Review: Chakan the Forever Man #1
The other day I was at the comic store and was asked by another patron what I’m currently reading. I told him that I’ve been loving Rachel Rising (review coming VERY soon) and been enjoying the mindless fun of the current Duke Nukem Glorious Bastard comics. After describing what Rachel Rising was, he recommended some Marvel titles to me, to which I replied that I simply was not interested.
It’s not that I hate Marvel comics, on the contrary I’m a HUGE Punisher and Nightcrawler (is he still dead?) fan. My problem with Marvel is its fragmented storytelling, which is nothing new. I’m a firm believer in keeping it simple, and gradually developing the story towards some goal. Granted, that kind of focused story-telling is nearly impossible in the vast Marvel universe, and it’s an issue the industry has attempted to tackle through numerous reboots and spinoffs that have just resulted in more consumer confusion.
Also, I have a strong distaste for the “over produced” look of many current comics. I’m not saying they’re “ugly,” but when I see some of these current-gen comics with all sorts of fancy computer-generated colors and shapes, it produces a kind of visual over-saturation. In other words, if everything is made to look so incredibly eye-popping, nothing really sticks out, which culminates in a rather bland visual experience. The simplest remedy to this is rather old-school: carefully detailed black and white art.
This is a large part of the reason why I hold Chakan the Forever Man in such high regard.
The storytelling is simple on the surface, and gradually introduces the reader to its deep mythology through the tests and trials of its main protagonist, Chakan. Also the black and white art of the graphic novel succeeds in capturing the imagination of the reader through the intricate and yet consistent designs of the characters, scenery, and even the panels.
So let’s get to it, the review I promised so many weeks ago: Chakan the Forever Man #1.
If you have played Chakan on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive or GameGear (or just read my review) then you will already be familiar with the origin story. As described in the comic, Chakan was the single greatest alchemist, swordsman, and occultist of his time. His legend grew among the other nobility, and as it did so did their fear. They all trembled at his boast that not even Death itself could best him in battle. In desperation, with the aid of their best magicians, they summoned Death to answer Chakan’s challenge.
Here the original story of the comic is slightly different the game. In the game, Death actively answered Chakan’s challenge, but in the comic Death had to be summoned by Chakan’s enemies. Honestly, I prefer the comic’s version. In this case the reader has to wonder, “Why didn’t Death just actively appear to Chakan? Why did it have to be summoned?” It would appear that Death was biding its time and waiting for Chakan to fall to old age, and would then take him on its own terms instead of the human’s. Also, one can interpret this series of events as Death realizing Chakan’s power, and cowardly not wanting to face him head-on.
Anyway, after being pulled to Earth by his enemies, Death meets Chakan in battle.
As in the game, Death is defeated by Chakan, and as per the agreement Death gives Chakan his wish, eternal life. However, it is a life that is from Death, and as with anything given from Death, there is a dark price to be paid. The diabolical side effect to the reward is that Chakan will live for an eternity with all the misery and pain of Death – every time someone dies anywhere in the universe,he will feel the physical, mental, and emotional pain attached to that individual’s passing.
Realizing how awful it is to live eternally through death, he begs for release from the curse. Death responds that Chakan can be free of eternal life only when he has slain every single supernatural evil that has escaped its clutches. In other words, in a cruel ironic twist of fate, Chakan’s existence is now devoted towards destroying that which he was when he was human: incredibly powerful mortals that use diabolical means to act in place of Death.
The graphic novel continues with Chakan finally nearing his goal with his last targets in sight – a mysterious cult and their demon lord. After freeing an imprisoned woman and child, and feeling a few moments of joy, he dispatches both the cult and the demon.
As with the game, Death swerves Chakan. There’s no happy ending for our hero, just the terrible realization that he cannot die in peace yet. He has only succeeded in exterminating all of the supernatural evils on EARTH. All of his pain and anguish to this point was just a small fragment of sand in the hourglass of the existence of Chakan the Forever Man.
And so the adventures of Chakan continue.
As you can see from the examples above, the amount of detail placed in each panel is astounding. Robert Kraus is truly dedicated to this character and it shows in the care taken to shade and define each and every part of the character’s clothing. With a comic this dark (aesthetically and visually… although in tone as well) it might be tempting for the artist to take a few shortcuts via conveniently placed shadows to obscure the features that are too time-consuming to fully detail. Fortunately this is not the case here, as every panel boasts portrait-like quality.
Many should find Chakan’s dark overtones, brooding aesthetics, and old-school artwork a breath of fresh air from the “ordinary” brightly-colored bubble-gum super hero titles that dominate shelves. If you are interested in picking this up, you can try asking for it at your local store (although all I got for my trouble was looks of confusion), but I recommend going right to the source. www.rakgraphics.com.
If so inclined, I recommend the “Graphic Novel Grab Bag” which gives you six titles (around a $30 value) for twenty bucks. This includes two Chakan graphic novels (#1 and Nightmare’s Thrall), two graphic novels explaining the background of Chakan and other RAK characters, The Executioner and Platinum #1. The Executioner, a tale about an executioner’s quest for redemption, is surprisingly good. The story is very simple yet profound, and the black and white artwork is done with as much care as it is for the Chakan titles. I may review it someday… Platinum #1 on the other hand… well, I WILL be reviewing that. In short, take everything I said that makes Chakan so good, toss all of it into the pits of Hell, replace it all with craptastic “3D” art, plenty of typos, horrible dialogue and laughably thin story, and what you have is Platinum #1. However, even with this dud, the grab-bag is still a terrific value and a great starting place for new readers.
If you’re not afraid yet, then how about this:
I actually LIKE the infamous Warrior comics, and I despise Platinum.
– Furry Senpai Mikekun