Friday, April 13, 2007

Mutation #1

Mutation #1, July 2005, Speakeasy Comics
writer: George T. Singley
artist: Ethen Beavers
colorist: Jaime Jones
letterer: Steve Dutro
designer: Tim Kane

After yesterday's heartfelt review of Mr. Stuffins #1 (which can also be found at Geek in the City), and my two-part analysis of swiping earlier in the week, I was anxious for a light read today, an entertaining, action packed comic book experience that would warrant little contemplative thought and utilize the visual medium to its utmost potential. Boy, did the fates smile upon me when I picked up Mutation #1! Yet, like a cursed monkey's paw, this issue dared me to be careful what I ask for -- while I sought something a bit shallow, I didn't want a story that was nonexistent. Simply put, Mutation #1 is an awesome sketchbook or ashcan but in my opinion by no means a legitimate "number one."

My guess is that writer George Singley is artist Ethen Beaver's biggest fan, because establishing a legitimate plot seems secondary to offering a string of cool pictures in Mutation #1. Sandwiched by two lengthy action sequences, the only semblance of a story in this issue is the scene in which Mutation, in his alias as a college student, falls asleep during class -- something Peter Parker was doing probably before Singley and Beaver were in diapers. Singley manages to establish that Mutation lives with his girlfriend and goes to Silver City University in those precious three pages . . . and waits a stunning nineteen pages to show off his hero's superpowers, which is apparently the ability to manipulate and shapeshift his body. Yes, he's Plastic Man with Superman's strength, flight, and durability, which carried him through the first fight sequence just fine, as if the whole malleability thing was an afterthought. "Oh, yeah, his name is Mutation. Maybe we should make him mutate or something." And your title is "writer." Maybe you should write something.

I know -- I'm being harsh. I should be grateful that Mutation gave me what I wanted: a relatively quick yet entertaining read. Further, admittedly, Beaver's art is very nice, very Oeming meets Timm. Perhaps his cartoony style contributed to the generally shallow feel of this issue; I felt like I was perusing a storyboard for an animated series more than I was reading a comic book, which isn't always a bad thing, if some supplemental material offers added insight into the creative/behind-the-scenes process. I really enjoy those little extras. Instead, Speakeasy treats us to a slew of ads, all of which are respectively appealing, yet equally shallow. While I've enjoyed Of Bitter Souls, if this issue is any indication of what the company has to offer, I'll never have to buy another of their issues again. I can merely flip through them at the comic shop and get the same effect.

While I love the superhero genre, I suppose comic books like this are the unfortunate consequence of the popular comic book trend -- the misunderstanding that superheroes are all about action. From those original, grainy Golden age issues, superheroes have always been about character and originality, something Mutation sorely lacks. Its title hero has the same powers as two of DC's canon characters, and its look, however pleasing to eye, eludes to other artists' awesome styles. If Mutation needs to change anything, it's its leech-like hold on everything else that seems to work, because when you plant a seed in shallow soil, it cannot grow the roots it needs to grow.

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