Copra: The Ochizon Saga (#38 – 41) – Michel Fiffe

4 out of 5

I’ve reread Copra front to back several times, sometimes while waiting for new issues to drop and because I’ve enjoyed the series so much, and sometimes as a refresher on the ever-complexifying cast and oddball villains Fiffe brings in. On the latter front, I generally find myself back at whichever current issue with a similar understanding of the series prior to the reread; that is, whatever pieces I’d felt I was missing weren’t necessarily there, and my grasp of the story was fairly accurate. Doesn’t tarnish the fun of going back through the books, and it has helped sharpen the lines between Official Fiffe creations and bits and pieces culled from his many comic influences, with, it’s pleasing to say, much more of the book of the former than just copied from the latter.

The publisher switch and some mini-series asides and other projects affecting the generally consistent Copra timeline has made this road to the Ochizon showdown – essentially baddies from another universe, ready to take over this one – seem like a longer one that it may actually have been, issue wise, but however you break it down: the payoff is worth it.

Fiffe, returning to self-publishing, seems especially revitalized here, providing his most on-point, colorful, detailed, impactful, and readable art yet, as the world crumbles around our Copra team and Gwen’s various uber-powered family members are tackled in one-on-one scuffles. Fiffe’s banter also feels pretty polished here, finding a good balance between exposition and quips – the book has a fleetness in these issues I haven’t necessarily felt since the first “acts,” as though Michel was taking the challenge of pulling away from being published by Image to re-cement his pledge to make every book both new reader accessible, and rewarding for continued readers; I never got that slight whiff of confuzzlement I’ve gotten in previous storylines that’ve provoked the aforementioned rereads, instead getting wholly wrapped up in the excitement and stakes of the throwdowns, and jazzed by a well-executed deux ex machina. Issues #39 – 40 are, for me, really what Copra is when it’s at its best: a fantastic fight comic, elevated by excessive creativity and talent.

Issue #41 is where we get into some of the series’ clutter, and Fiffe’s occasional indie comix indulgences. There are, frankly, always too many character throughlines attempted at any given point. This is somewhat inevitable in ensemble books, but I think where Copra gets into trouble is that Michel tries to make these characters, when out of costume, “real,” and while that’s absolutely admirable, it has often seemed a bit tonally off when compared to the hyperreality of rest of the book. That’s not to say these characters should be flat or totally generic, but there’s perhaps some better balancing to be done there – and that might’ve made #41’s epilogues seem more connected to the story than, for me, it did. #41 also finds Fiffe switching up his visual style for certain vignettes, and while I can guess at the Whys on this – he goes with a simplified style when the scene is intended to be a bit more upbeat – sometimes the color / look changes are so drastic that it just feels like experimentation for its own sake.

#41 is still a very quality issue overall, especially the bits with Sonia, setting us up for what’s next, but it couldn’t possibly give me the same rush as 38 – 40, which are both some of the best Copra issues, and some of the most satisfying front-to-back comics I’ve read.