TBIRD AND THROTTLE 0

T-BIRD AND THROTTLE #0
Written by Josh Howard and Drawn by Josh Howard and Otis Frampton
Published by
Viper Comics

Mitchell Maddox is America’s greatest hero. Once, he was merely a brave astronaut, but after a confrontation on the moon with some nasty natives, he wound up with a piece of alien machinery attached to his chest. And upon his eventual return home and a period of intense scientific examination, he was left with a dead wife and a shattered daughter. Now he uses the power of that alien hunk of metal to battle evil and safeguard the world from those that would cause harm. But before he can deal with a potential new threat to the planet from the moon men, he has to deal with something far more difficult: his daughter has just read the comic book they made telling his story, and dad had left out a few details over the years… particularly what really happened to her mother.

If you had to pick the five people who have defined Viper Comics’ actual comics output over the years, you’d pick Josh Howard, Jason Burns, the pairing of Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClane, and Otis Frampton. So seeing two of them on a project together sort of reads like an all-star effort for the company. What surprises is the nature of the project; this book is far from Frampton’s charming kid-friendly magic series ODDLY NORMAL and miles away from Howard’s goth-horror DEAD @17. Instead, it’s a science fiction family adventure, a genre that neither creator has really worked in before. That alone makes it enough of an oddity that you want to keep an eye on it: how exactly will these two men do outside their established genius zones?

On first reading, I wasn’t completely sold on T-BIRD AND THROTTLE, as I thought it read a little too pat, too safe for my taste. But a second reading gave me a bit clearer look at it. There’s a certain sense of emotional ruthlessness revealed through Maddox’s actions and inferences over the final pages that hint at some depth waiting to be tapped. And the final page’s secret is a whopper. Ultimately, there’s a lot of room for this book to go in the wrong direction and be simplistic and dry, but on the flip side, these two talents have built up more than enough credibility to buy my faith and continued readership.

Marc Mason

LOST BOOKS OF EVE VOL 1

LOST BOOKS OF EVE VOL 1
Written and Drawn by Josh Howard
Published by
Viper Comics

It is the beginning of creation, and God’s two chosen have been living peacefully in the Garden, not a care in the world. Until one fateful day, that is, when Adam disappears, abducted from Paradise. On her own, and lacking any knowledge of the world outside the Garden, Eve decides that she will go on a quest to find her beloved. Baffled and bewitched, Eve takes on demons, monsters, and other nasties in the hopes of finding her husband. But will the quest require the ultimate sacrifice: eating from the tree of knowledge?

As far as strange concepts for graphic novels go, EVE is right there at the top for recent memory. What Howard has done here is not set out to contradict the Christian Bible; instead, EVE sort of… supplements it. He also splashes in plenty of the Apocrypha to round out his tale. And, in its own strange way, it feels like a distant prequel to Howard’s DEAD @17 series. The difference here is that Eve is not quite a warrior- she knows some things, but she also knows that sometimes running away is the best possible result you can hope to achieve, and that’s quite a rarity in comics.

Eve is also pretty smart, and Howard sort of turns her into a character who defines “growing into her own power” making Eve something of a proto-feminist, even with her obsession about her husband. The book looks good, as Howard has really refined his work over the years. When I read the first issue of this in pamphlet format, it felt too slight, but as a completed story in a graphic novel, it reads just fine.

DEAD @ 17 COMPENDIUM EDITION

DEAD @ 17 COMPENDIUM EDITION
Written and Drawn by Josh Howard
Published by
Viper Comics

When Nara Kilday is brutally murdered in her own home, her family and friends are distraught, as most would be. But what they don’t know is that Nara’s death is part of a much larger plot, one meant to raise a deadly demon to rule the world. But all is not lost; at least not for Nara. Because she climbs out of that grave mere days later, a reborn avenger on a path to prevent the demons and the walking dead from taking over. For her, being dead at the age of seventeen is only the beginning of her new life.

Josh Howard’s original DEAD @ 17 trilogy is collected in this massive volume, though it isn’t a simple reprint. As Howard himself mentions in his introduction, he’s gone into George Lucas territory, remastering some pages, redrawing others, and adding new ones to make the story flow better. In short, this is slightly different that what you get when you buy those original books, and unlike Lucas’ STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITIONS, the changes Howard makes don’t come off as looking dumb or in violation of the original work. There’s only one that’s somewhat glaring (a new ending page to volume one’s story), and the rest is fairly seamless. Not easy to do, but Howard pulls it off. And you also can’t blame him for doing it. He mentions in the introduction, he only had 2.5 months to complete the original four-issue story. That’s something very few creators working today could pull off, let alone a guy who was doing his first-ever comics work.

I don’t have any other real quibbles with the book. It’s produced nicely, and at $25, priced very reasonably. I would like to make a suggestion, though- there needs to be a second one. There was a series of DEAD @17 ROUGH CUT books, along with a miniseries detailing the adventures of an earlier girl in Nara’s position, as well as the recent series that followed up on the original trilogy. For the story to feel truly complete for the reader, a second COMPENDIUM is required.

Marc Mason