DISTRICT 14: SEASON 1 (Humanoids, 2012)
Collects Cite 14 Nos. 1-12 (originally published in France by Les Humanoides Associes, cover dates April, 2007- April, 2008)
Writer: Pierre Gabus (with translations by Natacha Ruck and Ken Grobe)
Artist: Romuald Reutimann
At first glance this seems like it is nothing more than an anthropomorphic, overly nostalgic view of early 20th century New York City. Upon closer inspection, it is apparent that there are humans and space aliens thrown in the mix, with the animals not being metaphorical at all, but simply humanoid animal characters. Well, except for the judge who was an owl. That one was pretty obvious. I also noticed how, as an American, that I immediately assumed that the immigration center that Michael Elizondo was being processed through was Ellis Island in New York. The World War I-esque flashback sequences in the very beginning of the book coupled with the 1920s/1930s architecture and styles lend themselves to this scenario.
There seems to be three separate stories that become increasingly interwoven as the book progresses. The first is Elizondo adjusting to life in the new world, and the series of choices that he makes. The second is the story of journalist Hector McKeagh, and his investigations lead us to the third story element: Tigerman. Tigerman is the hero of District 14, an invulnerable musclebound chap with the closest thing to a standard superhero costume that you'll find in this book. He's not all that he's cracked up to be, though...
I enjoyed the gangsters and their broken, slang-heavy English. Some of the mob's rhetoric was very similar to union rhetoric, which may or may not have been intentional on the creators' part. This doesn't seem to be an overtly political work, so I'll just chalk it up to some of the historical references on how the mob allegedly was instrumental in helping labor unions come into power in the early-to-mid-20th century. Allegedly. I didn't see nothing, hear nothing, and I ain't going to say nothing.
The artwork is soft, having an almost cartoon-like quality to it at time. It also lends a sense of fun to scenes with bone-crushing fights. I love contrasts in style like this...at least when they work, like they do here.
I have always associated Humanoids as a high concept, high adventure publisher with emphasis on sophisticated writing and art. This is a quieter, more subdued work than, say, The Technopriests, but it bleeds charm all the same. There is still enough grit and action to satisfy with plenty of character development moments to balance them out. Think of this in comics terms as one of those plates with the allotments for all four food groups, with each area filled up completely. Humanoids Publishing is part of a balanced comic book diet.
I would like to thank Humanoids for providing me with a review copy of this book, as it sort of slipped by my radar when it was released earlier this year.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.