Publisher: Image Comics
Story By: Chip Zdarsky
Art By: Kagan Mcleod
Release Date: 20th May, 2015
Much like the fictional alien world in which the story is based, Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod’s Kaptara is pretty damn strange. It’s a bizarre mix of trusted scf-fi tropes, comedy, and drama, all wrapped up in a pastiche of nostalgic ‘80s cartoons like Masters of the Universe and Thundercats. On the first read through, it appeared to be snobbishly thumbing it’s nose at such iconic and much-loved franchises by highlighting their absurdity, while being a little too knowingly self-referential. On a second reading, though, it felt like more of a loving homage, and it struck me that there’s perhaps more to Kaptara than meets the eye.
The central character, Keith Kanga, is an openly gay Indian man, and someone who has had his fair share of problems. As a result, he’s an abrasive personality, projecting a bitingly sarcastic defensive front, which makes him thoroughly unlikeable at first. His selfish decision to stay behind on Kaptara rather than search for his colleagues added to my dislike of the character, but Zdarsky cleverly shifts perspective in this issue, and we embark on Keith’s journey of self-discovery, a quest to find the likeable hero beneath the aloof and selfish exterior.
As engaging as Keith’s story has become, the series as a whole is not without it’s flaws. It’s certainly a tough balancing act Zdarsky is trying to strike between action, drama and the comedic elements, but so far it’s been a little hit and miss. There are some superbly handled moments of introspection and tension, but all too often they are overshadowed by jarring ‘comedic’ dialogue, lessening their impact significantly. For me, there are too many non-essential characters in the mix, most of whom provide comic relief, and this too detracts from some genuinely funny moments.
Visually the issue is impressive, teeming with detail and featuring some weird and wonderful creature and character designs. Clearly influenced by various ‘80s cartoon properties, Kagan McLeod is having a field day reinterpreting a catalogue of heroes and villains. A cyclopean owl, Cat-Tanks, and some kind of crazy Man-horse are just some of the wonders on display, all housed neatly within a diverse panel layout that keeps the action flowing smoothly throughout. There also appears to be a colour scheme for allegiances, too, with heroes depicted in warm golden tones, and villains in colder purples, blues and off greens.
Kaptara is a tough one to call, and is sure to divide opinion. An intriguing central character and wonderfully inventive art are definitely it’s strengths, but some awkward dialogue in places does let it down somewhat.