Friday, July 11, 2008

What Have You Seen?

So have you seen Iron Man yet? Really good, right? The idea of the super-hero comes from lots of different places. Mythology is a big one, but the hero is as old as history itself and as a concept winds its way through every era and culture. The knight in shining armor, Iron Man’s pretty clear ancestor, is a classic example with their chivalric code and skill in battle. So cross knights with super-heroes, throw some robot in for good measure and you’ve got Tales of Colossus by Mark Andrews, who was one of the creators of The Incredibles. Now if you missed that, don’t even tell me. If you saw it, though, you know anything that one of its creators put out is going to mix powerful emotion, high stakes and amazing action. That’s what you’ve got here. A knight named Orlant dies defending his liege, but his soul is used to animate a giant metal automaton, packed with medieval weaponry and intended for use as a weapon of total devastation. But Orlant’s will is too strong and he escapes a life devoted to destruction and secludes himself in a cave where he intends to rust away the years. Wouldn’t you know Sir Grimon, a power-mad knight who has left the path of chivalry far behind, shows up. He’s got an unbelievably powerful magic sword called Al Rhazear with him and he’s going to use it to threaten the local dragon into his service, snatch the Princess’s hand in marriage and make sure her dad the King doesn’t last too much longer so that the throne is free for Grimon himself.

The massive battle between robot and dragon and the spectacular sword fight between Orlant and Grimon are just two of the action highlights that move so fast and fluidly that you'll feel like you're watching an animated movie. At the same time, what’s going to keep you reading to the end in one sitting is finding out whether or not a good man can keep a hold of himself when he has become a massive and deadly weapon.

Now Rod Serling was also a guy who thought about identity, about good people trapped in bad places and even, sometimes, about robots. Serling created the old television show called The Twilight Zone. Now if you haven’t seen any of those, just stop reading right now and go find some. Maybe, just maybe, the greatest tv show of all time (I told you last month I liked things besides super-heroes, didn’t I?), a trip into the Twilight Zone was a chance to find the unexpected, face your fears and to always run into something very weird.

Some of Serling’s original scripts have been adapted into graphic novels (by Mark Kneece) and the first few are going to be released in September. One of them, Walking Distance, is a prime example of what made the show tick. Martin Sloan lives the high pressure life of an ad executive. Yearning for a taste of a simpler life, he returns to the town he grew up in, a place he hasn’t seen in years, to find the town miraculously unchanged. So unchanged, in fact, that he runs into himself as a ten-year-old boy. What would you do if you had a chance to change your past and, thus, your present? Should you even try? As with the show it’s based on, the graphic novel is a weird adventure with a difficult question at its heart, again about a man trying to find himself.

I surprised myself here by going with two graphic novels that weren’t really about super-heroes. Maybe next time I’ll try to hit a straight-forward super-hero. Maybe Batman, since Dark Knight’s about to hit the theaters. You are going to see that, right?

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