November 21, 2013

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Monkeybrain on the Brain: Prime-8s

When Monkeybrain debuted in July 2012, I took a little time to feature a review on each of the debut titles, which I called "Monkeybrain on the Brain." Now it's home to Eisner winners and creators ranging from Kurt Busiek to Jen Vaughn and I figured that now would be as good a time as any to revisit the line.

Over the course of November, I'll be featuring different Monkeybrain titles, both new and old. You can find them under the Monkeybrain tag, which includes links back to the ones I did initially.

Written by Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley
Art by Kyle Latino, Stephen Bobbett, and Jordan Gibson

A group of simian space-travelers return to Earth as heroes until tragedy tears them apart. Now they may be the only hope to save earth from mechanical monkeys in this series that I'm tempted to call the best comic ever marketed directly to my good friend Noah.

As anyone who follows me on Newsarama knows, I'm a big fan of Moreci and Seeley, who write Hoax Hunters together at Image. They have very strong plotting abilities and their dialogue, once they hit their stride on a book, is pitch-perfect.

Here they get it right on the first try. The movie serial about the Prime-8s gives them an origin story in less than two pages, breaking right into an ill-fated attempt at heroics by some of the team's former members. This leads organically into finding out what's happened since the break up, ending in an ominous teaser that reveals a ridiculous foe they're inevitably going to have to get back together to face.

This is textbook 1960s Fantastic Four material, as if Stan and Jack were looking over their shoulder nodding at them for getting it right. Whether it's the heroes being on the hook for destruction of property or the idea that it's hard to do the right thing, Seeley and Moreci manage to make this work without it feeling like they're just cribbing. Despite the clear inspirations for Prime-8s, this doesn't feel like it's something trying to, if you'll pardon the pun, ape the Silver Age.

Though I love the characters and premise of Prime-8s, the star of the show here is Kyle Latino. He's definitely giving Tom Scioli competition for my title of "Best Kirby Artist That Isn't Kirby" here, managing to use all of the King's tricks except that extreme close-up thing I never really cared for or the collages, but there's time for both as this one moves along.

Latino's work here is simply stunning, and once you read the book through, go back on guided view and examine it in great detail. His layouts and character positions clearly show his ability to create things that feel like Kirby, yet there's just enough difference in the linework itself to not feel like a clone. There's a bit more roundness in the figures even when Latino plays with perspective and exaggerates a limb in the reader's direction. His costumes have just the right of box-y detailing that you'd find on Kirby's work, without feeling derivative, and of course, we have plenty of Kirby Krackle. The thing that's amazing to me is how Latino even gets the facial reactions to look like the King's work, which requires a ton of careful study.

Wrapping this up neatly together is the coloring team of Bobbett and Gibson. I'm not sure who did what, but this one is really eye-popping in its vibrant colors. They definitely enhance the work of Latino, knowing just when to be bold and when to do the menacing obscure shading.

I loved Prime-8s to death. If Edison Rex is Roberson and Culver's love letter to the Superman mythos, this one's a nod to Stan and Jack's amazing Fantastic Four run. I cannot wait for more of this series, and anyone who is a fan of comics done in a classic style but with a modern feel needs to add this to their Comixology account immediately and start enjoying it as much as I did.