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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Comics Spotlight Review: Goners #1

By Chris Brennaman

There’s a lot of promise to Goners, the new Image series from creators Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona. Unfortunately, that’s all readers get from this first issue; promise.

Goners is set in a world a little adjacent to our own where all things mythological openly exist alongside humanity. So unlike in say, the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where all the creepy crawlies hide under beds and in graveyards and are kept secret, things like bakaak, “ a vengeful phantom creature that stems from the Ojibway tribal mythology…”  are pretty commonly known to exist and torment mortals.

It’s in this world that we meet Raleigh and Evelyn Latimer, monster hunters extraordinaire. We’re told that for centuries the Latimers have kept mankind safe from things like bakaak and other super natural threats. And judging by the news coverage of Raleigh and Evelyn’s latest media-res adventure is getting, they’re damn near A-list celebrities to boot. The world is watching them deal with a supernatural assault on the governor’s mansion live on TV, including their two children, 17-year-old Zoe and 12-year-old Josiah.

Of course, things go south when Evelyn and Raleigh are killed on live TV and Zoe and Josiah are subsequently attacked in their family home.

Writer Semahn, as one of his characters puts it, is clearly a “sucker for the old pulps.” Everything from the plotting and pacing to the dialog and character names would coexists just fine beside the likes of Lamont Cranston and Clark Savage. There’s a two-fisted feel in Semahn’s style that goes a long way toward making the comic likable.

But sometimes that two-fisted tone gets in the way of actual characterization. We have the chain smoking tough detective, the built-like-a-tank tough family heavy that spend as much time talking like characters from a dime novel than doing much anything else. Meanwhile Zoe and Josiah don’t really talk more like what someone would image kids their age talk like rather than what kids their age actually talk like.

Meanwhile, Corona’s art has a clear divide. On the one hand, when drawing monsters and all things supernatural, his style works to fantastic effect. The sequence with the bakaak attack on the Latimer home is both well choreographed and actually scary. On the other hand, though his style doesn’t serve the quiet, human moments much at all. Figures look stiff and always posed. He’s also often very inconsistent in the way he draws both Zoe and Josiah, either making them look older then they’re meant to be, or, as is the cast constantly with Josiah, looking much younger than their stated age.

There is something to the concept Semahn and Corona are playing with. 2002’s Midnight, Mass. is a book with a similar conceit and remains one of my favorite books of the last decade and viewers have been following the Winchester brothers on Supernatural every week for a 10 years now. No, Goners definitely has a hook readers can buy into and given enough time, I think Semahn and Corona can pull something pretty spectacular off. Unfortunately, when it comes to indie titles, time isn’t really a luxury creators can rely on.
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