Monday, October 4, 2010

Hancock Tips His Hat to a SPIDER tale, Wide Vision style!

TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
Writer-Martin Powell
Artist-Pablo Marcos

To be effective, a story must stir something in the reader. It may be happiness, realization, or a burst of positive feeling. It can also be, however, sadness, frustration, or a prevailing sense of gloom and doom. When a pulp story chock full of over the top villains, extreme heroes, bloodlust, and slam bam action evoke all of the previously mentioned things, that is nothing except pretty cool.

THE CITY THAT COULDN'T SLEEP is a SPIDER story written in 'wide vision' that will be part of a pulp magazine produced by Moonstone Books in the near future! Wide vision basically means that the story is a combination of text and wide panel illustrations, evoking the feeling of an old pulp magazine on every single page. This story fits that description perfectly, the combination of Powell's verbal descriptions and Marcos' stark, startling imagery make this story more than just another 'Vigilante hero saves desperate city from Evil Villain".

The story opens, not with exposition, but right in the middle of a nightmare made real. For almost a month, the citizens of New York have been stricken with some strange ailment that makes them all insomniacs. No one, not even The Spider can sleep. Of course, this leads to raw nerves, hallucinations, angry mobs, zombie like citizens tearing each other apart, and The Spider trying to maintain peace and justice as well as his own sanity, more so than usual.

Behind all this is a mastermind known as The Dreamer. Recognizing he will have to deal with The Spider at some point, The Dreamer makes a dangerous move against one of Wentworth's own. This of course leads to the inevitable clash between good and evil, but along the way a nice little two pronged mystery is also developed, explored, and solved. That aspect of this added a level of depth that isn't found in most masked vigilante stories I've read written by modern authors, but Powell seamlessly blends elements of mystery with the savage battle The Spider fights against the Dreamer. Mix into that the horror of Marcos' images of the stricken denizens of New York as well as The Spider himself, and the tale is gripping and doesn't let go until the very end.

One issue the story has, however, is that it's honestly too short. The premise is wonderful, the action and characterization is dead on, Marcos' art is quite stunning, and Powell's purple prose, except for a few awkward phrases near the end, paints a scene as vivid as any picture. What is lost, though, in the length is simply more. I wanted more expansion of The Dreamer's motivations, more exploration of The Spider's own issues, and just plain more zombie and gun type action. Had Powell been given the length of a novel, he might have just fit in all that was possible with this story. It is fantastic as it is, but the length does make it feel a bit too confined.

Four out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (usually reserved for heads of state, arresting officers, and little old ladies, which is pretty darn good.)