I’ve never really read anything by Aspen Comics before. Most of that was due to, well, the covers. The late Michael Turner was heavily involved with the company, and he probably more or less designed the company’s house look. His work tended to go towards willowy females in skimpy outfits. The handful of times I read stuff where he did interiors didn’t do much for me.
But, quite frankly, I tend to avoid comics where the major draw seems to be a scantily clad female on the cover. There never seems to be much going on there, so I passed. But, Comics Bento doesn’t just ship stuff to my tastes, so I have now read the first volume of a series called Lola XOXO.
Look, I am aware of what Lola looks like from the cover. Spiky blonde hair. Push-up leather bustier. Short shorts. A couple gun holsters. And, for whatever reason, fishnet stockings. For all I know, she had some stiletto heals on too. If this was something I saw on a comic store shelf, I would have passed it by without a second glance.
Point is, I wasn’t expecting much from the book where the main character is drawn in such a….interesting manner, and with the “XOXO” as part of the title.
To the book’s benefit, writer/artist Siya Oum actually gives Lola a decent excuse to have that for a title. The story opens with five year old Lola being loaded onto a plane. She’s flying alone from L.A. to New York to visit her grandma. Her parents are the truly responsible types who would let a child that small fly alone. En route, her plane makes an emergency landing in Dayton, where we learn a series of nuclear explosions had rocked many American cities, including both Los Angeles and New York. Though she loses her smart phone, Lola befriends a man named Conrad, who appears to be some sort of ex-military (he’s wearing dog tags, but if he is ex-military, it is never specified in this volume). Though the two do eventually get to New York, Lola’s grandma and Conrad’s wife both appear to be missing, with all that probably implies. As a result, Lola writes a series of letters to her most likely dead parents and signs them XOXO Lola, to be delivered when she finally get back to L.A.
In the meantime, Conrad and his friends take care of her. 13 years later on her 18th birthday, she’s decided she’s had enough and tries to head west. Therein the problems start.
To give Oum further credit, when Lola falls into debt to a man Conrad stole a horse from, even though the guy clearly has a brothel or two, she is instead put to work as hired muscle to pay off her debts, since Conrad did show her how to fight.
There are a lot of interesting ideas floating around here. A band of carnies are fighting for their freedom, these being people enslaved into what looks like routine combat with wild animals. I had no idea there were that many lions and hyaenas in New York, but apparently there is. Some kind of barrier divides the country in two. And there are cannibals living in the wilderness who for some reason have horns.
Unfortunately, the storytelling is rather choppy. Character motivations often seem tacked on, like how Lola considers people that, just judging by what’s on display here, are friends of hers despite minimal interaction. Oum can draw, but write? Not so much. Most characters come across as stereotypes at best. For all that there are potentially interesting ideas here, the story itself didn’t bear them out. I’m giving this one five out of ten horned cannibals and probably will continue to not buy anything from Aspen in the foreseeable future.
NEXT MONTH: Comic Bento’s next shipment will feature comics about or from musicians. Given the company’s habit of sending me Iron Man, I am guessing there is a Dazzler team-up in there somewhere.