Writers: Mike S. Miller & Ben Avery
Artists: Nikos Koutsis & Mike Toris
Publisher: Bluewater Comics
It is a rare but always nice surprise when you pick up a comic book (or even more occasionally an actual book – I’m trying to find time to rediscover what those are!) with no expectations whatsoever, yet become totally immersed in the story within just the first few pages. With the rising costs of publication, the domination of Marvel and DC books in the market, and the flood of creative talent taking up residence in their stables (hmm – odd mixed metaphor and strange analogy to boot, sorry), this may become an even rarer in the months and years to come.
So it was a real delight to be offered the opportunity to review The Imaginaries #1, a book which would never have come to my attention otherwise. I hope this review encourages a few others to give this a chance.
Ok, so this is not the kind of comic I would normally go for. In terms of genre, The Imaginaries is kind of a superhero parody / humour / fantasy / science fiction piece – so yeah, not all that easy to pin down. It is probably much more relevant just to describe the book with terms like fun, light-hearted, fantastical, and adventurous.
I really don’t want to say too much about the plot and ruin the experience for potential new readers, so I’ll try to provide just a flavour of the story. George is a reporter with a secret identity as Superhero G; he is also the creation of young boy, Tanner. When Tanner decides that he is now too grown up for creating and imagining super-heroes, George is banished to live in the Imagined Nation, a world where all discarded imagined characters live out the remainder of their lives. George cannot let go of his link with Tanner, and tries to find a way to return to his creator and side-kick. Unfortunately, to do this, he must carry out a mission for the rather sinister Queen of the Imagined Nation, Lady Serenity.
There is quite obviously a strong element of Superman parody and self-reference running throughout, alongside a sensibility of the Adam West Batman TV show thrown in for good measure. There is also a heavy influence from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and a smattering of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe too amongst others.
The writing is fun, clever, and fast-paced – not a sign of decompressed storytelling to be found here; the action kicks off with the second page and doesn’t stop until the last. While some of the humour is fairly obvious when parodying a particular genre, there are also some more sophisticated smile-raisers. Most importantly, the characterisation is excellent throughout, providing each player with a tangible identity of their own which sets them apart from obvious pop-culture comparisons. Each page taken to uncover the secrets of this new world is filled with something new and exciting.
The artwork also perfectly reflects the spirit of the book, with well-honed storytelling and just the right energy to bring the Imagined Nation alive, while providing a nice juxtaposition with events occurring in the real world.
This is truly one of the best (and if you’ll pardon the pun, imaginative) small press books I can remember reading. There is an overarching but fully aware element of pastiche and parody of the super-hero genre, but handled in a way that does not inhibit the development of a clear driving story. It is uplifting, with verve and bounce, yet there are some clever moments, and a few sinister ones too, to suggest that this story has plenty more depth to explore. For those looking for a super-hero book with something a little lighter than the gritty stuff currently dominating the market, I can’t recommend this highly enough.