Elephantmen; a Dark Thought-Provoking kind of Comic

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“A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research, human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our creator, and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale.”

~ Geroge W. Bush State of the Unions Address 2006

“Nature falls under my command now”

~Doctor Kazushi Nikken 2218

The above is the inside flap of the front cover of Image comic’s Elephantmen No. 1. No matter what your political belief, Elephantmen is a comic made to make you think. This is one of several freebee comics I received at BEA, though you can find the first issue (which came out back in 2006) re-printed within the Image Firsts line for just a dollar.

Elephantmen is a dark comic that takes place about 200 years in the future. The plot revolves around hybrid amalgamations of humans and animals created by the rather misanthropic and psychotic Dr Kazushi Nikken, head of the MAPPO Corporation. The Hybrids include several animals native specifically to Africa: Elephants, Camels, Giraffes, Crocodiles, Rhinos, Hippos, Zebras, and Warthogs. The process of how these Hybrids came into existence is the most disturbing part: biologically altered embryos were placed into the wombs of kidnapped African women. The women, of course, all died during childbirth. The Hybrid baby then became the property of the MAPPO Corporation who raised them to be blood-thirsty warriors brainwashed to think of themselves as nothing more than property – denying themselves the concept of free thought.

Elephantmen No. 1 takes place after U.N has found out about the existence of the Elephantmen. After a bloody battle with them, the Elephantmen are liberated and sent into rehabilitation from which they were free to begin their lives anew amongst normal human society. The Elephantmen are intelligent and completely capable of every human aptitude from speech to love. But, predictably, society is greatly divided on the issue of welcoming the Hybrids into the ranks of humans. They are feared and distrusted. But most of all they are haunted by their pasts.

At least Ebony is. This first issue primarily focuses on this half-elephant half-man creature. He is depressed. He has already attempted to kill himself once. He is dark and brooding. But under all of that he is really rather sweet.

Ebony meets a little girl who completely sees the man inside the odd exterior. She pesters him with questions as only a child can do. And though every question she asked prompted painful memories for Ebony, in the end she leaves him a little softer than when she found him.

I have to say, this book was well written. In one issue it brought together the beginnings of an incredibly complicated plot as well as took a short but deep look into one main character. I had no idea what to expect when I opened this comic. I began reading with the immediate thought: “well, this is kind of weird.” But then perhaps the book called me on my own closed-mindedness as it proved itself as layered in its qualities as the Hybrids themselves.  

Upon further research I found this out about Elephantmen:

The Elephantmen series is a spin-off from the series Hip Flask, set in the same universe and expanding on details of various minor characters from that series. Each issue features two stories. The first spotlights a different Elephantman and their lives. The second tells, in several parts, a longer story involving a side adventure of Heironymous “Hip” Flask questing for an African artifact (Wikipedia).

Elephantmen is written by Richard Starkings with art by Moritat. I recommend giving this series a go for those people who enjoy the darker side of science fiction and who might be interested in comics, but capes aren’t your thing. This first issue sincerely was thought provoking and a little bit touching. I never would have even considered checking this out if it hadn’t been handed to me upon high recommendation at BEA. Elephantmen does not fall in my usual plot-type of interest, but I am certainly glad that I tried something new.

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