Monday, December 9, 2013

Comics Monster #1: COPRA Review

A few months back, I found myself running an errand in Bedford–Stuyvesant (or as we locals call it, Bed-Sty), NY. I would have a few hours to kill there so naturally, I looked on the web for the local funnybook merchant to see what undiscovered gems I might find. The internet pointed me toward a shop called Bergen Street Comics where I came to find the first two collections of a book called COPRA which captured my attention as a super-team fan and for it’s somewhat bizarre art. At the time, Bergen Street Comics was the publisher of the title so I figured I was lucky to get the book at perhaps the only place that carried it. I was wrong. A couple weeks later I would come across a local comic shop that carried the book and as I started and liked the first collection, I dived in and bought issues seven through ten (the first two collections had three issues apiece).

As with many comics, the art was the first thing to capture my attention.  I guess the best description I could come up with is Frank Miller mixed with Gilbert Hernandez and add in a little style from the covers of DC’s PLOP! I’m not sure if that really encapsulates it but at any rate the book’s creator, Michel Fiffe, should definitely get points for originality as he has not tried to emulate any particular “hot” art style and succeeds in creating visceral art that conveys much of the pathos of the characters and the extreme forces and settings they encounter. I have come to find that Fiffe’s early work, DEATHZONE, was a Suicide Squad fan comic, and the same can be said for Copra to some degree right down to characters who will bring about strong visual comparisons. I was not really put off to these unapologetic homages but those with stronger ties toward the inspirations might be turned off at first. With continued reading one would see that Fiffe does quickly make the characters his own.

The stories are captivating and again, seems to start as a love letter to John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad but quickly becomes a story all it’s own. Most comic readers have lamented over cancelled titles they truly enjoyed and that they wish had continued. I’m sure many of us would like to see a group of elemental heroes or agents with special DNA (longtime indie readers will identify those) handled with as much flair as in the 80’s. I’m not one for publishing such material but I have to believe that there could be creators in heavy need to scratch that itch. COPRA actually goes beyond Suicide Squad in its homages and we almost get to see a bit of an inter-company crossover which are, of course, the stuff of fanboy dreams.

The dialogue is quite natural and does well in establishing the characters and allowing the reader to connect to them. The choreography of the fight scenes is well thought out and represented nicely. The color palette is as unique as the art and matches its captivating style. The hand lettering also seems to fit the title's gritty attitude. The paper is a durable heavy stock which is thankfully not glossy and again, works well for the book. Fiffe is undoubtedly talented with formatting in choosing the ingredients to ultimately serve the reader a tasty comicbook stew.

The bottom line is I recently bought issue eleven, read and enjoyed it, and will be back for more.

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