Apama: The Undiscovered Animal HC Review

Posted October 19, 2015 by Josh McCullough in Comic Books

Written by: Ted Sikora and Milo Miller

Art by: Benito Gallego

Published by: Hero Tomorrow Comics

 Apama Man, as it puts itself, is not a comic that’ll change your life. There is no metaphysical journey that upends the very nature of comics, there is no life changing philosophy that’ll make you go out there and live your life anew, nor a heart wrenching conclusion that’ll leave you feeling different. What is Apama Man then, and why is it worthy of your time?  Because it knows exactly what it wants to be, and what it is is an awesome love letter to 70s comic of yore. If you grew up reading superhero comics as a kid, you’re going to love this. If you didn’t, but adore superhero comics (particularly those in the early Marvel style), then you’re going to love this.

The book itself has some very interesting and creative elements that make it feel refreshing and new despite the style heavily mimicking the past. Our main protagonist Ilyia is a Cleveland born young adult who runs his own ice cream van and always seems down on his luck. He has the typical superhero problems, such as a lack of direction in life and the inability to ask out the girl he admires. Though his subtle ethnic differences and base of operation in Cleveland make him feel fresh and new. His story truly begins when he suffers a terrible fall during a trip to the woods, leading him to discover an ancient scroll detailing the origins of the forgotten animal of the Apama. After spending weeks training, he manages to master the scroll’s instructions and gain the power of the Apama for himself.

The story has a very classic Marvel vibe to it, and it wears its influences on its sleeve. Everything from the art, to the layouts to the internal narration, it all has a very authentic feel to it and the love for these comics bleeds through the pages. What strikes me as most impressive about this, is that the comic has quite a good deal of humour yet never feels like its mocking the comics of yore, it feels like a very respectful tribute rather than a parody. For example, the narration at times does that classic thing of exaggerating events in a mock epic style, such as a stink bomb attack from a few boys being treated as if it’s something from Platoon. It’s a nice bit of humour while remaining true to the style of superhero comics. For people such as myself who eat up this kind of thing, this comic is definitely for you.

apama issue 1 page 4

The over dramatic narration works perfectly for both humor and respect

The art too feels like something ripped straight from the bronze age and captures the essence of the story perfectly. If it weren’t for the art, I don’t think the tone would have been as perfect as it is. While the art sticks to the same style for the most part, there are a few instances where it shakes things up dramatically, including in the history of the Apama, which works to great affect to give an otherworldly feel.  Really my only problem with the art is that some of the designs look a little unappealing, most noticeably Apama himself. The design just looks kind of barren, with the mask looks very unemotional making it hard for the artist to bring across how he feels (something that usually comes across really well when Ilyia is in his human guise). Aside from this however, the art is a great fit for the book, managing to fit the mood and carrying a very authentic charm to it.

There’s also a surprising amount of varied content in the book, both in the story and the extras provided in this collection. In the first three issues alone we get a standard origin story, his first encounter with a villain, The Lawnmower man (just… read the story, it’ll make sense) and even a cosmic horror type story with creatures invading from the moon. On top of the varied plots in the main stories, each issue is packed with sub-plots and character development that put most modern comics to shame. One of the goals of the book was to get away from the decompressed style of modern comics, and this is definitely achieved as each issue manages to both tell a complete story accessible to newcomers as well as devote time to side stories for readers reading every issue. While on paper this is a fantastic idea and works well in this kind of story, the pacing can sometimes get a little frustrating, especially for fans used to more modern comics. The stories themselves are very long, with a lot of text causing it to drag a little in places. I’d advise if you’re reading the collection to take it an issue at a time, as otherwise it can feel a little overwhelming. It definitely reads better issue to issue than it does in a collected format.

apama issue 1 page 19

The 70s superhero vibes are very strong throughout

Speaking of which, the collection does its best to replicate the community vibe of these old comics by even including the letters pages of the original issue run, a very simple touch that does wonders for creating an authentic vibe. There are also a ton of extras in the book including sections of the creators talking about the book (which has a truly fascinating origin story, spinning out of a indie movie Heroes Tomorrow) as well as a whole bunch of different covers and other artistic pieces. It really fleshes out the collection, with extras that make the book feel worth its price tag. It is a pricey collection at $34.99 for only five issues, but when you break down how long the issues actually are and the amount of extras in the collection, it definitely feels worth the price.

Overall, Apama: The Undiscovered Animal will not be for everyone, it’s pacing is quite slow and the style of old fashioned comics is something that will surely turn many people off. For those of you who love retro style superhero comics though, there’s really nothing better for you. Apama is a loving tribute to comics or yore that treats the silly and surreal with a great deal of respect that brings out all it’s best qualities. If this sounds like the sort of thing you’d enjoy, then it most likely is, and you should definitely check it out.

About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.