January 22, 2008 at 12:01 am (Comic Books)

Powr Mastrs vol. 1 (of 6)

This is the start of a science fiction epic by Picturebox published, Fort Thunder influenced C.F. 120 pages fill its slightly less than average pamphlet sized rubber bound book binding. It’s pretty good.

But first: a cover, so you’ll never forget the book’s humble presentation:

The lettering is actually in a metallic navy blue, but I kind of like that slipshod representation of its cover. That’s how it looks on Amazon, a mini-comic trussed up with a great distribution deal. Onto Content!

The most surprising thing in the book is how casually it conveys its mastery. Its cover goes so far as to hide its splendiferous fantasticality, both artistically and narratively, but hopefully its more subtle elements won’t escape notice, the most perfect of which might be its lettering. Word balloons expand or contract, their words written in bolder lines when something is said with power and cozied up to its other words in a frantic syntax not unlike mine right now when conveying excited speech.

I tried to translate one of its lines in this post’s title into C.F.’s language, but, believe me, his attempts aren’t nearly as lame. Regardless, Todd Klein has a competitor besides Stan Sakai come Eisner time.

With the same grace as his lettering, C.F. imbues as much emotion as he can into the character’s face as the comic progresses. The drawing never demands as much attention for its stylistic shifts as, say, Frank Santoro, but faces are suddenly drawn with a wavering, thick line when anger rears its ugly head, the regular world drawn with a whimsically thin delineation. The whimsies of the book extend to its presentation of its fantastical world.

Unlike Larry Marder’s Beanworld, which has a well developed ecology before you even open its cover, C.F. has constructed a fictional world worthy of consideration, but we do not discover Marder’s map-We must be the cartographers here, and that’s a vocation I take incredibly seriously.

Which isn’t to say that the whole book overflows with the self-importance demanding a serious reading: if one word could describe the book, I would, after throwing away all other synonyms littering my hat of identifications, decide on breezy. It introduces a plethora of characters here (Twenty two are given names and profile pictures within the first 9 pages. The story also takes place in New China, but the map given* is only of the “known” bits. Known by whom, I have no idea, but all places shown in the book are bestowed representation here), and just as many foreign cultural practices. I’m very excited about Transmutation Night coming up, or the consequences of the Tentacle Sex scene. No way that baby can turn out all right, right?

*Hmm, that seems to discount my earlier description of the book as needing a cartographer. I guess I was referring to the book’s more mainstream presentation of its world instead of the beany characters whose simple presentation shifts the perspective with which they’re viewed: C.F. could be mistaken for a Rowling when viewed with foggy glasses, but Marder? Those relationships always go back to ecology.

There’s also a bunch of relatable relationships thrown into the mix here, but I may just be saying relatable because I share liminality with most of the characters in the text. One protagonist, Subra Ptaro (there are more delicious names like those in these pages), is on his rite of passage to become a man; he has to rid his body of poison by crying and excreting it out. I want to know what society produces these rituals, and a similar wealth of ecological interplay coat the book with mystery. I’m pretty interested in the revelrous Sub-Men, and Naphtha and Pico’s relationship. There are plenty more intriguing events here, too.

The penciling in the book also boasts conceptual prowess. It was done in pencil, which were then made black not by an inking brush, but a computer. Transitioning a fantastical world of gray into a starkly contrasted black and white world, besides mimicking how a reader approaches a text, transferring textual and visual cues into an interpretation of events, produces some beautiful pages when light pencil shadings produce a slick and unctuous veneer on characters. All the pencil lines have the same blackness to them, although their width varies considerably. A page only composed of flora teems with life and vitality (It’s the banner for this site where you can order the thing, although the actual page in the comic has many more delectably rendered plants).

All of these disparate elements of the book, its hazily introduced cultural practices, its ridiculous volume of characters and its astounding lettering would fall apart completely if C.F. couldn’t give the book a solid storytelling foundation, but luckily he has spent his time learning mechanics. The pages of talking heads here grab attention (there is very little action here, but, trust me, the tentacle rape scene (all the more hilarious because C.F. takes it as a serious moment in its plot) is enough excitement), unlike other fantastic epics when characters exposit instead of emote.

And he’s also spent his time at the drawing board, too: The characters here all look fantastic; Naphtha looks like a little troll trudging through his days, Windlass Wendy looks like a nimble wood nymph or a haggard witch depending on her form, and the Sub-Men could have come from The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. All of the characters have their own distinct visual style. Pico, in particular, has an outrageous afro, given shape and form although the book only boasts two colors. I can tell you where it curves in every panel.

This is an astounding graphic novel debut, and very worthy of a purchase despite its brash, orange cover and seemingly simple interiors. It may not be the year’s best because of its quaintness compared to louder comic projects like Neely’s The Blot or Hernandez’s Chance in Hell, but within its limited scope is a capricious artichoke full of discoveries.



  1. Miizzzard said,

    quaintness? I think breezy is a better description than quaintness. Or what about effortless, like john coltrane on a sax solo?

  2. xyphap said,

    It approaches its generic foundations impressed by their fantasticality and derives humor from their ridiculousness. While it dresses up these small pleasures well by applying them with an important functionality, and does so well, it has less a scope or range in its artistry than The Blot or Chance in Hell, its gratuitously extensive reach on small subject matter meriting quaintness from me, although I do not mean it with Victorian implications.

    And I feel obliged to say that if one word could describe the book, it would be breezy. I’ve always preferred Davis’ recondite scrounging, scramblings on his trumpet than Coltrane’s early sax solos. Although I think CF is good, he hasn’t earned the range we (and by we, I mean me and you)’d ascribe to Coltrane, at least by current published output.

  3. Miizzzard said,

    So then would Chippendale be late Coltrane sax solos?

  4. xyphap said,

    Well, I’d go with kirby, but I’m old fashioned

  5. Miizzzard said,

    speaking of the King, have you seen this?

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