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Review: Drums #1

Image Comic's foray into blending voodoo mysticism with a hard-boiled cop show doesn't quite reach its potential in its first outing.

Drums #1

I’m always interested in how comic books go from idea to publication. With the thousands upon thousands of stories out there, who decides what’s good enough to become an actual book? Take Drums, a new series from Image Comics that seems like it would be a natural for the “no” pile. Not because it’s unreadable but because there’s nothing new here that would goose a reader into picking it up. Drums is one rehashed idea after the other. Even the way the story is structured mimics that of any number of horror-meets-cop stories. Writer El Torres clearly has passion about the story however, at least in this first issue, it translates into flat dialog and a tedious story line.

See if any of this sounds familiar. Drums opens with a voodoo style ritual filled with “drums” and movement and prayers of help and protection. Suddenly there is the voice of a demon (you can tell this from the orange font color) and the scene goes black. Cue a hard-boiled no nonsense FBI Agent called to the ritual site, which is now a murder scene, during a dark and stormy evening. This detective is such a badass his partner, who is affable and sweet and has a family (as opposed to the loner hard-boiled agent), refers to him as Robocop. When the two get to the murder scene one of the local deputies warns the hard-boiled agent that in his many years on the force, he’s never seen anything like this.

The scene is one of mass murder, with thirty or so bodies all lying dead on top of each other. Wait though, something isn’t right. The hard-boiled agent notices little details that don’t add up. His partner, in a goofy way, tells him he’s imagining things and it’s just a bunch of kooks. Cut to the coroner scene where all the normal explanations for the mass deaths are proven wrong by the coroner, who complains that he works too hard.

Alone with the corpses, the hard-boiled cop watches in horror as one of them gets up and issues a warning about a coming ultimate doom and the agent’s part in it. From there the story introduces the beautiful anthropologist who clues the agent into the religious meanings behind the ritual happening when these people died. We’re even taken to an old overweight lady who is a local legend in these arts. She sees something and it scares her so she asks the agent to leave but is then killed by the coming demon.

See what I’m saying? All of this is interesting idea-wise but it’s laid out like a bad SyFy movie. The characters are all neat and clean cuts of pop culture stereotypes and even the dialog rings of hollow imitation. My assumption is that something as pedestrian as Drums was green-lit by Image because El Torres is going to take it into all kinds of weird and interesting directions. If that’s so, why try to hook readers into it with this level of mediocrity?

The art would be passable to me if it hadn’t been credited to two people. Abe Hernando and Kwaichang Kraneo are both listed as artists and if two people put Drums together, then the work is incredibly dull. There are some nice touches, some well done shading and shadows, but overall the panels just sit there on the page. The entire idea of comic book art is to bring a three dimensional feel to a two dimensional medium. Kraneo and Hernando fail to do that, especially with their human faces, which look more like drawn mannequin heads than human beings that can react. Drums could go on to be a signature book for Image, but for now issue #1 is more a quick trip down straight-to-DVD horror movie lane.