the readers/fans/internet and, of course, the fine folks at DC Comics. I've been on the record as saying that this is all I want to do for the rest of my comics career and I stand by that. If you see my drawing something else, trust me, I'm miserable.
    As to whether there will be a cross over, it's never been mentioned. I can't see Tanga crossing over with Garbage Man, but, in my mind, Tanga and Lobo have already met. He thinks she owes him money. She disputes that.

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  10. And with that, you've guaranteed a few extra sales on the Tanga's Web trade.

    (Er, I made that title up. You likely know that.)

    And if I ever do see you drawing anything else, one of us will be happy – the more different characters you draw, the better. But only if you've had a change of heart, and are OK with it.

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