Out of the Vault – Achilles Storm #1

I tried to do things right this week: got an early start reading the book I thought I would cover, Achilles Storm No. 1, published by Aja Blu Comix in 1990. But then I read it, and it just sucked.

So I tried another potential on the schedule, the Marvel miniseries The Adventures of Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. Only it was going to prove really hard to scan, because the books are square-bound. Tried Chuk the Barbarian and Girl: The Rule of Darkness, but they both also sucked in their various ways.

Finally, this morning I gave up and circled back to Achilles Storm. Urgh…

I have no idea why I even bought this. Maybe it was just the interesting Mark Beachum cover. Because it looked as though Mark Beachum might be following the Bill Sienkiewicz trajectory.

Bill Sienkiewicz had first come to prominence at Marvel drawing Moon Knight, and his work was mainly remarkable for the degree to which he ripped off Neal Adams. He really slavishly imitated the Adams style, but without the grace and looseness to the figures that marked Adams at his best. Then in 1984, he astounded everyone when he began illustrating The New Mutants, not in the Adams style, but in a new style which combined Adams with Ralph Steadman and animation influences to create an expressionistic style all his own.

Beachum similarly had started out as an Adams imitator, not as a rip-off, but as a member of Neal Adams team producing Continuity Comics, in which the Adams look was the house style. Beachum pencilled Samuree, for instance, in a very close approximation of the Adams style (you can see samples and read about Samuree here).

But looking at the cover of Achilles Storm, it was obviously closer to Sienkiewicz’s new style than to that of Adams. So I guess I figured I might be seeing the start of something big here. Sienkiewicz had gone from imitating Adams to producing incredible original work. Beachum had gone from imitating Adams to imitating Sienkiewicz. When he found his own style, he might be simply amazing. And I might be able to see it happen in the pages of Achilles Storm!

Alas, I did not. In fact, the lead story doesn’t even feature Beachum’s work at all. The lead story, “Faded Dreams,” was written and drawn by Sandra Chang, while the back-up feature, “Slave 2 the Rhythm” featuring Razmataz, was written and drawn by Beachum.

I had never heard of Chang before, but I’m guessing this might be her picture on the inside front cover. And I have absolutely no basis for this statement whatsoever, but I get the feeling Sandra Chang was Beachum’s girlfriend, and that they formed Aja Blu Comix, the company that published Achilles Storm #1, to publish comics together.  How romantic.

If only their comics were any good…

The lead story starts out with your typical superhero set-up: dark night, strange costumed figure on a rooftop. Only instead of a bat cowl and cape, or a red suit with devil horns, he has tiger stripes, weird armor on just one shoulder, superfluous spikes everywhere, and a shampoo horn in his hair that swoops it off to one side.

He saves a woman from a mugger to the lilting rhythms of the narration…

Here you can see the biggest problem with the story, which is not necessarily the cardboard characters or the stiffly contorted figures. It’s the incoherent storytelling, both verbally and visually. The narration is stilted and pretentious, and a little punctuation would make the flow easier to understand. Likewise, the lack of panel border makes it hard to distinguish where the second panel at the top ends and the third begins, which makes it confusing.

I still can’t tell if the second row is supposed to be a single panel–mugger turns away, gloating, as Achilles Storm (maybe that’s his name–I’m guessing because he is never named in the story) drops to the ground behind him–or two–Storm drops to the ground, and then mugger turns to face him, the woman forgotten behind him. It looks like one, except that in the next panel, Storm is in front of him, sort of, in which case the two panel scenario might fit better.

Storm runs away as the cops arrive, and we segue to a woman dancing, where we get our first cameltoe of the issue. It is far from the last.

The drawing here is better, apparently because it was drawn from photos of a live model. And it shows that there is at least some talent on display here.  Unfortunately, the story just gets worse. Dancer Lady (who at some point is identified as Jossyan–not an easy name to remember) narrates in pretentious fashion about her need to fulfill her creative urges and how much more alive it makes her than normal people–the standard literary masturbation of the wanna-be artist.

Meanwhile, she’s so self-absorbed that she doesn’t notice that the cops have surrounded her apartment building because of a hostage drama playing out one floor above. A guy is holding his girlfriend or someone at gunpoint. Storm busts in and beats the guy up while the ESL narrator talks about the audience “rolling in the seats.” The police burst in, so Storm leaps out hte window, swinging on the curtain and dropping into Dancer Lady’s apartment, then running out without a word.

And because Dancer Lady is an artist around whom the entire world revolves,  the story in the newspaper the next day carries the headline, “MYSTERIOUS HERO JUMPS INTO BEAUTY’S APT.” Her friend suggests they go to a fancy gallery to cash in on her celebrity, because everybody recognizes the lady whose picture accompanied a quarter-page story in the back of the City Section.

There’s more confusing layout and pretentious narration about how much normal people sicken her before she discovers statues by an artist named Li Hai, who apparently used a murdered friend of hers as a model. Dancer Lady asks to meet Li Hai, but is told he is very reclusive and will see no one. But then she mentions they have a mutual acquaintance, so the museum curator gives her Li Hai’s home address. That was easy; the world really does revolve around her.

Meanwhile, Storm is tracking down the dealer who sold crack to Hostage Guy and decides at the last second not to rape the dude’s girlfriend he’s pressing for information. Noble of him.  Oh, and Li Hai has a dog. To Be Continued…

Okay, that was awful, but it wasn’t the reason I bought the book anyway. Time to read the back-up feature and see if Mark Beachum might be developing his talent in new and exciting ways. How awesome is this going to be?

Oh fuck. The story is nine pages of crude humor and graphic violence, with extra bonus cameltoe and Prince-inspired spellings.

Ronald Trunk Millionaire – a sleazy whiz in the corporate biz. A man with a mission 2 make as much profit as possible, trading in as many lives as it takes and right now he’s seeing dollar $igns on Razz’s ass. All this cause he suffers from “Chronic Little Dick Syndrome!!”

Ronald Trunk leaves vowing revenge, while Razz goes home and masturbates in the shower before being confronted by a woman in leather fetish gear with a ball-gag. Cliffhanger!

Not for me. I’m out, thanks.

Aja Blu managed to put out 4 issues over the course of the next year before folding, and then, incredibly, Achilles Storm returned in 1997, published by Brainstorm Comics. Once again, they published 4 issues (although who knows if they weren’t simply the same previous four issues repurposed to catch the big Bad Babe trend of the times).

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One Response to Out of the Vault – Achilles Storm #1

  1. Sargon says:

    I remember Samuree, it was like 32 pages of cameltoe in your face every issue. I had a friend who collected it who in retrospect was probably a lesbian.

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