Oscar Martin may not be a familiar name to many comic book fans, but he has steadily built up a huge volume of work since 1986 for comic books based on successful animation franchises such as Tom & Jerry and The Lion King here in Europe. In 2002 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Warner Bros. And that’s almost 20 years ago now!
Well, there is no denying Martin’s style is most definitely influenced by the Disney style of animation in this new book, Solo: The Survivors of Chaos, an English translated copy of his Spanish language three-parter from Titan Comics. But, the story is certainly not one for the kids, with a post-apocalyptic future in which animals have mutated and morphed into anthropomorphic biceps living shoulder-to-shoulder with the remaining humans, all of whom seem to be the real animals in this futuristic deadens society.
The harsh environment has made food scarce and as such the various isolated communities living in this tough-as-nails world have had to become rather pragmatic to say the least. So we get Solo, who is asked to leave the family home due to the shortage of food; something he does with not much of a fight, as this is simply the way of this world. In leaving his family and his home his adventures truly begin which will see him captured and paraded as a gladiator for the entertainment of the surviving human population. It’s his role as a gladiator that allows for the blood and guts of Martin’s self-penned story to truly flow. Although, given the style of artwork employed in this album, it’s never that gory. But, it is a story that seems more of a retread of more familiar stories such as Gladiator (or for that matter any such sand and scandals film such as Spartacus) and I simply could not shake this feeding while reading it. Yes there are other obvious links to film such as Mad Max, but replacing a human with a mutated rat doesn’t really add anything into the mix, I’m afraid. I felt that I;d seen it all before, with Martin simply stitching together these sevens to create the anaemic story he wants to tell.
But, while the story-telling can be rather predictable and pedestrian,the artwork is anything but. And, yes, as mentioned above, it is a style you’ve seen in literally every Disney animated film, but with the addition of a post-apocalyptic setting and violence on many a page, this may not be art you’re expecting if you do pick it up when it comes out on Wednesday January 15th. Martin is clearly deserved of his Lifetime Achievement Award as his choreography of Solo and his supporting cast, particularly in any scene of violent conflict, gives this otherwise average narrative some bite. The fluidity he gives each cast member is remarkable and certainly creates a kinetic energy that flows throughout the book. It’s clear to see from these pages included in my review.
It’s this sci-fi setting that also give Martin the freedom to create more menacing characters that you probably wouldn’t get in the type of comics he produced for the likes of Disney and offers up some rather chilling creations.
If this had been an all-ages read, I don’t think I would have had such a problem with the child-like story – it wouldn’t be out of place as an Asterix book – but with the inclusion of much killing and blood-letting it just doesn’t hit the mark with this reader. But, the art does save the day and I’m glad I read it as this week’s choice graphic novel to spotlight, for good and for bad.
Oscar Martin’s Solo: The Survivor Of Chaos is available from Titan Comics on Wednesday January 15th online and in comic book stores.