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‘Midas Flesh’ Vol. 1 is a space fable with dark, funny edges

‘Midas Flesh’ Vol. 1 is a space fable with dark, funny edges

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Midas Flesh #1-4 (2014)
Written by Ryan North
Art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb
Published by BOOM! Studios

Midas Flesh is a high concept science fiction saga with down-to-earth protagonists from the creative brain of writer Ryan North (Dinosaur ComicsUnbeatable Squirrel Girl) and frequent artistic collaborators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (Adventure Time). The story is about the house shaped ship Prospect and its three freedom fighters: the human scientist Fatima, the kindly dinosaur scientist Cooper, and their straight shooting, yet intelligent leader Joey as they discover a planet completely made of gold, which supposedly has some kind of weapon that can take out the evil Federation. Midas Flesh #1 reveals this doomsday weapon to be the finger of the not so mythical King Midas, whose golden touch ended up ending life on Earth as we know because the gold particles transmuted through the air.

From this premise, Midas Flesh is equal parts silly and dark. Ryan North is a dialogue heavy writer, but he usually puts in a joke or two during scenes that lesser writers would reserve solely for exposition or technobabble. A one-liner comes readers’ way any second, like when Cooper smugly channels his inner Wolverine by telling Fatima, “You’re the best at what you do, and what you do is slice fingers off corpses.”MidasFlesh_02_rev_Page_6 while she extracts the “Midas flesh” from Earth. These lighter moments give the interactions between the crew of Prospect a more naturalistic feel as they’re truly friends even if they start to disagree as the plot amps up and the Federation ships pursuing them get closer.

Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb have a simple, yet vivid art style in Midas Flesh starting with the designs of the main characters. Fatima is an energetic young woman with a passion for science and doing the right thing so Paroline and Lamb portray with eager expressions as she freaks out over the gold-covered Earth being a planet frozen in time. Joey’s expressions are more subtle and shifty to go with her drier sense of humor and shady investments while Cooper is the most adorable scientist/astronaut dino you’ve ever seen. However, Paroline and Lamb use this cuteness for some big emotions in  film strip style two page spread which features Cooper watching his wife and friends getting killed before his eyes as his glasses keep cracking.

This scene found in Midas Flesh #2 is an exhibition of Paroline and Lamb’s skills as colorists with an all-encompassing sea of grey overwhelming the bright bodies of the dinosaurs and the red skies of their peaceful planet. Another height of their coloring (and storytelling) skill is whenever something changes to gold. Paroline and Lamb dig deep into what could’ve be plain yellow and turn into something shiny, yet faded and filled with tragic notes that complement their nine panel grid montages of the Earth gradually turning to gold. (The panel with the cute, blue songbird being transmuted in mid-air is unnecessary.)

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Midas Flesh works well as a slightly off-kilter science fiction narrative because it fuses Star Wars and Star Trek style sci-fi in a way that J.J. Abrams wishes he could’ve done in his Star Trek films. (It doesn’t hurt that there are quite a few overt Trek references in Midas Flesh in both ship designs and clothing.) There are the hair-breadth escapes, well-choreographed dog fights, and band of scrappy anti-authoritarian rebels of Star Wars along with the more complex science and ethical debates of Star Trek. And North, Paroline, and Lamb complete the nerdy trifecta with the most complex dinosaur character since Yoshi. (Maybe disregard everything after “character”.)

Through the BOOM! Box imprint, writer Ryan North and artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb truly get to spread their creative wings in a deeply personal space opera constructed from probably the most ridiculous of the Greek myths found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. (Pygmalion is a very close second.) The ideas and concepts created in Midas Flesh are simultaneously funny and innovative (Someone needs to start experimenting with stasis fields.), but the story is driven by the bond and erosion of the bond between the characters along with some cool space battles. A couple of North’s jokes don’t land, but Midas Flesh does what all good science fiction should do: engage your imagination, stimulate your mind, and keep you on the edge of your seat. (The first volume ends on a flashy cliffhanger.)

[wpchatai]