White Picket Fences #1-3 (Ape Entertainment)

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wpf-header.jpgIn idyllic 1950s America, what if the Red Scare wasn't Ruskies, but Martians? That's the twist behind this new miniseries from Ape Entertainment.

 

 

32 pages each FC; $3.50 each

(W: Matt Anderson & Eric Hutchins; A: Micah Farritor)

 

The cover to Whtie Picket Fences #1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.In an alternate universe version of 1950s America, where the red threat comes not from the USSR, but from Mars (the red planet ... get it?), 11-year-old Charlie Hobson stumbles upon a hidden cache of Martian weaponry left over from the Venusian invasion and inadvertently triggers an interplanetary cold war. That's the premise of Ape Entertainment's White Picket Fences; compelling, no?

 

Too bad then, that, despite a strong foundation, the execution of Anderson and Hutchins' story leaves a bit to be desired. Nearly every character is a cliché, from the pipe-smoking paterfamilias of the Hobson family, to the annoying and nosy next door neighbor, to Charlie himself, who is a sort of pastiche of Hogarth (the boy from The Iron Giant for those of you who aren't Brad Bird aficionados) and Beaver (the boy from Leave it to Beaver for those of you who are woefully uninformed). There is, as expected, a meddling general whose past underhanded dealings with the Martians helped put everyone else in the path of destruction, and a friendly soda jerk who spouts uplifting maxims when Charlie and his pals hit an obstacle.

 

The cover to WPF #2. No larger version, sorry.I can understand how a story attempting to emulate a '50s feel might turn to well-worn territory; after all, few archetypes are as readily identified with the decade as the perfect Cleaver family. I just wish the writers would have injected a bit more originality into the series. There are parts of the story that are quite clever and original, and it's a shame that they are so few and far-between. I would have like to have seen more of the Martians, especially. The scene in which the Martians are first revealed has some funny bits involving a universal translating machine interpreting the vulgarities of the Martian ambassador to Earth. In a sort of Yoda-like broken English, the ambassador demands that the general "defecate not upon our discourse" and "attempt with us to procreate not." Regrettably, this scene is one of the few gems in an otherwise unpolished effort.

 

Comics are predominantly a visual medium, so art can go a long way toward redemption, of course. Unfortunately, Farritor's pencils are only serviceable. Technology, architecture, inanimate objects and so forth he handles well, but his people are a little too angular for my tastes. His faces are full of jagged lines and his profiles are boxy. Any page that doesn't have people on it works well, but those pages are in the extreme minority. I will say that the design of the Martians was perfect. Their reflective, globed helmets were appropriately high-tech looking while maintaining an alien aura, and their un-helmeted visages were inventive and creepy, like some sort of cross between an insect and a tree.

 

Overall, I found White Picket Fences enjoyable for what it is. I'm glad to see indie comics publishing this sort of thing, if for no other reason than to know that aspiring writers and artists have an outlet. Hopefully, this creative team will learn from some of their mistakes and concentrate on the enjoyable moments for next time. | Jared Vandergriff

Check out a 10-page preview and more at the White Picket Fences minisite!

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