Guest Review: Kaptara #4

This week we feature a guest review by the talented writer Jaythreadbear. Who graciously agreed to fill in for me this week as I get situated at my new job. I recommend that after you finish reading this fantastic article you give his blog a visit. Jays blog is stuffed full of interesting and well written content, so give it a view Or I’ve made his name clickable. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check it out. Now without further delay:

Kaptara #4

Review by:


When I was a whole lot younger I used to play with my older brother’s toys. He had a bit of everything, Ghostbusters, He-Man, Thundercats, Trolls(!), they were all there. Rather than play with just one thing I’d mash them altogether and create wondrously outlandish adventures, Bebop & Rocksteady would defend Castle Greyskull from ninja turtles and Bucky O’Hare riding dinosaurs (everyone rode dinosaurs back then!) I was a kid, I didn’t know these were all characters from different cartoons, different worlds, but it sure was fun to just smash them together and tell crazy stories. In all the best ways it seems like Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod are still telling stories just like that. The great news for us is that drawing all the rich fun influences of fantasy and scifi pop culture and mashing them together can lead to a rewarding comic book experience.

There are a lot of strong indie/creator owned scifi books on the shelves right now, many taking place on brilliantly realised, uniquely devised worlds; yet surely in contention for the most creative planet amongst them is Kaptara. Every issue of this scifi comedy has brought with it inventive, original, and surprising creations. Cat tanks and blow dart champions and motivational orbs. Zdarsky regularly introduces new concepts which further the story and give us more insight into this diverse place. Great credit for the success of all this world building (and some of the narrative drive) has to go to McLeod though whose art somehow brings all of the disparate visual influences to life in a surprisingly coherent way. McLeod also manages to purvey a great degree of physicality and slap stick comedy in the book (stuff like the inevitability of Dartor’s dart mishap is elevated by his sheer proximity to the prince). Since the very first issue the colouring in Kaptara has been inventive and surprising and this issue is no different. Handled by Kagan McLeod with an assist from Becka Kinzie the colouring here is bright and unexpected, the action takes place in verdant green and yellow fields, and moves on to the wonderful roiling blue-purple-pink constructs of the Hive. You’d be hard pressed to find a more colourful, immersive world in comics at the moment.

The book isn’t without problems though. Much of the supporting cast, for all their whimsical originality, remain somewhat broadly drawn. Dartor in particular presents a problem in this respect due to the huge amount of page space he takes up. The character is hewn almost entirely from oblivious prince tropes (arrogant, proud, stupid, etc) and whilst he has generated some good comedy (other characters affection for his ridiculous hair being a prime example) he is also a bit of a repetitive and obvious joke. There are many more interesting characters and corners of this world that I would rather be spending time with. Keith, for example, already the most complex character (unsurprisingly given his status as protagonist) offers a chance to explore conflicting feelings of survivor guilt and relief, and his ultimate desire to make Lance’s sacrifice count even though he’d rather be chilling out in Endom. All of this complexity is in danger of being lost behind some of the broader ‘humorous’ moments, for instance, the low-key reunion between Laurette and Keith that perhaps should have been a bigger moment for our lead (after all he’s no longer the only survivor!) is overshadowed by the prolonged Dartor flashback.

And yet, this book is like a great scifi-inspired D&D adventure; the epic quest, the weird and wonderful world, the ragtag team of dysfunctional but heroic adventurers all serve to engage the ready and get them invested. The delightfully unusual art and colouring, confident plotting and neat meta touches like the fun issue subtitles, previously’s, and back page quotes all help to raise the enjoyment of an potentially light concept. Zdarsky and McCleod have raided the toy box and put on the page an adventure every bit as fun and funny as we had as kids, some of the humour may miss the mark, but the inventiveness and creativity more than makes up for any problems.

Pick of the week (apr. 22nd): Kaptara #1

Kaptara #1

Writer: Chip Zdarsky

Art: Kagan McLeod

Colors Assistant: Becka Kinzie

Publisher: Image

“Did you guys get reading rainbow beamed here or…?” – Keith

Kaptara is a daring new space adventure from Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod, published by Image comics. In this weeks inaugural issue we are introduced to a colorful new world and cast of characters. The issue opens with our protaganist,  Keith, getting lectured by the crews resident meat head (and physicist, cause in the future meat heads are smart too!) about how he needs to “get his pump on”. This lecture quickly becomes a spat and tempurs flare. Luckily for the two they are inturrupted by the captain. It seems like a mysterious anomaly is interferring with their mission (ain’t there always somethin’?). The crew then wrestles with what to do. Ultimately they make the wrong choice and things spiral out of control. Ill leave the rest of the story for you to read yourself. While primarily known for his art, Zdarsky has dipped his hand into writing as of late. In the past month I have read two series that Zdarsky has written, Howard the Duck and this one. Howard felt a bit forced to me, while this series seems more relaxed, more Zdarsky like! At first as I was reading it I wasnt sure what to think, with the plot reading like most space adventure/mysteries (insert your choice of title here: Lost in Space, Star Trek, etc.). By the middle of the issue the quick quirps, and witty dialogue had me entertained and laughing out loud in my local hot dog joint (much to the chagrin of the old woman sitting next to me at the bar). Then the end happened. I wont tell you what, because no spoilers, but it was unexpected and breathed fresh air into what had originally felt like a stale story with clever dialogue. I am definitely intrigued to see if it follows the path I think/hope it will. The art for the issue is….good. most likely others will think its great, but its not my favorite style. However McLeod did succeed in making interesting looking characters, and crafting a unique looking world. I am assuming McLeod did most of the coloring for this issue as well, with help from Kinzie,  and thats where the art shines. I love love love the color palette that was selected for this series. Its simply beautiful (of course my love of pastel colors is well documented). The contrast of the bright colors outside of the ship as opposed to the pastel inside of the ship was a nice touch and made the art seem more dynamic . Overall the coloring for this issue was on point. Kaptara #1 is a good start to a new series and sufficiently interested me enough to be excited about the next issue!

Rating: 7.5/10

-Andrew Horton