These Drums left me with a little bit of a headache
Credits & Solicit Info:
Story EL TORRES
Art ABE HERNANDO & KWAICHANG KRANEO
Cover RAUL ALLEN
32 PAGES / FC
"LET THE BATÁA SPEAK"
In our world there exists an ancient religion with many names and many disguises: Candomble, Palo Mayombe, Santeria... Voodoo. FBI agent Martin Irons is sent to investigate the sudden deaths of an entire gathering of followers at a ceremony, an assignment horrible enough before one of the mangled corpses rises and leads him on a sinister path. A new horror story with possesions, santeros, zombies... all set to the thunderous boom of drums!
My brain has been drummed on by writer El Torres and artists Abe Hernando and Kwaichun Kraneo. For those of you not in the know, Drums is a new horror series published by Image comics centering around an FBI investigation into a mass death by what appears to be cultists. It isn't long before corpses start shuffling and the supernatural starts to hamper the investigation of protagonist Martin Irons, sending him on an investigation through the darker side of Santeria.
Drums' first issue has some problems, but sets up an interesting premise as "destiny" and "wonders" are promised by a corpse with its intestines hanging out of its torso. The problems begin early with El Torres stuffing his panels full of stilted dialogue and not letting the art speak for itself. There are pages where balloons take of half of the space and a lot of the words seem extraneous. I understand that El Torres is setting up his comic, and that his theme might be one that some aren't familiar with, but I still think that a decompressed delivery of the information would make for a more fulfilling read. Also, El Torres struggles with delivering dialogue that sounds authentic, giving some scenes the taste of a cheap soap opera, or overly dramatic B-movie. His overly technical explanations of death, and medical facts, while informative, causes pages to drag on, halting the progress of the story. In one scene, Irons and cultural anthropologist Michelle Hernandez visit a Santera (a Santerian priestess), which could be interesting but her dialogue is overly packed with phrases used by the religion that confuse the reader instead of drawing them further into the story. Finally, the cliffhanger ending, while horrible enough, doesn't really tease what will happen next in a way that causes me to be interested. Dead people walking are cool, but how do they affect what is happening to Irons? What El Torres does deliver is an interesting premise that I haven't seen explored between the pages of a comics since Valiant Comics' Shadowman series. Santeria and it's surrounding mythology are rife with possibilities for psychological horror, but I found myself wanting more horror and less explanation.
The artwork on the book is a great effort from Hernando and Kraneo, whose solid storytelling skills make the book easy to follow. For those of you who are fans of clean superhero lines, Hernando and Kraneo offer the complete opposite (so much so that someone in my local comic shop snorted at the art and threw down the book). A very dark and sketchy line dominates the panels with a no-nonsense approach to panel layout and design. One problem I do have is that the characters seem a little stiff, but I'm not sure if that characterization lies in the fault of the script or the art. I think perhaps the blame lies with both parties, but tend towards blaming the script.
Of all the titles Image has published lately, Drums is definitely one of the lower quality ones. It doesn't lack large ideas, but does lack a flawless execution of those ideas. With a stiff script and somewhat lackluster art, Drums didn't hypnotize me into dancing along with it's beat, but left me with a little headache from a lack of rhythm.
Review by: Martin John