Eleventh Hour #1 & 2
Writers: Peter Rogers, Ian Sharman, Cherie Donovan
Pencilers: Nuno Nombre, Thomas Walsh, Azim Akberali, Randy Valiente, Simon Wyatt, Scott Larson
Inks: Ian Sharman, Luis Alonso, Azim Akberali, Ian Sharman
Letters: Ian Sharman, Azim Akberali
Covers: John Charles (#1), Azim Akberali (#2)
Orang Utan Comics
Cover price: $3.99; Available now
A thousand-year-old vampire prepares himself for his final night of undeath…
A dedicated cop comes face to face with the criminal he had executed…
A big rig terrorizes a small town like some demonic ghost of Spielberg movies past…
A squad of soldiers gets lost in the jungles of Vietnam and encounters a freak storm that not all of them will emerge from…
These are just a few of the premises for the stories to be found in OrangUtan Comics’s premier anthology series, Eleventh Hour. While genres range from post-apocalyptica to horror to sci-fi to, sometimes, a mix of all *three*, the unifying factor of the book is simple: Almost all of the stories contained within were written by OrangUtan founder Peter Rogers, and were, once upon a time, scheduled for publication elsewhere.
Unfortunately, due to missed deadlines and the untimely deaths of independant publishers — something that’s all too common in the world of small press comics — none of the stories ever saw print. They were deprived of their moment in the sun at the last possible moment (hence the title, “Eleventh Hour”) and remained in limbo until Rogers decided enough was enough and set out to publish them himself. An admirable feat! Along the way, he enlisted the aid of a number of talented new artists and fellow writer (AND inker, AND letterer, AND…) Ian Sharman, and lo and behold, an anthology was born.
And, all in all, it ain’t bad!
I will say this, though… I’m glad that the assignment was to review the first AND second issues of the series, because, had I only been given issue #1 to look at, I may not have had as many nice things to say.
So, here’s the low down: There’re some interesting ideas at work here. Rogers is a capable writer who can dream up some truly original concepts. The problem, though, is that the vast majority of his stories are *just* that. Great concepts, with no carry-through. I can honestly say that *every single one* of his stories in the first issue left me utterly disappointed at the end, because the beginnings were *so* promising. Go back and reread the beginning of this review! An ancient vampire *orchestrating* his own demise? A cop meeting the murderer he had put to death… *in the afterlife*? This is cool stuff! The problem is, Rogers doesn’t know how to end them. Or, he doesn’t know how to play their endings to the best effect… so they just kind of drop down and lay there, staring at you with big, watery puppy-dog eyes, whimpering their pain at you while you wonder what the hell just happened.
Through it all, the artwork on each individual story ranges from passable to decent, with the best art of the issue coming from Randy Valiente, penciling the preview of Ian Sharman’s “Young Gods,” located at the back of the issue. It is THIS story that actually manages a satisfying payoff in the end, and the ironic thing is that it is the ONE plot without a twist. It’s essentially a set-up for an action scene, and when that action scene rolls around Valiente shows off a surprisingly impressive array of dynamic artwork. I have no doubt that this is an artist who will go places, and I can say the same for Sharman, who, even with such a simple story, manages to wet one’s appetite for his upcoming “Young Gods” series.
Overall, though, with the exception of the final chapter, the first issue is a bit of a disappointment.
Luckily, the second issue is a different story entirely!
Here, the art, while still rough, is much crisper and the stories much more satisfying. Rogers’s opener, “Eye of the Storm” does an excellent job of creating a spooky, Twilight-Zone-meets-Creepshow atmosphere and is beautifully penciled by Azim Akerbali, who far surpasses his work on the “Purgatory Blues” story from the previous issue (he also provides the paintings for the title pages of each story in the series and is the most consistently solid artist on the book). “Eye of the Storm” is the one and only story that Rogers has contributed to this book thus far that has an appropriate and satisfying ending. His other story in this issue, “Abattoir,” is yet another case of great set-up with failing payoff. It is nicely drawn, however, by Nuno Nobre, another artist turning in a much stronger effort here than he did in the first issue (perhaps there was a long lag between issues in which the artists had time to practice…?).
Ian Sharman’s story in issue #2, “Danick and the Dragon” is a total hoot, and a nice change of pace from the gloomy, noirish stories that came before. The objective here is pure absurdist comedy set in a medieval fantasy setting that will have some online role-players scratching their heads and feeling nostalgic. The tale is chock full of puns and visual gags that will tickle the funny bone of even the most jaded fantasy geek. It’s pure RhyDin, and if you know what that means, I both commend and pity you.
The final verdict on the series is that it is a work in progress… but progress IS being made, and if it continues on the path of improvement it has displayed with issue #2, it could very well be one of the best anthologies out there. With issue #1 wallowing in the C’s and issue #2 upgrading to the B’s, I’m going to give Eleventh Hour a B- with great promise.
Available at Indy Planet.