Friday, August 10, 2018

Chastity #1

The Fairer Sex
Chastity #1

…and how TO tell a story of a superpowered female

Writers – Len Kaminski and Brian Pulido
Penciler – Adriano Batista
Inker – Cleber Salles
Letters – Comicraft’s Oscar Gongora
Colors – Hi-Fi
Editors – Mike Francis and Brian Pulido
June 2001

Wouldn’t you know it? After the problematic Angel Fire #1, the very next issue the Crapbox spits out is this little gem from Chaos publishing. I have tried to stay away from Chaos books because their covers look so exploitive. Nearly every title in their line is some half naked, big bosomed chick leaning around suggestively on the cover.

My natural inclination is to aim at books in the wild, where I have a chance that my shots might encounter something new and excitingly good. It isn’t to point my rifle at fish swimming in a barrel of mediocrity. I want to give myself a sporting chance of finding a great book.

Well, the joke is on me this time.

For all the flashy, trashy bimboing that Chaos has put up front of the Chastity title, what’s between the covers is a competently written, well drawn story that develops a likeable title character with interesting problems and powers existing in a world where stakes and consequences exist. I never would have expected it, but I came away loving the book and hoping more turn up in the Crapbox.

The key may be the involvement of both Brian Pulido, who takes both a writer and editor credit here, blended in with long-time Marvelite Len Kaminski. Kamiski’s run on most Marvel books haven’t really thrilled me, but the sheer volume of his work on so many titles means he’s had time to file off his rough storytelling edges. Paired with Pulido, they pull off a tale that works on every conceivable level.

The thrill for me comes from finding out that both are involved in the other Chaos works too, so my haste at dismissing the entire line-up due to the cover art looks to be unfounded.

I’m eager to show you the goods on Chastity, so we are going to jump right to it, beginning with this opening scene. Chastity is involved with a street fight against three leather jacket assailants, and I KNOW that already all of us are having Angel Fire flashbacks.

Yes, both books start off by throwing us into the action as a way to engage us. Note the differences here. Chastity gives us a REASON for the fight: one of the men sexually assaulted her. Immediately we know where our sympathies lie in this story.

Second, if you are like me, you don’t come to this book knowing anything about the character. There are been over nine Chastity series up to this point put out by Chaos, but the writers choose to treat this book's sequencing so that they allude to Chastity having powers that allow her to fight off these three guys, but they don’t state what those powers are specifically. There’s a lot of hints dropped and allusions to what might happen if Chastity does certain things, but it isn’t until late in the book that they actually address what Chastity is and why she can toss people around like rag dolls.

All of that is important. It gives the reader the impression that they are smart for guessing what is up before the reveal. It preserves the mystery of the character without just throwing it out there in character or narrator exposition. The storytelling in this lets us learn bits about Chastity naturally while setting up background, side characters and the driving plot of this story.

Speaking of those side characters, apparently Chastity doesn’t want them to know she has some kind of superpowers that allow her to take on three guys at once. She also can sense their approach. The natural thing to do is to end the fight swiftly so they don’t catch her in the act. She gets the job done just as her posse rounds the corner and is ready with a quip about the guys on the ground which doesn’t answer the question nor claim responsibility.

Note this is the third thing the book does right: it doesn’t revel in the conflict so much that it makes fight scenes overly long or complicated. This does a lot of things: first, the audience doesn’t get bored with punching. Second, the faster the guys are taken out, the more formidable our heroine appears to be. Third, this gives the book room to show the character doing something OTHER than fighting. In a book like this you should build anticipation in your audience for the next conflict while also creating characters that live and breathe. You need to give the characters something to do OTHER than waiting to swing the next blow. Make them relatable.

And here we get that. First with Chastity catching up with what’s going on in her friend’s lives…

…and next with her cutting lose moshing in the pit in front of the stage. Chastity seems like a cool person to hang with. She has interests outside of making it to the next panel to say her next line. She doesn’t exist just to hit things in a cool way. She has a personality with likes and interests beyond the plot of the story and that’s key here.

Nicely, we have side characters that act in a way that informs us of who Chas is too.

And since all of those things are going so well by page five of the book, ONLY NOW does the author bring in elements of the books actual plot. Starting with this trenchcoat and hat who messes up her love interest guy at the end of the bar.

Next morning, the book shows us Chastity being a late-late-late riser, gives us a location for her abode, which is an oddly dark third floor apartment on St Marks Avenue, and imply that Chastity’s skin is burned when in comes in contact with sunlight.

Wait…is Chastity…?

Yup. That seals it. Chastity is a vampire. Without having said a thing, the authors have clearly implied a thing. This is a tremendous bit of storytelling magic. Not only do we now know what Chastity is, but also that she actively hides that information from her closest friends. And all of it without using the “V” word.

And to seal the deal, we get a page of Chas in costume as a blonde cheerleader being chased by a killer for a slasher movie, all of which is filmed at night, which is followed by this scene.

So even MORE confirmation as to what Chastity is for those in the slow seats. She books it to a Blood Bank and breaks in to an upper story window. Once inside she locks herself in a closet so she isn’t disturbed. While hiding out the daylight she discovers the card left by Trenchcoat and Hat wasn’t his personal phone number, but a job offer by a security company.

With nightfall, Chas slinks out of the closet for what we expect will be a fight with staff over a drink or two of the red stuff…

…and our expectations are cleverly subverted. This is another of Chastity’s friends, a worker who knows of her affliction and provides for her needs. Aunt Ruby adds a dose of welcome humor too.
Cut to a little later and Chas follows the phone number on the card to a security company that provides bouncers for touring acts. She gets a chance to impress the interviewer in a most unconventional way when he asks his personal security guy to toss her out unless she can change his mind in ten seconds.

Her power, skill, and spunk earn her the position. One quick black hair dye later and…

…Chas is working concerts and tossing belligerent drunks off the stage. So far there isn’t a hit of this being part of a larger plot. We don’t have a big-bad lurking behind the scenes or making vague threats. In fact this is very much a character-driven piece with some action beats, all of which is fine with me because the authors have made Chas likeable and given her a personality.

That goes a long way.

But we have to start throwing in some hints that something bigger is coming, and that all starts with the young man she met briefly at the bar, when Trenchcoat and Hat gave her the security company’s calling card. The cute guy that disappeared. Here he delivers a bottle of water and the mysteriously vanishes right after.

Which means he will be appearing later, as potential (boy) friend or foe, as yet to be determined.

As Chas is checking out backstage, she hears a scream from the alleyway and steps out to find a man gushing blood. Her supernatural senses allow her to detect what gutted the poor fella.

Which leads to her facing off with Savagr, a female heavy-metal werewolf bitch.

We’ve dug this far down in the book and I haven’t mentioned the art at all, mainly because it has been so superior. It serves the story precisely, imbuing Chas with likeable spunk and sexiness. The background are appropriate and the coloring astonishingly good. The book is beautiful with graphics appropriate to its tone. Another triumph for Chaos over my initial concerns that this would turn out to be a bimbo-filled boobfest without proper care being taken with the other characters and settings. Bravo, guys.

So now we get some neat action pages with vampire vs werewolf…

…and the art and dialogue continue to deliver.

The vibrant background colors really make these scenes pop.

And while Chastity sings The Ramones, she wraps up this battle in short order, in the end leaving the werewolf for the police.

And while her boss gives her props for taking care of things, the last page teases a new threat that looks to take down Chas just because she’s a vampire. And that threat looks an awful lot like Kyle.

Okay, okay! So the issue doesn’t have a bunch of over arcing storyline. It doesn’t dwell on the one villain we do have’s motivations for gutting a guy in the alley, nor do we find out anything at all about Kyle and his motivations. But the book has style and it does a great job of showing off Chastity’s personality and making her likable. She has more going on than just looking to hook up with a hot guy. We find the real major plotline here is her obtaining gainful full-time employment doing something she is suited for, and THAT is a refreshing story plot.

In short, I liked it. It showed me something more than just a pretty face. I didn’t expect that. I’ll look for more of these when I discount dive and all those other Chaos books have now gotten a notch up in my estimations. Don’t let me down, guys.

1 comment:

  1. I've always had the same opinion of Chaos books. I come across them in the dollar box and am embarrassed to bring them up to the counter because of the pervy covers, thinking that Longbox Junk needs a bit more than a thong and a set of barely-contained bra-busters for me to justify triggering the guy running the register's silent judgment. Thanks for the inside look and another great review!


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