Shanna the She-Devil #1
"The Killing Season, Part One"
Story and art by Frank Cho
Colors by Dave Stewart
Lettering by Rob Steen
It's no secret that I'm not fond of Frank Cho — I think he's a talented draftsman, and an abysmal storyteller. But the circus that's sprung up around his latest project is so bizarre that I was tempted to check it out.
Cho's take on Shanna the She-Devil was originally solicited as part of Marvel's MAX imprint, which was ostensibly created to allow Marvel to published sophisticated, adult comics but wound up publishing comics filled with curse words, ultraviolence, and boobs.1 And if there's anything we know about Frank, it's that he loves boobs2, so in his proposal ditched the only thing he didn't like about Marvel's bikini-clad, jungle-dwelling redhead — the bikini. Apparently Axel Alonso likes boobs too, and Shanna was put on the publication schedule.
Then, or so the story goes, George Clooney dropped out of talks to do a Nick Fury after seeing a few issues of Fury, and the suits in Marvel's head office freaked out and shut down the MAX imprint. Some titles were dropped, some were moved to the Marvel Knights imprint, and some (like Alias) were reworked into more mainstream properties.
Shanna, though, was a bit more problematic. It was too racy to publish as-is, but it had been heavily promoted and featured some lush art from a fan-favorite creator, so it couldn't be dropped either. The solution? Delay the book for a few months, and use the extra time to cover up the naughty bits with stray objects. I'm surprised Frank went along with it, given how he used to whine whenever Creators' Syndicate told him to tone down Brandy's bust-line.
Anyway, the comic has finally shipped, and let me see if I can sum up this issue in two panels...
It's like looking into the mind of a thirteen year-old, isn't it?
Anyway, there's not much to talk about. The plot's pretty basic — a group of special forces commandos are stuck on an island filled with dinosaurs and Nazis, and they find Shanna floating upside down in a tube. Thanks to the miracle of "decompressed storytelling" that's all that happens. If anything, with the focus on Nazis and dinosaurs this feels more like an issue of Budd Root's Cavewoman than Shanna.
I find Cho's art very frustrating. He's an incredible draftsman, equally at home drawing beautiful women3, complicated technology or bloodthirsty dinosaurs. He's certainly capable of creating striking individual images — like the cover, or that powerful shot of the velociraptor standing in front of the Nazi flag. But he doesn't seem to have a feel for overall page composition or panel-to-panel storytelling — actions don't flow from one panel to the next, and he seems genuinely incapable of making scenes feel exciting. In this sense, decompression works in Cho's favor, as he can construct a series of powerful individual images and then just find a way to get from one to the other.
Of course, by now you probably know whether you like Frank Cho or not. This issue isn't going to change your mind. Then again, some times you're just in the mood for a comic starring a beautiful, scantily clad redhead...
- Other MAX titles have included Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's Fury, which was about as mature as an Andy Sidaris movie; Chuck Austen's US War Machine, which allowed Austen to apply his uniquely sensitive touch to the issue of racism; and Ryan Kinnaird's Phoenix, which featured more naked female flesh than an issue of Barely Legal. Come to think of it, the only genuinely "adult" comic to come out of the MAX imprint was Steve Gerber's return to Howard the Duck.
- Nothing wrong with that — I like 'em too. But apparently not as much as Frank.
- Beautiful woman, anyway. They've all got the same face, just different hair.