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Best Shots Extra: HEADACHE

Best Shots Extra: HEADACHE

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By The Best Shots Team, Your Host, David Pepose April, 27 2011



Written by Lisa Joy
Art by Jim Fern and Manuel Martin
Letters by Bill Tortolini
Published by Kickstart Comics
Review by Erika D. Peterman

In Greek mythology, the gods are as petty as they are powerful. Jealousy, lust, self-absorption, and revenge are recurring themes on Mount Olympus, making those ancient tales grand-scale, supernatural soap operas. It’s storytelling gold, and writer Lisa Joy puts that capital to good use in Headache, a highly entertaining, sharply written tale of gods on present-day Earth.

The central character, 19-year-old Sarah Pallas, first appears institutionalized and heavily doped up. However, the drugs and deception don’t suppress memories of her former life in Ancient Greece, where she witnessed her mother’s murder. When a malicious visitor shows up and confirms that Sarah is really the half-deity Athena, she quickly proves she’s no cowering mortal. Resourceful and hardcore (she breaks her own hands to free herself from chains) the hunted Athena escapes and finds her way home — home being the upper-middle-class house where her dad, Zeus, and his testy wife, Hera, reside. One heck of a family reunion awaits.

Joy’s writing has a dark-humored zing, and that’s no surprise considering her credentials as a writer on TV shows like Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies. Take Hera’s internal monologue as she prepares a "pre-Armageddon" dinner for her fellow gods and goddesses:  “Marriage made me a new woman. No more flaying and castrating. Now I’m into cooking, cleaning ... and needlepoint.” Or Zeus’ admission that he finds the Internet’s omnipresence threatening. “It makes me feel redundant.”

By the way, the Olympian dinner table is a riot. Aphrodite wants a quickie with Ares, and her husband, Hephaestus, glumly tolerates the blatant cheating. Hermes complains about failing his drivers exam again, and Poseidon is (naturally) a laid-back surfer dude. And though this should have been obvious, who knew that Hades hated his job as a River Styx crossing guard? They’re all so colorful and witty that Athena eventually becomes the least interesting character in a book that revolves around her. Her quest fuels the narrative nicely, and it's always great to see a formidable young heroine in a lead role. Still, whenever she took the spotlight, I was impatient to get back to the juicy subplots and fascinating supporting players. Even without the fate of mankind possibly hanging in the balance, Joy’s material is rich. I’d love to see an ongoing, Fables-style series about these deities making a life below the clouds.

Jim Fern’s illustrations are clean and pleasant, and close-up emotion is his strength. Hephaestus' anguished facial expressions convey just how deeply wounded he is by Aphrodite's infidelity, and Fern draws Athena with the right mixture of innocence and steeliness. The gods are appropriately haughty and excessively attractive. However, the action panels — and there are many — have a stiff, flat quality. The color palette is also oddly muted and dreary, and it's frustrating that the art doesn't have the same sizzle and energy as the script. But despite the visual shortcomings, Headache is a book with style and substance, and it’s another winning book that bodes well for Kickstart’s future.