ZOO FORCE: Bean and Nothingness

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2005
By: Amos Simien

Cover of ZOO FORCE: Bean and Nothingness Creator(s): John Ira Thomas & Jeremy Smith
Publishers: Candle Light Press
From: 52240
Price: $11.95 (US), 6.50 (UK)

While sleeping off the effects of take-out Cajun food, the individual members of Zoo Force undergo various metaphysical dream experiences. Beyond time and space, each team member confronts his origins (or the origins of his persona) or his reason for being.

Later on in this small graphic novel, the diabolical wannabe Captain Cat sells copies of his comic Not Zoo Force, his personal rant against not getting a Xeric Grant and an exposé on the trials and tribulations of a ultra-smart cat living in a world that just doesn't get how smart he is. A watchful father also takes his young son to a sci-fi/comic convention and discovers Captain Cat's powerful video manifesto, Confessions of a Dangerous Cat.

If that weren't enough, Bean and Nothingness contains Zoo Force games, coloring pages, and puzzles just like its predecessor Zoo Force: Dear Eniko.

In many superhero comics, the main characters and players, usually the costumed guys and gals, are quite proactive. They're constantly altering reality (or trying) to fit their vision of a utopia, or at least make their cities and hometowns livable (like Batman). John Ira Thomas' superheroes, costumed heroes, and regular Joes get by each day dealing with the reality they have. Not that they wouldn't mind shaping their reality, it's just that the John Ira superhero reality is so much more complicated. Nothing is simple save that nothing is simple.

His characters are placed in an unbearably real or unalterable world and, powers or not, they just have to make, to struggle. Their struggle might not be like everyone else, but still they have to struggle. John Ira holds true to the idea that life, in spite of dark days, is both tragic and comic, with an emphasis on comic. The humor in Thomas' comics comes from watching these schmoes and world-beaters running an obstacle course. Of course, it's also just plain funny when you write a photo-comic (or fumetti) using a real kitty as the lead actor.

When you're an adventurous comic book writer, you need an exceptional illustrator. Jeremy Smith, while still growing, is already a superb storyteller. While many comic book artists use the bells and whistles of drawing to decorate their pages, Smith uses the same tricks as storytelling devices. He's one of those comic book artists who are the natural heirs to Neal Adams' innovations, taking the master's technique and style and continuing to use it to tell stories rather than simply to draw pretty pages.

Thomas and Smith's Zoo Force is indeed something different, but not just for the sake of being different. They take the familiar and stubbornly move it to the strangest places.

In a Word: Trippy.

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