Friday, August 15, 2014

Sketched Comic: The Midas Flesh

Get out your golden fingers and velociraptor scientists, we're reviewing The Midas Flesh by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb!

Joey, Cooper and Fatima are three revolutionaries looking for a way to overthrow the federation that has decimated, enslaved and ruled over their planets, respectively. Their only hope lies in a secret planet made completely out of gold. Like the Midas of lore, this planet has the ability to turn anything and anyone who touches it into solid gold. Can they investigate and harvest this ancient weapon? 

I feel that this is a pretty important comic and not enough people are talking about it. It is a REALY GOOD, TOP-NOTCH comic. Really well-written, great art, cool concept – but that's not what's so important about it, or why more people should be talking about it. 

So why’s it important? Why’s it so amazing? This is a comic with a serious story and some messed-up stuff going on – we’re talking murder and genocide here – but it's built as an all-ages comic. It's amazing! It has zero swearing! The worst verbal offenses are "jerk" and "bag of poop." Do you know how many not-very-good comics I read that try to be "mature" and "serious" but still use "bitch" literally one million times? Too many! And here they have genuinely complex storylines and dialogues and find a way to make it accessible to all readers. That's incredible! And it's not just the language; it's the tone of the piece. The characters might be dealing with some heavy, serious stuff, but they always have a good time talking to each other and never pass up an opportunity to make a dumb joke, like friends do. In the hands of a lesser creative team, this would be filled with somber angsty characters who hate each other and use one another and are just all around jerks because they're dealing with SERIOUS STUFF. But the characters here manage to keep up a light mood, even in the face of possible death.

It reminds me a lot of Adventure Time, which shouldn't be a surprise since it's written by Ryan North, who regularly writes for Adventure Time. Adventure Time usually wraps complex existential stories in seemingly simple narratives, but in Midas Flesh, the main characters are dealing with some complex plot stuff right there on the surface. They have to deal with big issues like using weapons of mass destruction on the enemy even if that means hurting civilians; giving your enemies a second chance; not using weapons to keep everyone else from using them; and sacrificing oneself in the name of the mission. It – well, it can get really intense and science-y and a tad political, but that in no way detracts from the experience. 

Partnered with the lighter tone is a simple, cartoon-y art style, executed beautifully by Lamb and Paroline. It lends itself well to fast-paced action scenes and really simple storytelling. You'll dig it if, like me, you're tired of your sci-fi books always having a super realistic look. Everything is very well designed, with crazy looking future technology and really solid coloring. Plus, one of the main characters is a velociraptor! Who talks and does science! And sometimes has a jetpack and shoots stuff!

Oh man! I haven't even gotten to the diverse cast! There are two women (one of which is a person of color that always wears a hijab) and a talking dinosaur. That's your main cast. Also, sometimes a slug alien joins them. That's fantastic! That is as diverse a cast for a sci-fi adventure as I could ever ask for. Why not two woman and a talking dinosaur?? I'm excited. I'm super excited. Isn't that exciting?! And they're pretty well-written! They don't go much into all of their backstory because it's a short series that's really only concerned with the story at hand, but their dialogue is great, they sound natural, they each feel like they have their own voice, and they never have to prove why women ARE good for the job. Yes yes yes.

The story premise is both horrifying and amazing. It takes the classic story of Midas but adds a terrifying twist: he's granted his wish, so everything he touches turns to gold. But this happens literally and instantaneously. His clothes turn to gold, the ground beneath his feet turns to gold, everything touching gold turns to gold, the air around him turns to gold – you get the picture. Pretty soon, the entire planet is solid gold. It's a really interesting premise, and it only gets bigger and more interesting once our crew figures out how to take the body and weaponize it. Things start out crazy and just snowball into insanity until OH GOD EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AAAHH. It's pretty great. Some people may have trouble with the fantastical ending after the whole of the comic has been pretty scientific up to that point, but considering it started with a wish being magically granted, I don’t take any issue with it. 

It's a really good comic. It’s really well-written with an engaging story that will not let you take a break. You'll want to finish it as soon as you start. And luckily, now all eight issues are out! So you can go right out and pick one up. Pick them all up, even!

THE GOOD: Fun cartoony art, great coloring, great story, interesting premise, diverse cast, talking dinosaur, well-written, fun light-hearted tone with complex compelling plot.

THE BAD: ???

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ It's a fantastic book with a diverse cast and a fun story. Go pick it up! Read it! Tell your friends about it!

COMICS LIKE IT: We Can Fix It, Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors, The Overman, Runaways 

ONE-PAGE METAPHOR: There is a flashback scene. Fatima, Cooper and Joey are talking about how they could go about finding a super-weapon to overthrow the oppressive Federation. Instead of being moody and shouting about it, they're drinking wine and joking. And then they take a selfie as they happily build the ship. The ship to find a weapon of mass destruction that could potentially kill billions.

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