Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hip Flask: Ouroborous

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Ladrönn and Juan Vlasco

Richard Starkings Hip Flask comic has had a pretty complicated publishing history.  The first issue, Unnatural Selection, was published in 2002.  The second issue, Elephantmen, came out a year later.  Mystery City, the book that introduced me to Hip Flask, and which starts the story continued in this comic, came out in July of 2005.  Since then, Starkings started the Elephantmen comic, a prequel series featuring the same characters, of which 44 issues (plus a zero issue), and a couple of mini-series or specials, have been published since 2006.

Needless to say, picking up this comic and reading it was confusing as hell, seeing as Starking didn't include any sort of recap page to help bring readers up to speed.  I read Mystery City, but it's been seven years, so I think I can be forgiven for having no clue what was happening.

Basically, Hip Flask and his partner Vanity Case, are teleported to a secret space station, where they learn that Obadiah Horn, the gangster and Hip's rival, is about to use a time machine to rescue his wife Sahara from certain death.  The time cops charge Hip with stopping this, knowing full well that he would never allow Sahara to die.

This leads to a story that becomes ever more confusing, as on top of this story taking place a few years past the story that we are used to reading, we now have to deal with all sorts of time paradox issues that reference a comic that came out seven years ago.  I suppose one day, when the Elephantmen series has caught up to the Hip Flask timeline, and they've all been completed, it will be possible to read everything in order from start to finish, and perhaps then it will all make sense.

I also worry that it will be a little too self-referential though, as I got annoyed with the scene where Hip, Vanity, and Horn all reference events from Elephantmen for no reason other than to help establish the timing of things.  Starkings has never had a very monogamous relationship with linear storytelling, but I found this book a little too confusing, and a bit frustrating, as this shows us that characters like the Silencer are going to be sticking around for a good long time (although, the lack of Ebony Hide in this book did worry me a little).

As is always the case, Ladrönn's art is lovely, but is not detailed to such a degree that I can understand why it's taken so many years for this comic to be produced.  The end of the book states that the conclusion of this story will be published in a year.  I'll definitely be getting it, but I hope that some ten or twelve issues of Elephantmen come out between now and then.

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