Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.
Professor Elemental Issue Two by Chris Mole, Paul Alborough and various – 2013
Have you seen this ape? Missing since last Tuesday one Ape mostly orange haired with hat, ill-fitting suit and ill-mannered disposition. Answers to the name Geoffrey, particularly when shouted at a hysterical pitch and high volume.
Way back when I reviewed issue one I noted that a lot of the original weaknesses were resolved in the following volume. Indeed, issue #2 is a much more robust book, with a full spine suggesting it has the ambitions of a full blown graphic novel. Professor Elemental Issue Two for all intents and purposes feels more like the real start to the series, with issue one being little more than a taster.
But how does this new batch of stories measure up? The new crop of stories are an improvement upon those in the first issue, all feeling stronger and more confident in what made them great. Large Animal Legislation and Steampunk Superheroes both take advantage of the Steampunk genre trappings to tell familiar stories through the batty lens of the Professor's character, the artwork itself is lovely and each story has a charm of its own. Especially Metadimentional Voyage, where each dimension is depicted by a different artist.
The variety on display is also very imaginative. Last Night I Dreamt I went to Manderly Again, easily the highlight of the book, is pretty much a straight up horror story, and genuinely creepy at that. Belvedere Bully and Young Geoffrey a both children's book-esque stories that tell softer tales about the character's respective childhoods.
Really, if one kind of story doesn't work for you then you're right on to another that probably will, and there are enough stories in the book that you won't feel short changed. That being said, the order the stories are placed isn't structured to play to their strengths, Tempestuous Teapot and Large Animal Legislation, both covering very similar themes, are positioned back to back, giving the reader a sense of deja-vu.
Similarly Last Night I Dreamt I went to Manderly Again is immediately followed by The Case of Aunt Fanny's Horn, another story with creepy horror elements. These two stories could have done with being separated by a lighter hearted one. The last two stories also both end on cliffhangers. It may be a minor quibble, but some many similar stories being clumped together can give an unfair impression of a lack of originality.
My main complaint from issue one, that the stories don't draw enough from the character's chap-hop roots, is also repeated here. While there are nods to various songs like Fighting Trousers, the book again feels more interested in Professor Elemental the character, over Professor Elemental the musician.
This is fine, but Elemental the character only has a limited shelf-life against the many other steampunk comedies on the shelves, while Elemental the musician is something the world of comics doesn't have anywhere else. Capitalising upon the chap-hop connection seems like a wise direction to take, but the comic itself seems resistant to go beyond steampunk-comedy trappings.
Even so, Professor Elemental Issue Two is still a good time with great artwork and fun stories. You could do worse for picking up a small-press anthology.
Jack Harvey 2017. Professor Elemental (c) Paul Alborough. Images used under Fair Use.