THE MIGHTY ZODIAC #1
Written by J. Torres
Art by Corin Howell, Maarta Laiho
Published by Oni Press
Release Date: April 6, 2016
Writer J. Torres introduces readers to the members of the Mighty Zodiac through the very plot device driving the story. With the passing of the Blue Dragon, the stars have fallen from the eastern sky. Six stars, to be exact, which matches the number of issues this series is slated to produce.
The fallen stars brings about the descent of the Moon Rabbit Army, and Master Long, a dragon in his own right, sends message out to the Mighty Zodiac to retrieve the stars before the rabbits do. To accomplish this, Master Long summons Hess, the snake, to send for the other members of the Zodiac. In a roundabout way, we then meet the team, such as they are. Scattered throughout the story, but clustered in groups of two or four, Torres and artist Corin Howell introduce readers to: Tan, the rooster; Mar, the sheep; Yaya, the monkey; Ko, the cat; Kane, the dog; Mal, the horse; Rang, the rat; Ho, the tiger; Tok, the ox; and Buta, the boar.
The couplings and groups of Zodiac members showcases slivers of personality and interaction that will certainly be expanded upon, but from first blush, Mar is a much different character than Yaya, who shares panels with Mar and receives consolation from the sheep of The Mighty Zodiac #1. Ho, who is the most visibly angry of the group, carries his temper quite differently than Kane or Tan. The various personalities are a hallmark of Torres’ writing, and the writer should be commended for quickly and definitively establishing each character’s voice and essence.
I enjoyed Corin Howell’s work on Bat-Mite, and her style is very well-suited for The Mighty Zodiac. I had not considered the combination of Howell and anthropomorphic characters too deeply, but the two are as natural a fit as peanut butter and chocolate. Howell’s work on Bat-Mite feeds well into this title, but she pushes beyond simply drawing characters and draws the world of The Mighty Zodiac. At one point, the Moon Rabbit Army is juxtaposed with “mundane” rabbits, and Howell makes the differences quite clear, while emphasizing the commonalities between the two types of bunny. Her characters, like the written personas, all have different physical presences, drawing upon their real-world counterparts for posture and gesture.
Colorist Maarta Laiho makes some great choices in shading this issue. The coloring cuts are well-chosen and the hues are vivid and smart. The bright palette is sure to draw readers in and keep their attention, although coloring needn’t carry that load alone, thanks to solid work from Torres and Howell.
I’ve been a fan of animals in my comics since. . .well, forever. Captain Carrot really converted me to the cause. While not direct descendants, the animals in The Mighty Zodiac are fun, not for fun sake, but fun in their analogous roles. The diversity of animal species allows for more expression through the drawings, and Torres imbues each with vivaciousness that plays up Howell’s buoyant style. I read it once, slept on it, and came back to it again this morning.
My only gripe is that the comic ended too soon. The story moves at such a nice clip, and the wide swath of introductions chews up pages unnoticeably, but enjoyably. I haven’t gotten deep enough to figure out a favorite character yet, but I don’t think Torres, Howell, and Laiho want us to yet. This is a journey with a whole new set of characters, and I find myself wanting more of this journey now. More. More. More.
As of this writing, I’m not sure what the plans are for The Mighty Zodiac, but given what I’ve just read here, and the itch that it scratched oh so perfectly, I’m looking forward to the next five issues for sure, and hopefully more stories beyond that. The time seems right for a property like this to find an audience waiting for it. Torres, Howell, and Laiho deliver and then promise even more to come.
The Verdict: 10/10