Sunday, January 1, 2012

Elephantmen: Questionable Things (Review)

The fourth volume of the wonderfully awesome Elephantmen series, Questionable Things continues to ask questions....and does answer some as well.  In fact, just about every question that I'd asked since I began reading this series was answered in "Q.T.", including a "hint" at possibly the biggest question of them all (going way back to the ending of Elephantmen: Concrete Jungle, released several years ago), does Sahara really die?

The impressive thing about this volume is the amount of different artists that contributed their work (especially in Issue #25, which had 26 different artists).  The amazing thing that makes it even more impressive is that they didn't lose the tone or feel of the story!  That is a very difficult thing to accomplish when you have so many artists working on the same project (I've seen books with just a couple artists lose the feel and tone  of the story).  Great job by all the artists involved in Questionable Things...and of course, to the mastermind of it all, Richard Starkings.

The volume begins at Skycab (where Miki works), where Hip Flask has been "activated" by an Imperiumite placed on him by a SIMM robot....making Hip impervious to pain and shutting down all his "human" emotions.....Ebony Hide tries to hold off Hip and talk him out of killing everyone, which doesn't help at all.  As Hip tries to kill Ebony by crushing him with a cab, Tiny (Miki's co-worker & secretly in love with Miki) decides to take matters into his own hands, and leaps upon Hip to tear off the Imperiumite.  He's successful, but gets thrown off by Hip and injured (He is still in a coma as of the end of this volume).  Hip comes out of his "activated" state not knowing what has happened, and Miki tells him & Ebony that she wants nothing more to do with them or any Elephantman.

We learn about Information Agency Director Gruenwald.....his connection to the Elephantmen and how it has affected his life.  We learn more about the SIMM robots, and their connection to MAPPO.  Vanity Case realizes that she was drugged and used by a SIMM, who was trying to get to Obadiah Horn & Sahara through her....and she just wants to go home.  We are given the background of the L.A.P.D.'s Janis Blackthorne, and her tragic past of encountering the Elephantmen and how it all ties in to Yvette (the legendary European rebel from the African-Chinese War). We learn of Sahara's secret excursions out into the public since finding a near perfect look-alike in Panya (a dancer from the "Eye of the Needle" floating restaurant, run by Elephantman Casbah Joe).

Ebony Hide & Hip Flask are teamed up with Blackthorne to track down a MAPPO cell within Los Angeles, and follow the clues to a giant meat factory....where they come face-to-face with several of the crocodiles. As  the confrontation ensues, Blackthorne is injured when bitten by a Croc, and Hip is cornered by several SIMMS, who are trying to reactivate him. Ebony saves the day when he comes to the rescue of Hip & Blackthorne in typical "bull-elephant" fashion.

Meanwhile, we learn of the immense loyalty and organization that still exists for the now hidden MAPPO.  Despite the quasi-success of reactivating Ebony & Hip, they failed to reach Obadiah Horn and their attack force of Crocs were defeated.  But MAPPO; in honor of their founder Dr. Nikken, still work in the shadows of various "cells" spread throughout the world.....waiting for their opportunity to return to glory.

Vanity Case has finally made it home, after a horrible day of realizing she had been tricked, drugged, and used by a SIMM robot. What she doesn't know....that particular SIMM robot was tracked down by The Silencer, who shot him and dumped him in the river, believing him dead.  But the SIMM did not "die", and is still operational despite obvious damage to it's central processing.  It does remember Vanity though, and goes searching for her to learn the rest of it's mission......and now has found her.  Meanwhile, Sahara has found Vanity as well....while out and about she visited her old friend Jeremiah (the Camel, who is a clothing tailor), who knows Vanity and gives Sahara her address.

Through all of this Miki is struggling with feelings of anger, guilt, love, and sadness over Hip, Tiny, & her Mom.  She goes to the "Watering Hole"; a secret bar for Elephantmen, hoping to see Hip or just be around Elephantmen. She meets a hippo named Choker, who reminds her of Hip....and leaves wondering how he got that name and what happened to the 3 women who went missing near there some time ago.  At the same time, Panya wonders how far she would go in her illusion of being Sahara......

The SIMM finds Vanity, and then Sahara....but an agent sent to trail Sahara by Mr. Purchase (Horn & Sahara's "right hand man") shoots and deactivates the SIMM.

As Mr. "Apostrophe" explains the dangers of allowing deactivated Imperiumites to remain in the Elephantmen, and Panya gets back to dancing, Miki pays a visit to Hip in a not-so-subtle bid to take their relationship to the next level.....they go skinny-dipping and a romantic interlude follows.

The rest of Volume 4 highlights the work of the 26 artists used on Elephantmen #25.  Most of the artwork in Questionable Things was done by Axel Medellin, Ian Churchill, Moritat, Marian Churchland, Andre Szymanowicz, & Chris Burnham.  Although I personally enjoyed the Starkings/Moritat/Ladronn team the best on Elephantmen, I enjoy the talents of Churchland, Medellin, & Boo Cook (who did covers for this volume's issues) as well.  Moritat is doing the art for All-Star Western at DC Comics, and Ladronn is doing covers for the Incredible Hulk at Marvel Comics (and has done covers for DC Comics as well) they are very busy to find time for Elephantmen.  Starkings admitted to just sort of doing a "free for all" with the artwork on Issue #25.....which like all things Elephantmen, came out great!

Citizen's Grade: Awesome.  So many different stories taking place and weaving together into a wonderful volume.  The artwork; though different sometimes drastically from one artist to the next, keeps with the tone and feel of the stories they are doing. Not enough can be said for Richard Starkings' writing.....Simply Awesome!

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