Jun 10, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 106: The Adventurers #0, 1986

From fantasy comic to fantasy comic. Of the 12000+ comics in the collection, 749 are tagged with the fantasy genre, making it the 5th most numerous genre in the collection. Which, really, for a medium overwhelmed by the superhero, is pretty good.

There's the is weird danger with zero issues. This one was published after the first 4 issues of The Adventurers. It's fairly obvious that the issue is geared toward people who have read issues 1 - 4, rather than as an introductory story to bring people into the world of Anoria. I'd hazard a guess that what is revealed in this issue in some ways spoils the intrigue that probably unfolds (we'll see soon, I guess) in the previously published issues, yet there's no real warning inside that one ought to read this issue after the ones that numerically follow it. If I had the first four issues, it would be interesting to read them knowing what I now know, and contrasting it to how the series had originally unfolded. Sadly, that won't happen. It would be nice if I could finish off all of the series that I'm partially reading, but as my wife pointed out to me last night, collecting is not the purview of the poor. This project is less about completing series and more about reading comics.

The Adventurers, at least as represented in this issue, has something going for it, but in contrast to the AD&D comics I've been reading the last couple of weeks, it suffers for the comparison. I delved, a few years back, into the strange world of amateur Star Trek web series, fascinated by the idea that some people loved the show so much that they would plunge their time and money into continuing the series. What I came away from this experience with was the knowledge that there's a reason we have professional actors. I wonder if the same can be said of professional comics writers? The Adventurers is written by someone who obviously loves the genre, and loves the medium, but the dialogue, the plot, it's slightly amateurish. While this lends it a certain naive charm, it also highlights the technical acumen that a comics writer must master. Writing a comic is not like writing a screenplay or a novel. In this case, it's more collaborative, and there's an aspect of visuality that is occasionally difficult to write. I've attempted it myself, and the visual language is by far the hardest part to write with words. The nice part is that writer Scott Behnke acknowledges this in the prefatory material in the comic, noting that his writing "has improved significantly" since starting the project 2 years earlier. He also notes that "the best way to learn is by doing," and to note that one can always improve, can always learn, is the sign of an agile mind. I look forward to seeing this improvement in subsequent issues.

Problematically, there's very little action in this comic, it being mostly about the assembly of the party of heroes from the previous four issues. There is one double-splash page battle, a flashback, that's pretty cool, but everything else is talking heads, basically. Again, this points to the idea that this comic is intended not to stand as an introduction to the series, but as an expansion of the knowledge a regular reader already has. It might have been better to label it issue #4 1/2, but the zero issue seems to be a regular trope of the medium, and who are we to argue with tropes.

I'll stick with The Adventurers for a few more days, but it'll jump around a bit as I don't think I have that many consecutive issues of the series.

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