Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Pj Perez, the mastermind behind Pop! Goes the Icon, is a swell dude, and he likes sending me his comics even though I’d be perfectly happy spending money on them. Last year he sent me the first issue of San Hannibal, which debuted in his anthology series Omega Comics Presents, and now he’s sent me the second issue. I was waiting for the trade, but I’m always happy to read his comics, so I will review the hell out of this! It’s in stores tomorrow, so if you happen to see it, give it a look. Unless your store didn’t get it, which is sad. Issue #2 is written and drawn by Dan Schkade and colored and lettered by Jesse Snavlin. It’s only $2.99, which makes the price points of certain bigger publishers even more ridiculous, but let’s not get into that here!
In issue #1 of San Hannibal, we were introduced to Avery, a private investigator in the titular city, which is located in Northern California. He was hired to find a photojournalist, Savannah Loy, who had gone missing, and clues led him to a nightclub, where he was accosted by a man who may or may not have been Loy’s boyfriend, rescued by a mysterious small woman who kicks ass, and intrigued by Diane Thrax, a singer who knew something about a “swimmer,” which was a word scrawled onto notes Avery found in Loy’s apartment. It was all very noir-ish and very good.
In this issue, JD Faith, who drew the first issue, is not around any longer, as Schkade takes over the art as well as the writing, but there’s no drop-off in the art. Schkade’s work is definitely Tim Sale-esque, but as Tim Sale is really good, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. His work is a bit less angular than Faith’s was in issue #1, as Faith gave us a city with a lot of hard edges, while Schkade’s is a bit more curvy. His characters are fascinating, as he gives them a great deal of personality just through the way the act with the other characters. Avery (we learn his first name in this issue – this is his last name) is a bit less beaten up in this issue, but he looks more conniving, and you can understand how he’s able to put clues together in this issue and bluff his way through some of the more dire circumstances he finds himself in. Daniel Russo, who spends his time taking pictures of women running around a track, has a layer of long hair on top of his head while the sides are shaved, a style that always make someone look like a pervert, and Schkade gives him the slightest bit of facial hair, thick lips, and bulbous cheekbones, so that he looks skeevy even before he reveals himself to be skeevy. Diane is a bit less punk rock than she was in issue #1, but she looks more sophisticated, which fits in with what we learn about her in this issue. Schkade doesn’t do a ton with the exterior scenes, but we still get a good feel for the city, and his interiors have a good sense of place about them. When Avery is taken to meet “No Christmas” at a gym where Fight Club-style battles are occurring, Schkade does a very nice job with the layouts when a mysterious masked stranger shows up and starts shooting – it becomes very chaotic and kinetic, but Schkade’s pages are never confusing. Snavlin, meanwhile, does a superb job with the colors. Issue #1 was colored red and pink, but this time around, blue is the dominant hue, and Schkade’s use of heavy blacks, combined with the wonderful blues Snavlin uses, make the book really beautiful. Cleverly, about halfway through Snavlin begins introducing the pinks from issue #1, beginning with the kick-ass stranger and her chaperone from issue #1, then using a bit of pink on Diane when she takes Avery to the gym before mixing it in really effectively when the shooting starts. It’s tremendous – pink usually isn’t associated with violence, but because the blues are so prevalent, the pink pops nicely and makes the scene a bit more traumatic. Snavlin lettered the book, too, and there’s an empty word balloon during the weird dude’s assault on the gym. Is that deliberate, as Avery isn’t supposed to hear him? Or is it a mistake? I don’t know, but we know the dude – August, I guess his name is – can talk, because he does earlier in the issue. Either way, both the pencil art and the coloring work on the book is absolutely beautiful.
Schkade, meanwhile, continues to write a very compelling mystery. I like detective comics, so maybe I’m predisposed to like the comic, but Schkade does a nice job with the story. The mystery is interesting – Loy disappeared, but there’s still no evidence that she was kidnapped, and she seems to be have been working on a story about sex trafficking, but maybe not. Two issues in, there’s still no evidence that Avery is actually needed to find her, although all sorts of odd people come out of the woodwork when Avery starts asking about her. Obviously, she was into something weird, but nobody’s talking. Russo doesn’t say much, and when Diane is about to tell Avery something, August attacks the club. Avery is hustled away and put in a van, where he meets “B. Traven,” another mysterious dude who talks mysteriously and seems to disappear from inside a locked container. The dude who attacked Avery in the bar in issue #1 has also disappeared, which is strange. Usually I’m not too happy with people speaking cryptically just to be cryptic, but Schkade skirts the line nicely, as Avery calls people out on it, which is a good way to deflate it, and there’s enough straight-forward talk to mitigate the cryptic stuff. Schkade might be going to places where I hope he doesn’t go – I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s an obvious element to the story that’s been in the background for the first two issues, and it seems like Schkade is moving toward it even though it’s a bit clichéd – but so far, the journey is quite fascinating. We have a bunch of interesting characters, from Avery himself to Thrax to No Christmas, who might be my favorite just because of the way Schkade completely upends what we think of him in a few pages. August, with his cybernetic jaw, might be a bit outlandish, but we’ve seen there’s a hint of the unusual in San Hannibal, so it’s not a big deal.
Two issues in, San Hannibal is shaping up to be a very good detective story. Avery is an interesting protagonist, the case is mysterious but not impenetrable, the ancillary characters are bizarre and fascinating, and the art is superb. I was looking forward to reading the rest of the book back when I read the first issue, and now I’m even more excited about it. If you see this at your store, give it a look, and if you don’t, I’m sure Perez will be more than happy to sell you a print copy or a digital one. He’s flexible like that!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
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