Publisher: Planet Jimbot
Writer: Jim Alexander
Artist(s): Eva Holder (the present), Conor Boyle (the past), iella (the recent past)
Release Date: On sale now from the Planet Jimbot Etsy store.
When I initially heard that Jim Alexander and the folks at Planet Jimbot were putting together a superhero series, I’ll freely admit that I was more than a little puzzled. From a publisher that has churned out some of the most inventive and unconventional small press titles in recent years – including the likes of Amazing & Fantastic Tales, Amongst The Stars and Wolf Country – a superhero story seemed… I don’t want to say ‘beneath them’, but let’s just say a distinct departure from their previous offerings.
As it turns out, my confusion and apprehension turned out to be completely unfounded. While yes, this is technically a superhero story in so much as it revolves around a super-powered hero called App-1, this is still quintessentially Jimbot, from the unconventional, almost anthology-style format to the distinctive Scottish colloquialisms present in the dialogue. The story here is told from three different perspectives; the past, the recent past and the present, each serving to paint a picture of the rise – and apparent decline – of this seemingly invulnerable hero.
The first story, Tongue Lasher, is set in the present, and features some wonderfully cartoony artwork from Eva Holder. Again, the visual approach serves as a stark departure from Jimbot’s ‘house style’ established by the likes of Will Pickering and Luke Cooper, but in the context of this story, it works well. The story is set in a world without the eponymous hero, a world where even the whispered mention of his name has dire consequences. Opening in this fashion really gets the grey matter firing, leaving the reader wondering what has happened to get the world to this point, and why exactly we’re reading a superhero comic where the hero himself is notably and decisively absent.
Above Us Only Sky, set in the past, comprises two single-page strips and an interview from the golden days of App-1’s career. Conor Boyle provides the visuals here, painting an almost intentionally generic portrait of App-1 at the height of his powers; a smiling, virtuous boy scout balancing his desire to be a role model with his constant saving of the world. The interview gives us a little more insight into the character, and serves as a creative way for Alexander to hit us with the much-needed exposition dump required for the overall story to make any kind of sense. Probably the weakest of the three stories, but again, this is possibly by design given the fact that the real meat of the narrative hadn’t actually happened yet at this time.
Finally, Scout takes us into the recent past, where we see a troubled App-1 seeking assistance from an Albert Einstein lookalike (or possibly Einstein himself?) to deal with his increasingly erratic mood swings. The artwork, provided here by iella, has an almost sketch-like quality to it that gives this story a noticeably different aesthetic to the others. It may be rough in places, but it really comes into its own during the latter pages of the chapter. Alexander’s knack for humour also shines here, with “Einstein” throwing out some quality gags along the way as he tries to analyse App-1’s mental state. The final page gives a whole new perspective to the ‘Tongue Lasher’ story that opened the book, and really gets the saliva glands flowing about the upcoming second issue.
Overall, while it’s definitely not a conventional superhero story by any means, fans of Planet Jimbot’s extensive back catalogue are in for an absolute treat as App-1 provides an intelligent, involved take on the somewhat tired superhero genre. Alexander continues his chameleonesque ability to adapt his writing to pretty much any style, and the overall package works impressively to provide something truly different from the rest of the capes and cowls fare cluttering up the shelves of your local comic shop.