Beek's Books - an ongoing collection of comic book reviews
 Prisonopolis (Mediawarp)
written by Ben Adams, art by John F. Polacek
issue #1 (of 4)
Infochameleon: Company Cult (Mediawarp)
written by Ben Adams, art by Rae Burke
56-page self-contained story
Rating: ~, Content: [sci-fi] [super]

 Ben Adams has something to say.

 He has something to say about our society and the direction it's heading. His vision of the future (as presented in Prisonopolis and Infochameleon) isn't a pretty one.

 He also has something to say about people and what we're capable of. This vision is a somewhat more (but not entirely) optimistic one.

  These two titles are recent offerings from Mediawarp Comics, Adams' publishing imprint. Prisonopolis is a 4-part series set in Silicon City in the year 2013, focusing on some of the people who live there. Infochameleon is less focused on the future (though it seems to be set there), about a decent man who gains powers that enable him to subvert society - for the better - by impersonating other people and taking their place.

  One trap that's difficult to avoid with social commentary - especially when done satirically - is that it can get a bit obvious and heavy-handed. For example, the "In Your Face News" segment and commuter combat scene that open Prisonopolis, while making it clear that this isn't going to be an escapist story of a man in tights thwarting a mad supervillain, isn't especially subtle. The two character studies that make up the remainder of the issue are more effective, I think. One focuses on a white female artist/musician, a former rich girl. The other introduces a black man whose life has been devastated by the kind of violent crime he's now getting into himself. Basically, each narrates flashbacks of their life stories with commentary, as we follow them going about their lives.

 One thing I liked is how Adams tries to get inside the heads of various kinds of characters to explain what makes them who they are. It's easy to demonise the "bad guy", and to an extent Adams does, but in Infochameleon, for example, he introduces us to the villain by hearing him talk pleasantly about his home, his way of life, the values that are important to him... and gradually showing the flaws in his character: an excessive need for control, judgmentalism toward others, etc. to the point where we actively dislike the son of a bitch. I'm not sure Adams always succeeds at making these various "voices" athentic, but they obviously show some insightful thought.

  The art on both features is adequate, but not outstanding. The figures are frequently just a bit "off", with faces that don't quite look like faces, eyes not quite in the right place, and so on. Infochameleon artist Rae Burke in particular could stand to vary his line weight when inking. The different hatching patterns help, but at the least, using bolder lines for the foreground and thinner lines for background details and hatching would help the foreground to stand out better and focus attention where it belongs. As it is, the  pages tend to get a bit dark and cluttered. His figures tend to be a bit stiff and awkward as well. Prisonopolis artist John Polacek's main shortcoming is that his faces (in particular that of Roxy, the co-star of this issue) sometimes look a bit flat, as if the eyes, nose, and mouth had just been pasted on. Neither artist is bad, but don't expect top-notch art from them... at least not yet.

 So Ben Adams has something to say. He says it pretty well, with competent help from his artists. And what he has to say is worth hearing. Take a listen.

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