Review: “LionMan” (POW! Comics)
Lions and hyenas and public schools, Oh my!
Written and illustrated by Rick Hannah, LionMan is a 50-page fantasy graphic novel with a supernatural hero that feels like a blend of Etrigan the Demon and Black Panther… and a bit of Shazam, too… at what point does the “Blank meets blank” go too far? (Probably when you have to ask, eh?)*
In any case, the story of LionMan book one is split between two primary characters, the first being Skyler, the young teen hero of the story who is dealing with the challenges of going urban public schools, Sir Michael Baker, an older gentleman who acts as the wise agent of plot exposition. Skyler and his mother have been trying unsuccessfully to get him into a private school. In the meantime, Skyler is confronted with a neighborhood delinquent named Dwan, who acts as the villain of this first book. This all leads to a violent confrontation late in the book, where Skyler comes upon a special medallion that gives its wearer unique powers when activated by blood. This is all part of an ancient struggle between the the Amadlozi (or “ancestors”) and an evil group known only as the Hyena Cult.
Exposition segments tend to go longer than necessary, and are not always paneled out in an interesting way. There’s definitely some dialogue that could have been tightened up, particularly in the Sir Michael’s portions of the story. Fortunately, the action sequence at the end of the issue was really engaging, and was a great payoff to some of the interpersonal drama earlier in the book.
Hannah’s artwork has some high points, but there are also a few places where it goes off the rails. Sometimes the perspective is significantly off, or the line weights are too heavy, and much like the story, the art is at its best when there is something action-oriented going on. The hero’s design is very much that of a “lion man”, with an oversized head, dreadlocked mane, and tassels on his arms and legs that bulk up and add flair to his appendages. His face also takes on the features of a lion, including feline eyes and the broader nose. It’s not so extreme that I’d call him a Werelion, but Skyler definitely goes through a full body transformation when possessed with the power of LionMan. This can definitely look cool sometimes, but not always. It definitely benefits from some shadows, because when it is shown in full, brightly-lit view, it can look a bit silly.
While this 50-pager could probably have been trimmed down to a leaner, meaner 42-48 page book, LionMan issue 1 had an engaging climax and showed a lot of promise as the first installment of a larger series. You can get a digital version of LionMan issue one on Comixology for $2.99, and a physical print-on-demand copy on IndyPlanet for $6.99 (where you can also get a digital version).
*Disclosure: A copy of LionMan Issue 1 was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review
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