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Thursday, April 15, 2010

INDIE COMIX: Plan B, Josh Jenkins' Self-Publishing More Dangerous Than Bombs

By now you've listened to the Josh Jenkins' episode of the podcast and have gotten a good idea of the madman behind what is one of the coolest new series in the self-published indie comic scene. But I loved these books so much that I felt they needed a more thorough post.

PLAN B. The supersecret cadre of mad scientists looking for the ultimate weapon, an alternative to that ludicrous atomic bomb project. Maybe some bats with napalm strapped to them? That sounds like a plan, and as insane as it sounds, that's history for you. Professor Jenkins presents us with a team of iconic scientists and specialists that are a dysfunctional family of co-workers.

In book one THE HAUNTED LIFE OF DOCTOR ANOMALOUS we meet the good doctor Victor Anomalous, head of Plan B in the heyday of experimental creativity. We're introduced to each member of the team, giving us hints of the other archetypes represented here (adventurous cartographer, diabolical mystic, happy-go-lucky behaviorist, insane escape artist), but these glory days are not to last forever, and so the rest of the book deals with an elderly Dr. Anomalous dealing with his dodgy genius as the ghosts of his friends...co-workers...all come to haunt him into bettering his life.

The story is really well structured with very likeable characters that are a bit larger than life and all feel familiar. My personal favorite is Tumbler, the lunatic escape artist, but every character is fleshed out and anyone can find one character that resonates with them. If you happen to enjoy mad science, then you'll love it that much more. And for the science/history buffs, each chapter ends with a small snippet of true facts that relates to the chapter you've just read.

In that first book you get a full story arc for Dr. Anomalous, so you might wonder what book two, SAMUEL PROVIDENCE AND THE NEFARIOUS DR. FOIL holds in store for you my eager reader. Well, let me tell you, it takes that same world and approaches it from a drastically different angle, giving you a new appreciation for segments that you saw in book one, only this time giving you a murder mystery thriller surrounding the enigmatic and shadowy Samuel Providence. It is horror that lurks within these pages.

Upon reading the first book, you could say, ahh, what a keen little story of an aging mad scientist. But when you read book two, the rug is pulled out from underneath you and you're given a hint of a whole dark world that lies out there in the darkness of this Josh Jenkins' warped mind. We begin to see the whole operation from a bigger perspective, and the pull of this yawning cosmos is undeniable. I am looking forward to book three more than anything put out by Marvel or DC.

As for the artwork, Karl Slominski really delivers in every scene. It's cartoony when it's meant to be slapstick, sketchy when there's evil afoot, even crude (and hilarious) to demonstrate the ancient past of primordial man. It's a highly stylized black and white, caricature-esque style with lots of detail work, which usually winds up looking like a mess of lines when guided by a lesser hand. But I was never confused about who was who, what was happening, or the mood/tone throughout both books. In fact, both books are pretty flawlessly crafted. (Despite what Mr. Jenkins says.)

There's a lot of research, love, and craft put into these books and it is very evident almost from the first chapter. You'll laugh, you'll learn things (from mythology to fringe science), and you'll become invested in the world they are creating here. Dr. Anomalous' story is a great comedic lead-in, with Samuel Providence's dark history deepening the mystery. I honestly can't wait to read book three, THE FIVE LIVES OF JONATHAN TUMBLER where we'll learn more about...

Oh, but that's a secret.

Keep up to date with the Plan B Blog and begin reading book one as a (colored!) webcomic that comes with a bit of commentary. You can also follow Josh Jenkins on Twitter or become a fan of the series on Facebook.

Be seeing you.


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