Last week we received a press packet from a new publisher that included a copy of their first major publication, the Charlatan: Preludes GN. The packet included a publishers note stating that the long term goal of this new venture was to create solid and fun sci-fi/superhero stories that could appeal to all ages of readers. Essentially, a PG-13 book that doesn't dumb things down but doesn't feature buckets of blood and gore. I love you Fear Agent, but damn, I ain't passing you along to a 10 year old. So to sum it up in a horribly simplistic way, Charlatan is to the sci-fi/superero genre as Bone is to the fantasy genre: a completely accessible, well done, and thoroughly enjoyable book that you can pass on to pretty much everyone.
I can appreciate this for a number of reasons. First off, someone has been needing to do this for a long long time. DC & Marvel have their all ages titles, but they don't really make it a point to push it on the larger markets. And even then, they follow a very episodic formula that almost reduces them in appeal (at least to older audiences I believe). Don't get me wrong, I still pretty much stand by what I always say and that this stuff is much better than like 90% of main stream titles. Tiny Titans and Marvel Adventures: Avengers are some of the best things being published today. But actually grabbing hold of new readers is tricky, and unfortunately from the trends I see at our store not too many teen boys are going to come in running for Tiny Titans. And not too many girls either because they just don't know it's out there.
But then you have something like Bone which fills a needed niche so perfectly. Accessible to readers regardless of age? Check. A solid fantasy epic? Check. Great story and art? Check. Stupid stupid rat creatures? Check. One of the best of the few actual fantasy titles available on the direct market? Check. And Bone is one of the most successful all ages titles available today.
So, it's about time someone tried to attempt something similar for the sci-fi/superhero set again.
Charlatan attempts to tackle this gap in the market by offering a new interesting story with a great singular purpose behind the entire publishing venture: lets have some fun and try to do a few new things with superheroes. And that's exactly what this first volume offers. Charlatan focuses on the story of Lucy Halford, who is the first human to ever be chosen as the defender of the universe. The problem is, she is 4 years old. Lucy's father steps up, refusing to surrender his daughter to the aliens who will train her for a life of hardship and an inevitable violent death. And as they are confronted with new and horrible threats, Lucy's father and mother have to ask themselves if they are willing to sacrifice the one thing in the universe that means the most of them in order to save the universe. Remember when Marvel comics consistently used to have a moral and ethical center to the conflicts?
Lawson's scripting is tight and he doesn't waste time nor does he throw too much at you all at once. He has a clear idea where he is going and builds a fun ride by introducing a number of sub-plots that will slowly pay off. Gouveia's art is clean and the man knows how to lay out a page. Something so many people out there don't know how to do (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, BENITIZ). He's not particularly flashy, but I don't think that's something I would have wanted to see. He does not detract from the story, he enhances it. I look forward to seeing him develop more and maybe refine his style, but as a draftsman I believe he's great. At no point did I have trouble trying to figure out what was going on (YOU'RE ON THE LIST BACHALO!).
So yeah. I want to support the hell out of this and I wish the best of luck to Jen & Gil Lawson, the husband and wife team opperating Generaljinjur. They have a a definite purpose to their publishing, and it's one I can get behind.
Now, see if you can find a way to fit in an ape and we are golden.