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  • Words: Bart A. Thompson, Jay Jacobs, Chris Tsuda, et al
  • Art: Steve Fox, Chris Tsuda, Eli Ivory, et al
  • Inks: Brian Laframbiose
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Various
  • Publisher: Approbation Comics
  • Price: $2.99

The first title from a new comics company offers a genre smorgasbord for readers just hungry enough for little bites from a large plate of stories.

Five stories, two covers, one comic. That’s how Approbation Comics describes its first title Myriad #1, a six-issue limited series featuring five stories, each one eight pages long and illustrated in black and white. But that’s where the similarities stop.

"Chi Sai," opens with the dust settling after a lady ninja has taken on a trio of hoods on a construction site. Set in the Elektra vein, nothing is given as background about the female title character other than that she’s a bad-ass with a cool outfit and weapons. However, Bart A. Thompson crafts a great fight sequence and an even better cliffhanger, and Steve Fox’s art is fast and energetic, with rough touches that inject a dark mood to the story.

"Lineage" is next, and mixes sci-fi and fantasy elements. Appalacia City has been wiped off the face of North America. The Global Defense Administration sends in Janus to do recon and threat assessment. A superhuman, he finds nothing but vegetation already growing where the whole city once stood. Investigating further, he also finds fairies and an elf named O’Ryn. O’Ryn has been sent to ready Earth for his race. Left unchecked, the vegetation he’s spawned will overtake a planet his superiors didn’t know was already inhabited. This story ends with another strong cliffhanger from writers Jay Jacobs and Chris Tsuda, and the mix of genres strikes an engaging magic vs. technology theme. Chris Tsuda’s art is clear and detailed. As in the first story, not much is known about the main characters, but the story has my interest.

"The Adventures Of The Molly Be Damned" is Myriad’s best thought-out and designed story. A pirate tale of "seafaring, swordplay, and sorcery," its eight pages come fully packed with heroes, villains, a damsel in distress, and a cursed pirate ship. After a tribal chief’s wife has been raped and killed by a ruthless captain, the chief curses the ship and all who would command her. Christened the "Molly Be Damned," Ob, the chief’s kidnapped son, eventually becomes her new leader. He steers the cursed toward the kingdom of La Montaigne. All is not so idyllic there either, as the kingdom is thrown into chaos fueled by love, treachery, and a love triangle. Richard Nelson does an admirable job setting up the players and conflict given the limited space he has. Admirable, too, is Eli Ivory’s art. His images are well-executed with thick, dynamic lines and a real feel for the characters’ emotional reactions and facial expressions.

If "The Adventures of The Molly Be Damned" is Myriad #1’s strongest story, "Discount Stories" is the weakest, but only because its mediocre art distracts from an engaging vignette detailing the everyday horrors of Ernie, a WWII vet working as perhaps the surliest greeter ever at U.S. Mart. He hates everything about his job, particularly his supervisor. As "Discount Stories" develops, Ernie’s disgust spreads from his boss, to the store, to the culture that keeps it going. But when Ernie opens his pocket watch and sees the image of his dear departed Catherine, everything is suddenly okay. John P. Ward’s ending is touching and poignant. Ernie becomes human and lovable over the space of just a few panels, particularly so given what we’ve already seen of him. However, the emotional potential of Ernie’s story is frustrated by Steve Doty’s artwork. It’s flat, uneven, and not yet ready to tackle stories about real people.

Bringing up the rear is "Frail," in which Nessane and Craig meet in a cafe, talk, flirt, then make a date for dinner. As Craig walks Nessane home, something horrible happens. It’s the most shocking cliffhanger in Myriad, and writer Chris J. O’Bryant springs it extremely well after a set-up that connects the reader to the two characters. In the free-spirited and thoughtful Nessane he’s created the most fully realized character to be found in Myriad’s five stories, which makes what happens all the more tragic. And with artwork that’s not only great, with both a personal and a realistic touch about it, but naturally flowing from one panel to the next, James Sandman & Brian Laframbiose make their stand as the title’s best artists.

Myriad’s format is both a strength and a weakness. Each story has its own appeal, and each ends on notes that makes the reader want to know what will happen next. However, Myriad #1 would have been better served by a common theme running through its various genres. But that’s a tall order, and the lack of it doesn’t distract from what overall, is a pretty good debut of the sort of comic that is so sorely lacking on today’s shelves.

Myriad #1 will be released in May 2005, and bi-monthly afterwards. The company web site is www.approbationcomics.com

-Dexter K. Flowers

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