Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin and Tula Lotay
One thing that I love is the way in which creator-owned books allow their creators to explore whatever tangents they wish to through their story. I doubt anyone who started reading Cerebus at its inception would have ever expected Oscar Wilde to show up in it (to pick one of the more extreme examples), and yet when Dave Sim felt like writing about Oscar Wilde, there he was.
Similarly, this issue of Elephantmen, which we were all reminded back in December is a prequel series to Richard Starkings's Hip Flask series, which comes out once or twice a decade, has a retelling of the story of the birth and early life of Siddhartha, who became the Gautama Buddha. What makes that even stranger is that this story is being told by an Elephantman (a genetically-engineered man/animal hybrid soldier) during his service as a medic to another Elephantman who has been injured. In typical Starkings fashion, this scene is being recounted by that same injured soldier, Ebony Hide, to his doctor while being treated in the present (really the far future, but the story-present) for another recent injury inflicted by the same person who injured him in the flashback. Got it? Good, because that's only one of a number of things that happen in this issue.
Starkings's story gets ever denser, but also increasingly effective in the way in which he has developed and strengthened his characters. Individual issues, and really even arcs, mean little to Starkings, who has this very complex story mapped out in his head, and has decided to tell it in his own fashion, and at his own pace. This issue also has Hip Flask and Miki get into a big argument over his having caught her kissing another man after he stood her up. We also see Ebony make a fool of himself outside of a Hooters (further proof that the future isn't going to be all that bright?), and we learn who the Silencer's next target is.
This is always a lovely book to look through, as Axel Medellin continues to impress. Tula Lotay provides the Siddhartha pages, and they are gorgeous. At first I thought the pages were drawn by Marian Churchland; I need to check out more of Lotay's work.