Month of African-American Comics – Warp Zone Chapter 1
All this month Brian will be reviewing different comic books by African-American creators, based on submissions from the actual creators of the comic books themselves. However, I received one such submission myself, so I’m going to review it!
In this installment we take a look at Warp Zone Chapter 1 by Ted Lange IV.
Every once in a while, when Brian does his theme months, I get a comic that fits into the category he’s doing. Ted Lange definitely meant to send this to me, and I’m very happy to review it for him, but it reminded me that occasionally people get our names wrong in the posts – they think Brian writes everything for the blog, or that Hatcher and I are the same person (we both bear the excellent and noble name “Gregory,” so that’s not too surprising), or that we’re pretending to be women named “Kelly” or “Sonia” so we don’t seem like we’re prejudiced against women writing about comics (okay, so that’s never happened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone felt that way). As I noted, I’m very happy to review anything that gets sent my way, so I’ll write about Warp Zone! Lange let me know that you can find this at Enter the Warp Zone, if you’re interested in checking that out. It has a keen soundtrack and everything!
I liked Warp Zone, but the problem with it is that it’s very hard to judge it, because it’s Chapter 1 of what feels like a fairly lengthy epic. First, we meet a character named Umbro, who stands on the side of a wall called the Great Divide. He says he’s going to find out what’s on the other side, but it appears that that’s for another day. He then enters a house and goes through a door into the “Warp Zone,” which is a system of tunnels that allow the user to pass through space-time. So Umbro ends up in the San Quixote Valley, where he’s chased by a dragon squirrel. Just when he escapes, Lange switches the narrative to a different character, Jack Elsewhere, who is also noodling around the Warp Zone. He meets up with an unnamed girl (who, according to Lange’s web site, is named Penelope) and tells her about his day getting chased by an ogre. Eventually, Umbro shows up, and it turns out this is a “gathering of the team” issue, as Jack and his crew are going to check out a breach in the Great Divide. Make sense?
Lange keeps the action zipping along, even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s no explanation about how these people can do what they do, but that doesn’t matter too much at all, because we tend to suspend our disbelief when we’re reading comics anyway. Nobody in this comic does anything superheroes can’t do, so while I imagine Lange will get around to explaining the characters a bit more, it’s not essential that he does it here. The disjointed nature of the storytelling is a bit odd – after Umbro escapes the dragon squirrel, he meets Jack, and then we suddenly switch to Jack’s story. When Umbro re-enters the story, it’s as if the earlier meeting never occurred. Again, as it’s Chapter 1, I’m not sure if this is something that will play out later in the series, or if I’m missing something in this issue itself. But what’s cool about the book is that Lange seems to have a good handle on the characters – despite not a lot of room devoted to it, Umbro, Jack, and Penelope all come across as fully-developed characters. I have no idea what’s going on with the Great Divide or the Warp Zone itself, but in a few pages, Lange makes these characters people I want to spend more time with. That’s not a bad trick.
Lange’s art is quite good, too. He has a cartoony style that works well for the rather unusual circumstances of the comic – the dragon squirrel and the ogre, for instance – but he is also very aware of how bodies move, so that nobody in here is too outrageous when they fight or flee. Umbro rides a cloud like a skateboard, and Lange does a marvelous job with it. Jack’s race to escape the ogre is nicely done, too, as he zips around like an annoying gnat before getting away. Lange gives the characters realistic clothing, which is always nice to see, and he does a very nice job with the way the three characters interact with each other, both through their dialogue and their body language. Jack and Umbro are males, so of course they posture a bit, and Penelope deflates them with withering looks. Lange’s exaggerated style helps keep the book light and keeps with the weirdness of the Warp Zone, but he’s good enough to humanize the characters even as they’re engaging in strange adventures.
So far, this is an intriguing comic. It’s definitely more opaque than a lot of first issues, as Lange explains so little, but it is the kind of comic that makes you very curious, which is never a bad thing. There’s a lot of potential in Warp Zone, and it will be cool to see where Lange goes from here.