COMICS: John Reviews “P-Brane: The Green Man” by Chris X. Ring

Much has been made of the recent trend in the motion picture industry to adapt from comic books, whether it’s literal adaptations of published works or simply adapting characteristic “comic book-style” visual or thematic elements.  This transition has also been going the other way, as the comic industry is affected by Hollywood’s sudden interest.  Film and television writers are trying their hand at writing comic scripts, and even some studios have taken to publishing their own works of sequential art (other than movies, that is.)  One such studio – Canada’s Quietus Films and their publishing division, Graviton Publishing – has put forth an ambitious and groundbreaking graphic novel called P-Brane: The Green Man that uses filmmakers’ techniques to tell a comic book story.  The result is truly a sight to behold.

An example of P-Branes art style

An example of P-Brane's art style

P-Brane begins in a familiar noir fashion, with a nameless protagonist who regains consciousness only to find that he has amnesia.  He is attacked by violent gang members, gets harassed by police officers and prisoners, befiends a street urchin and an up-and-coming journalist, and begins to piece together the scraps of information that come to him as he sleeps.  The story takes off from there, taking the Green Man (one of his many nicknames) and his friends on a world genre tour through crime drama, superhero action, apocalyptic horror and, finally, space opera.  It sounds a bit out-there, but Chris X. Ring makes the journey from grim ‘n gritty noir to Outer Limits-level science fiction seem not only plausible but inevitable. I’d say more, but that would spoil the surprise!

There are those who would say that P-Brane‘s story borrows liberally from other great works of the genre(s).  Personally, though, I found myself attempting to answer the question, “When does something make the transition from supposed rip-off to a new perspective on classic themes?”  I can honestly say that I have never read a story quite like P-Brane, even though I managed to come up with a long list of stories that may have influenced its creation.  Everything from Sin City and Boondock Saints, to Dark City and eXiStEnZ, to The Matrix and Equilibrium, to Independence Day and Star Trek come to mind, but none of them tell this story, and that’s an important distinction.  You may also notice that every one of the influences I listed above has a film version.  This was not intentional, but it does speak to the cinematic feel and approach of the book.

The most distinguishing characteristic of P-Brane: The Green Man – the technique that makes it stand out from its competition in the graphic novel world –  is its use of digitized photographs as the basis for its artwork.  There are no traditional pen-and-ink drawings, only photographs that have been retouched to give an appearance of black-and-white comic art.  You could almost call it the reverse of Sin City‘s transition from panel to screen, instead going from camera to canvas.  The result is stunning, and gives P-Brane‘s science fiction plot a strong grounding in the real world.

I would recommend that interested readers and lovers of noir/crime drama or science fiction (preferably both) give P-Brane: The Green Man a try.  Its artwork is bold and innovative, and the book overall is a new step in “cinematic” storytelling, showing the world that the film industry can give back to the comics industry as well as mine from it.  For those who do read and enjoy it, a sequel is underway.  Visit pbraneworld.com to find out how you can have your photo taken for the project, and possibly be included in the pages of P-Brane II!

The Green Man, in black and white

The Green Man, in black and white

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