Monday, December 7, 2009

Comic Review: The Anchor #3 (Boom! Studios)

Way More than the Sum of its Parts

In this new series from Boom!, Phil Hester and Brian Churilla manage to cobble together a whole string of storytelling clich├ęs and make them not only interesting but borderline fascinating. Taken individually, the elements sound tired and overdone: a super-strong invulnerable super-being, ghosts and demons, secret government operatives, the “damsel in distress”, a set number of baddies that Mr. Protagonist must defeat, etc. Yet our hero's truly unique qualities enable the tale to elevate itself beyond any sort of mediocrity.

The Anchor is anchored (ahem) by none other than the Anchor himself. Guess what – he wears an anchor cross on his belt. The cross is the emblem of Saint Clement and the Anchor is a genuinely righteous dude – quoting Psalms and invoking God's guidance and sustenance as he fights giant demonic monsters. It's refreshing to have a good guy who's motivated by more than a vague sense of humanistic justice – it certainly provides a purer sense of myth than someone like Superman or Spider-Man.

But the universe being built by Hester is more than just a carbon copy of Christian belief. For one thing the series is rife with ghosts which are hardly much of a concept of orthodox Christianity. Also, the Anchor is stuck between two planes of existence – a sort of dualism that makes one think of Christ dying on the cross but then taking care of business in the nether regions prior to his resurrection. It's rather an ambitious concept and like other elements of the Anchor's existence we're given just enough new information to digest each issue. That sort of pacing is so difficult to do. Sometimes a comic will bombard the readers with too much information – Geoff Johns is sometimes guilty of this in Flash: Rebirth and Blackest Night – leaving us to scratch our heads in confusion. Other series (the current Ghost Riders – Heaven's On Fire mini-series springs to mind) plod on and on for many pages without providing any new salient information.

Churilla's artwork is an odd bag. At times it's rushed but acceptably so – you get the sense that he's a courtroom sketch artist breathlessly trying to document what he sees as the unbelievable scene whips before his eyes. The soldiers walking down the hallway on page 7 is rather sloppy but he immediately redeems himself when the Anchor reappears in frame. He always seems to draw the leading man with a Mignola Hellboy charm, putting in that extra oomph that can only come from having drawn the character countless times in preparation for the series. His interpretation of the mega-monster in each issue is also done with a tender attention to detail and visceral impact.

The lengthy letters column and suggested musical playlists are a sure sign that Phil and Brian are putting their guts and sweat into the Anchor, and that makes all the difference between a memorable series and all the bin-fodder that gets mercilessly churned out every week from the major publishers. Brian's playlist of black metal, grindcore and deathgrind also tells us that the creators are dead serious about the fire and brimstone stuff, so the series should become all the more interesting and engrossing as it progresses.

In stores Wednesday, December 9th


Adam P.
Senior Reviewer

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