Mark W. Counts & Michael J. King – Super Aces (2017)
Super Aces is a comic book that is the same size and format as the previous Art Horse work I reviewed, Martian-American War. The book is very nicely printed, 8.5 by 11 inches in size, and about 20 pages in length. (According to several sources I read, most comics are 6.63 by 10.24 inches, making Super Aces slightly larger than a standard comic---although how the comic book size standard was decided, I have no idea…) The book was written by Mark Counts and penciled by him, then passed to Michael King for inking and layout. It’s in black and white and the artwork has strong, bold lines and a great, Golden Age look and feel.
The story is set in an alternate history version WWII, and opens with our hero, “Hawker” Houston, in an aerial dog-fight over Burma. This is an origin story, so although Houston survives the confrontation (which is quite spectacular even BEFORE our hero gets super-sized), his plane takes so much damage that he has to ditch, and he wakes up from the crash in a strange laboratory! The images are big and bold, and the pace of the story is very similar to classic Golden Age books---Captain America, in particular, comes to mind. (If you haven’t seen the documentary, Comic Book Confidential, yet, there’s a great reading by Jack Kirby of Cap’s origin story in that film, which is set to the images from the comic. It’s great stuff, and reminds me of this book---or vice-versa!) From here, our hero gets the “sci-fi” treatment, and is reborn as The Flying Tiger!
I love the sinister “secret experiment” elements of the book, and I appreciate that the Nazis are CLEARLY the bad guys (as it should ALWAYS be!) The overall tone and mood are entertaining, especially for an old-school comics reader like me. If I have one complaint about the book, it’s that it’s a bit too short. You get a fun opening battle, and then the scenes where our hero becomes SUPER, and then…that’s about it. The reader is definitely left wanting more. I’ve read a ton of Golden and Silver Age comics (usually in reprint), so I know that the stories in those books were short and episodic, and this book keeps to that tradition, but I hope the next issue comes out pretty soon! Now that we know who our hero is, how he came to be, and who he’s getting ready to fight, we’re totally ready to watch him get in there and get his hands dirty!
Overall, it’s a fun indie comic with a classic feel and very bold art. The mood is entertaining, in that Jack Kirby-esque, simpler-times with simpler-pleasures sort of way, and the story works well as an introduction to our character. Hopefully, Mark and Mike get the opportunity to produce the next issue sometime soon, so we can see our new hero go kick some Nazi butt! (Until then, we can go read some of the other alternate history books by the Art Horse crew…) Super Aces itself will appeal to fans of indie comics, fans of alternate history stories, and to people who enjoy classic, Golden Age atmosphere. If you’re looking for a long, epic tale, you might want to wait until the collected graphic novel comes out, but if you want to support independent artists and storytellers, this book would be a great place to start!
---Richard F. Yates
P.S. – If you are going to be in the Portland, Oregon, area on the weekend of September 8th, 9th, and 10th, Art Horse will have a booth at the Rose City Comic Con! Come on by and check out the Super Aces book, along with all the other great independently produced books and shirts and other swag! If you CAN’T make it to the convention, check out the Art Horse website! AND make sure you visit Mark Count’s Facebook page to see his steampunk sculptures and other art!!!