Friday, April 8, 2011

Strongman Volume 1 - Review

Next up on the docket for review is STRONGMAN Volume 1, by Charles Soule & Allen Gladfelter, published by Slave Labor Graphics (SLG):

Cover to Strongman Volume 1

This book is just something I happened to discover while googling (I find using Google as a verb still odd, how about you?) comics based on lucha libre. It was published not too long ago either, I'm surprised it snuck passed my radar.

El Tigre is essentially a has-been Santo. Once famous, hailed as a hero in México, but now resides in New York, alone, drunk, and bloated, with a horrible anger management issue with his apartment door. But someone who knows his stories find him, in need of help, and this plea reinvigorates his motivation to get back in action and feel needed again by his people.
Panel layouts are clear and concise. El Tigre packs a wallop!

El Tigre sporting a collared '70s tee.

Page Count: 120
Year: March 2009

Favorite Quote: My favorite quote is actually an entire scene: Maria: He told me you took your liver, Now you will take his. Tigre: But you are not a doctor. How will you know which it is? Maria: Yes.. Then I will take it all.

The Ratings:
My rating system is out of five stars, and consists of six categories, then an overall score.

  • Story:
    The story has it's high points and low points. I really had a gut feeling that this wasn't researched well enough, from the Spanish littered throughout to the lucha libre genre. Some of the dialogue felt as though they thumbed through a Spanish dictionary, or found a "Spanish Curse Word Bible" to litter the word balloons. Also, what is Bujo supposed to be? Is he supposed to be an owl? Well, that word is búho, pronounced (Boo-O). There's a certain feeling to the lucha genre that is moralistic and wholesome, while this story gets heavy with the profanity, nudity, and other mature themes. I like the overall overall arch with the hero, but I wish he stood on his own without being a cookie cutter luchadore in the shadow of Santo.
  • Art:
    The art is clean, tight, well rendered, and easy to follow. But it also feels a bit stiff from time to time, I think this is because of the artist's photo reference technique. In the last pages of the graphic novel, they show that he would spend the time making mock-up scenes out of foam-core boards and shoot the angles. While this is kind of neat, I feel like it's taking time away from just drawing. I listened to an interview once with an artist on the Side Bar Nation podcast, who used a 3D modeler to render simple backgrounds for his pages to give the scene more depth, then he'd redraw it. After a while, he was spending more time at the computer modeling ridiculous scenes, and not enough time just behind the art table drawing. It was Jim Lee who told him "Why do all that effort, don't you just like to draw?" So I feel as though this model making scene can be useful, if it gets too tedious then it might turn the art a little dry. Also, I noticed in the scenes where Tigre would go to wrestling matches and play rudos for income, one panel shows him wearing and incorrect mask. His rudo (bad guy) mask covers his chin like a traditional luchador mascara. But on page 17, you see a side shot where his chin is open, like his técnico mask.
  • Bizarre Factor:
    This is relatively a straight forward story with one bizarre factor: The rich villain feeds his rich guests organs of poor Mexicans from the streets. WTF? Very weird, and out of left field. Normally I don't mind that, but this is sort of gross.
  • Horror:
    Again, the cannibalism and organ stealing is a bit much.
  • Action:
    Like any good lucha story, there is a good amount of rumbling.
  • Camp:
    Some of characters feel cookie cutter, from our hero El Tigre, to the villains. Then the end scene where I get my favorite quote from is really cheesy. Maria snags all the villain's organs because she can't distinguish the liver from the rest? Really? You have two lungs, a heart, two kidneys, a stomach, and... a liver. It's not terribly difficult to find. Also, you can't just show up at a hospital with an improperly retrieved organ on ice, and ask to have it put back in. I should know, I work at a hospital, and deal with organ donors quite a bit.
  • Nudity:
    There is quite a bit of sex, nudity, and one of the minor villains runs a strip club. The profanity is pretty high as well. Not suitable for younger readers.
  • Overall:
    Again, I enjoyed the overall story of El Tigre in Strongman volume 1, but there are some quibbles I had to pick at. I know I'll be picking up volume two, which is currently available as well on Amazon. If this sounds like your cup of tea, definitely make an order at Amazon, links below!


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