Apama: The Undiscovered Animal (#1 – 2) – Milo Miller, Ted Sikora

3 out of 5

Rough around the edges, indie comic book Apama – springing from an in-movie comic in a film called Hero Tomorrow by the same writers – is definitely fun, but maybe swings too casually between its Golden and Silver Age vibes and a modern self-awareness, making the exact tone hard to place. It’s definitely a fun curiosity, though, and its main shtick – ice cream truck driver Iliya discovering the “Apama” suit, giving him powers and the ability to talk to animals – is applied with a fun bit of, er, realism, with the rather layabout character having no real idea what to do with his powers, and the animal-communication still limited by how those animals “see” the world (e.g. cats spout confusing, conflicting statements; seagulls are rude). In taking this approach, the title is a mix of slow-burn and “workplace” comedy, sticking moderately with a classic one-villain-per-issue approach, but also working on a cast of characters, and Ilya’s grasp of how he wants to apply himself.

Benito Gallego’s art definitely has a Kirby forcefulness to it, but there’s also a looseness that reminds me of dudes like Gene Colan. The coloring, from co-writer Sikora, is unfortunately a bit too digital to really support this visual mash-up, so some panels that could get by looking kinda rough in an old school book have this pristine, computer-colored sheen that rather exacerbates the roughness. A similar imbalance occurs with the writing: which, when it’s at its best, bridges a gap between Stan Lee exposition and Steve Gerber-y observations; but this pretty damn ideal mixture is often distilled by occasional use of modern sarcasm, and a kind of point-and-laugh self-awareness that doesn’t make it clear if we’re laughing at or with the book.

But there’s a real local vibe to the thing that ultimately makes it a good time: the way the hero / featured villain’s origins are kind of nonsensical, but delivered in a straight-forward way, is charming, and just the fact that Iliya is an ice cream truck driver – sort of an average joe, but sort of not – and that this takes place in Cleveland, feels very Howard the Duck-y. It’s a very easy read. This may not make it a must buy, but it does mean that the convenience of digital issues is a good non-barrier to entry, especially if you need a break from your DC and Marvel infinite events for some breezy comicing.