Saturday, July 08, 2006

Automatic Kafka #2

Automatic Kafka #2, October 2002, Wildstorm Productions
writer: Joe Casey
artist: Ashley Wood
letterer: ComiCraft
editor: Scott Dunbier

Celebrating one week of A Comic A Day. Let's take a look back, shall we?

I'm surprised that I've only read/reviewed one DC comic thus far. (Today's Wildstorm imprint doesn't count because: [1.] I imposed the "four books from 'the big two' weekly maximum" rule based on their availability and Wildstorm books aren't as well distributed, and even if they were, [2.] ACAD began on a Saturday, so the ACAD week henceforth begins on Saturdays. My allowance begins anew.) Of course, aside from the first bulk purchase at the antique store, the holiday weekend afforded the luxury of frequenting two popular specialty shops where obscure books and quarter bins are readily available. In the autumn, when the vacation and blockbuster movie season ends, my options will become much more limited.

Also, I'm enjoying the variety, even if most of the new-to-me titles aren't my usual fanfare. The Epic experience was by far the most eclectic and educational of the week's samplings, and I hope to uncover more books beyond my standard scope sometime this month. I acknowledge the need for older books, for less superhero stuff. Less faulty first issues (the price of digging around the discount drawer at Meltdown), more books with some history. Hey, give me a break. I'm just getting started.

Automatic Kafka boasts itself as a superhero book, and I've always had my eye on it, but I've never actually read an issue until this morning. This second issue (to start our second week . . . get it?) is so comprehensive in its explanation of the series' concept, I wonder what could've happened in issue #1. I get it: a Howard Hughes-like, seemingly psychic eccentric abandons his political/big business philanthropy to fund his own superhero effort, and the government (or some such shadow agency) wishes to acquire the now-retired members of his group, including the outdated robot Automatic Kafka. An interrogation between the eccentric and a government agent (aptly named Stahl, a potential play on the spook's inability to intimidate) reveals these points in a masterful dialogue, the highlight of the issue, really. The only time we see the series' namesake is when Kafka gets "high" from the dormant energy of an abandoned amusement park. Interesting and pointless, if only to fashion a way for the government to find him. No wonder his benefactor won him in a poker game, supposedly.

Ashley Wood's chicken scratch art strikes me as both minimalist and highly detailed at the same time. As a wanna-be artist myself, some of his panels have an I-can-do-that quality, while others are too ambitious to imitate, let alone dissect through the conventional comic lens. He uses color strategically, effectively. Only Wood and Ben Templesmith have managed this style successfully, from what I've read of the modern slam comics. Fortunately, in both cases, the scratch does well with the script, if that makes sense. I'd better bail out before I start mixing metaphors.

Automatic Kafka is the reason I accepted the A Comic A Day challenge. I don't know if I would've read this book without the incentive to experience a different title every day. If this second week is as interesting as the first, I have an exciting year ahead.

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