Wednesday, May 1, 2013

CBR Ant (2004)

Time to review something a bit more obscure, like I used to before.

Here's a superhero comic that looks like something you've seen a hundred times before, but is actually quite original beneath the polished coloring.

Comic title: Ant: Days Like These
Art by Mario Gully, Peter Repovski & Stefani Rennee  
Story by Mario Gully & Matt Nixon

Published by Arcana Studio
From 2004
Lineup Ant
Format: Digest-sized graphic novella collecting Ghost issues #13-26.

Ant is easily one of the most original productions alongside Ghost to have come out of what I like to call the Jim Lee/Rob Liefeld/Todd McFarlane generation.

On the first look, it looks like many of those big splashy gritty superheroic comic book fests. With lots of gradients in the coloring. Splash pages everywhere. Improbable costumes. And pin-up-ysh women posing around.

But then you start to read it.

Ant promised to be something else right from the initial idea. The background behind its artist influenced the entire story.

Let's put it out there, so it's done. Mario Gully was in jail. It's in his past he can't change it, it's not something he's ashamed off, as he's gone on record in all of his interviews. But he has put this all behind. In 1996, he was at his lowest. He attempted to rob a tourist, and hit the guy with a stun gun. But he turned out to be a senior citizen, the man could have had a heart attack! Gully didn't make it to prison actually. But he spent the maximum time imprisoned you can get in country jail, 52 weeks.

During that time, he spent it actually trying to change for the best. He finally passed a GED test. And he read a lot. In fact, he decided to finally get serious with drawing.

One day, as Gully said, while he was looking at an ant crawling on the widow, he got the inspiration for this story. Which is quite fitting for a story revolving around escapism and the power of imagination.

Sometimes amazing things can be born from the simplest things...

The story follows 8 years old Hannah Washington.

She's a poor little lonely girl that gets constantly bullied at school.

One time coming back home she finds the police at home.

Her own dad, "Big Daddy" as she calls him, is suspected of armed robbery. And there has been a murder.

She is sent away from her father goes to jail.

And now her mother Betty who ran away and neglected her has come back.

To escape from this horrible reality, she starts to a diary where she writes about her adult alter-ego.

She dreams of a life of adventure, a life where is in control and can do anything she wants. Where is above law. She claims it's not a mere story but her actual future. She writes about this hero she wants to grow up to overcome adversity.

As Ant, Hannah possesses several powers such as enhanced speed, super-strenght and bug-related abilities.

Hannah uses her future-self to investigate the murder that happened back in the present. She questions some thugs to clear her father's name. She faces a gigantic cockroach monsters. But she damages her exoskeleton "armor". She can recharge her blood sugar level by using a can thanks to her wannabe sidekick.

But back in the present things get complicated.

And it all leads to a surprising reveal at the end!
Turns out she's already a teenager. She was actually all this time in a psychiatric ward. They claim she's been imagining this imaginary childhood, all part of a "juvenile power fantasy"!!

Ant was originally published at this smaller independent publisher Arcana Studio.

Mario Gully already had the entire pitch and several finished pages, but since he was new to comics and never had published anything, it was difficult to find someone interested in his project. But since he used to hang out with some people from Image Comics and even did some free pin-up works they helped him out.

The book was unusual in the way it was produced and promoted. The first issue was originally printed with full 32 pages of comics and no ads, because he had already done about 35 pages worth of a first chapter but didn't want to cut it down to much.

Some friends helped him on the script and art. Like Stefani Rennee who co-wrote some dialogues. Gully's wife also helped as script assistant.

Mario Gully frequently interacted with his fans on the Arcana boards throughout the entire story.

It was a dream come true for the creator, he made this comics about all the things he likes to draw: bugs, alleyways, women, his own personal experience..

As you can see, Ant obviously mirrors his own background.

Even though the story's the highlight for me, the art is also very good. Coming from a newcomer, it looked like professional work already. Almost reminiscent of Greg Capullo's work with a little bit of Jim Lee mixed inthere.

There's a nice distinction between the young Hanna's present, the ink gets sketchier, the backgrounds more messy and dirty, and the future "Ant" Hanna with the clean superhero art segments.

Of course, there's also a fair dose of cheesecake reminiscent of the 1990s comics in a way.

And let's not forget to mention the guest cover art - collected in the trade - by such famous artists such J. Scott Campbell, Eric Basaldua or Beth Sotelo.

Overall, it's a very unique very entertaining book.

There's a very nice family aspect to Ant. The portrayal of the father-daughter relationship is really sweet. Poor Hanna, her life really goes from bad to worse... and it only gets even stranger with that twist at the end!!

It sounds and looks like your typcial superhero comic on the surface but there's actually some depth to it.

Even though the story comes to a perfect closing at the end, Gully saw it as the first chapter originally. With more adventures to come and ideas he wanted to explore.

But Ant was moved from this small independent company Arcana to Image Comics. A move he intended to make once the situation arose.

Ant launched Mario Gully's career. He has been doing since some covers and working on interiors for Dynamite's Army of Darkness series.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 FlamingCarrots!


  1. The problem with "ANT" was that Mario Gully couldn't maintain the story line's continuity at all. So volume 1 (which you reviewed here) isn't really carried on cohesively in volume 2, and volume 3 was just totally out there (more of an excuse to get Hannah nude than anything). Hopefully with Eric Larsen of Image (and publisher of V2) buying rights to Ant, the reboot will take an intriguing storyline and let it fill it's potential.

    1. Well, to be honest vol. 2 starts like a pretty random and generic Image Comics superhero story, but in the end it does get a bit more convulsed with a lot of plot twists, not that far from vol. 1 actually.

      Volume 3 on the other hand...