Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cleopatra in Space: Part One

This is a serial that will feature two volumes from the Cleopatra in Space series as will the proceeding.

by Mike Maihack
Phil Falco; Book Design
David Saylor; Creative Director
Cassandra Pelham; Editor
Published by Scholastic, Graphix

One of the most fun comics I've read for awhile, it's pacing and story are better than most stories and graphic novels. That's it, I'm flat out saying it, the story and art are amazing and fluid, structured with the skill of a seasoned professional with the charm and passion of a webcomic. The book it's self is the best and most interesting pleasing designs and reading experience I've had in awhile. Cleopatra in Space floats between the Epic Adventure (Lord of the Rings),  and a Space Opera (Flash Gordon, Star Wars), but has the feeling of a Saturday Morning cartoon (Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys). Though you'll have to read this series yourself to feel the enjoyment that I have, though experiences do change, so here's my impressions of the first two volumes of the series.

This is the First Volume (and the webcomic)

I was introduced to this series through the internet, I'm not really sure how, though it was one of those "a friend of a friend of mine" liked a piece of Mike Maihack work or I was on the Comic Art Fans site and stumbled upon Cleopatra with her space suit and laser. I started to follow more and more of Mike Maihack's work, I became excited to hear that he would be making this interesting character into a webcomic. I kept up with the series, though as he's stated on the website, he has not been keeping up with it as much as he would have, since it was an interesting idea, but not something that he wanted to put time into. I'm glad the community was kind to him and wanted to see more of his charming character. I for one love the idea of a space adventure in a pulp noir like landscape of an Egyptian like setting. I think that's the one thing that the webcomic can get away with, a little more violence on screen. Though that's not taking points away from the action packed series printed for all ages, everything else is well laid out and wonderfully executed. Another thing is the language, since this was a webcomic it can be a bit more brash with what is said or implied, since also Cleo wasn't established as being a young teen. She was a woman, though young, it was never said what age she was and where she came from.

Through out this Graphic series I'll be comparing somethings from the webcomic to the Sequential Tome per review.

When in Egypt, think like an Egyptian, though Gom doesn't know many, well many that are alive.

In the webcomic, the door trapping our main characters and not charging the laser are about the same in the Comic Volume 1, but it was more dramatic in the URL version than in the Graphix edition. Though a lot of the layouts of the comic have dramatically changed, this being mainly due to the fact that the webcomic came from 2009 and this comic was created in 2014 a good five years of planning and cultivating creative content between these two dates.

The graphic novel is definitely inspired by a lot of young adult books, coming of age and injecting yourself into a new culture or world. This is seen with Cleo literally doing this as a student of this academy and she's the chosen one. I have a problem with some cliches, though at the same time they can be a cute homage to the genre. A lot of these types of space adventure like books have the whole chosen one thing and young adult books have the whole "I'm new to life" starter package. Though both of these notes aside, this is a really well made graphic novel, it's not talking down to anyone and it's not turning a sword fight into pillows. Cleo fights with swords and a future quarter staff, given it's against robots, still she takes no names and is a bruiser through and through.

In chapter 2 of the webcomic it ventures away from the Space adventure and turns into a Space Western, this is an interesting turn of events, as you know I really like Westerns, so an odd one like this would have me glued to the page (and it does).

In the Graphic novel we're getting to know the under working of the group that have designated Cleo as being the universe's only hope. It feels more like a Space Spy book than a Western, though this idea of a Femme Fatal is solidified by the preview pin-up in the back for the second volume.

Cleo likes whiskey, I think I'm digging the webcomic more than the published edition. I think Cleo is in college and not Middle School or High School, I feel characters that grow within High School and College command more reality, though Middle School or younger, it's hard to read a character since it's more or less unrealistic to a person of that age. This was something I didn't like in The Shinning, he's a 5 years old and incredibly intelligent, there's a few people in my family that are 3 years old (going on 4), they're smart, but not college level smart. At least they're not able to read emotions and body language by my knowledge. Though don't get me wrong these family members can't read minds and see ghosts… maybe one, though still the concept of using the restroom is a bit alien. A character that's in High School can totally make a change in their life and it will stick with them for the rest of their life versus a character that's younger, but this is talk from someone in a contemporary time. Pretty much after college the outline of one's life stops and you are either the person you want to be or are heading in the direction, pushing that dream along. Though this is a more modern idea of age and personal growth, which is a theme in this story, does Cleo choose to be the hero thrusted on her or just be a person that does the right thing because of who she is?

From start to finish this is an origin story, a quick flash into the life of Cleo and the adventures that will follow, though nothing too in-depth that will take you far beyond the introduction of the character and her growth within the school and the relations around her. The story starts with a mission that wasn't perfect and ends with its success at the end of the novel. We learn more about Cleo's past than in the webcomic, though at the same time we have a finely executed character and world created for space and the future.

The jokes are more gag related within the webcomic.

Other than the great book design (really I love the design of this novel), the designs of the character and the world are amazing and perfect to what the future looks like with an Egyptian theme, though there is a strong relation to Flash Gordan and John Carter of Mars, respectively.

This is the Second Volume

The design of the cover is wonderful, it's a bit less focused on being an interest to new readers and focusing on the most important and exciting part of the volume. Mind you this is the bread and butter of the whole comic, so it makes sense in the long and short of things. Readers of a series want to see what will happen next or the implied thoughts of what will happen between the pages. New readers want nothing to do with this or want to know why these events have transpired. It's a dichotomy that's hard to tell which one will sell more books, though I will say that this illustration is something that sold me on excitement as a returning reader, but as a person that's new it feels like I'm out of the loop. The first page of the book feels like an alternate cover or a piece that will be of interest later in the story. I really like it, it's an ebony room with a blue light, not illuminating the sword, but giving it a glow, since the inky darkness of the room pulls you in more.

The layout and the action are what truly drive this book, it's beautiful how one panel leads to the next and how the over all chapters connect with each other, it's stunning that there's someone so master full and this is their second book in a series. I'm amazed that Mike Maihack's not doing more, though this would take away from him producing more Cleopatra in Space books, so I'm okay with this at the same time. (at the time I didn't know about his short in Cow Boy: A Boy and his Horse, so he is producing more within the year, I'm happy about this news for sure!)

Obessetion with riddles is one of Oona Kulte's top pleasures,
so she dressed like one of her favorite cryptic, the Sphinx

Just thumbing through this volume in the series, I noticed that he likes to use a green and red palette to his comic. It's nice, since their complimentary colors, though I enjoy dark greens with blues and dark reds with blues. The blue I think really give the series that over all feeling of being in space and in a City. Perfect for the environment and for the characters. Since every thing is about a shade of purple and green, which suits our violet haired protagonist very well.

Over all there's more detail in the series about how Cleo got to the Future (present, students point of view) from the Past (present, Cleo's point of view).

Here's the short and long of it all, there's not much that happens in this volume. In the first volume it was an introduction to everything, the characters, the world, the bad guy, and why everyone is doing everything, personally that was perfect. This volume, it's less about anything, it's more about setting things up for a fourth volume. Don't get me wrong, this is the volume for all the people out there that want action and explanations, it has it's highs and lows, but that's fine, since the pacing is very well managed. We get both plot and great design for characters and choreography. If you've been reading the first volume and the webcomic things are just about to get interesting, since in Volume Three this is where the webcomic ended and things will have to be speculated for the future. I would recommend this not only as a teaching tool, but for anyone that loves space adventures.

(I think Mike Maihack is a fan of Savage Dragon, since I think this one fin head keeps popping up, which is really cool, because I love Savage Dragon too, also it would make sense for Dragon's people to enroll a chosen of their own to show that they're not like their Emperor.)

If you are a person that loves pulp comics, space adventures, and genre mixing then you're in the same boat as me. I'm not a fan of origin stories, they are not fun nor interesting to me, but this is a tale that didn't feel like a text dump. That I needed a PhD to understand the amount of history and mythology to grasp the series as a whole. It's made for the casual reader to the advanced reader, since you'll have to read body language too. I'm at the point that I would buy you this book if we walked by it at the store, though there are three volumes out and I'm certain that these three books would be purchased and in your hand by the time we left the shop. I've been waiting for the third volume since the webcomic, though I'm excited to see that in Cleopatra's Future there will be more volumes in this series and that Mike Maihack will be creating more glorious comics.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
Support the creator, check out your local library and check out the graphic novels.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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