David and Goliath #1

Written by Jay Ju
Pencilled by Leonel Castellani
Inked by Daniel Griffo
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Every time I turn around these days, there seems to be another comic that looks like someone’s been stealing animation cells and sending them to a printer to assemble as a comic. That’s usually a good thing, mind you, especially when you end up with books that look like David and Goliath #1.

It’s 1940, and David and Sarah Hart were sent by their father to live in New York instead of their home in England, to try and keep them safe from the war that has erupted across Europe. While on an archaeological dig in Cairo, though, their father sends his children an amulet that may have brought the danger right to them. Unless, of course, David discovers how to use it before the German forces looking for the amulet even arrive in America. But what are the odds that would happen?

Jay Ju’s story in David and Goliath #1 is in many ways very standard for children’s literature. An outsider, put upon by the people around him, finds or receives a mysterious gift that turns their life around and puts great power in their hands. That’s exactly what we’ve got here, although it’s the little details that make parts of the story stand out. It’s a pleasant change to see it set in 1940 instead of 2004, for instance; sure, it lets Ju trot out the heavily overused Nazis, but it also provides a real menace that people can understand in an instant and that doesn’t require much explaining. Likewise, the idea of “Goliath” coming out of an Egyptian amulet is a nice one; the ancient empires of Egypt have always held a lot of mystery and interest around them, and it’ll be fun to see what Ju does with it.

My only real complaint with the writing in David and Goliath #1 is the narration boxes and how they manage to come across as both redundant and annoying. Almost all of them manage to convey information that the art has already given the reader: is it necessary, for instance, to have a narration box state “moments later” when the first panel has David’s arm being bandaged and the second panel showing him run away while the first aid supplies are put away? Even worse are the self-important narration boxes. “Thomas C. Slade, a tough NYPD Detective. The first black man to make detective,” it states. All right, fair enough. But then it continues with, “It wasn’t easy making history. His application for detective was denied six times before he was finally promoted, after he took a bullet in the shoulder, saving the mayor’s life from assassination.” We’re running into the dangers of an exposition dump here, but I think I would have been all right at this point. But then, still more narration appears. “Though it was a great accomplishment, making detective was only one of the many hurdles Slade had to overcome. Simply because of the color of his skin.” At this point, I was about ready to scream. It’s horribly self-important, and utterly unnecessary. Sometimes less is more. In this case, I’ll go one step further and say that to retain your sanity, just skip all of the yellow narration boxes. With those gone, it’s a much stronger script.

Leonel Castellani and Daniel Griffo’s art, on the other hand, is great from start to finish. Like I’d said before it reminds me a lot of animation cells, with the clean and simple character designs. There a strong sense of movement here, too; when Goliath comes out of the amulet, for instance, you can almost see him shaking his head back and forth in that first burst of energy. The colors by Elba Rodriquez and Javier Tartaglia help a great deal as well, giving a real sense of depth to Castellani’s work. Castellani himself seems to be having a lot of fun with Ju’s script, drawing statuesque cyborg Nazis in a larger-than-life (but not over the top) manner alongside scorpions and winged lions. Whatever Ju can think up, Castellani and company can bring to life.

For a first issue, David and Goliath #1 is a good start. If Ju has a little more confidence in Castellani’s art in telling the story and lays off the redundant narration (show, don’t tell!) in future issues, this is going to be a fantastic series. Right now, it’s just good, but the potential is certainly there to be great. I know I’ll be scrambling to find #2 (which is now on sale as well) as soon as possible.

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