Saturday, November 28, 2009

Out of the Vault- Evangeline Special Number One

So okay, light Vault this week, but at least it's something. The flux of independent publishers in the 80's sent many books scrambling to different publishers. One such was Evangeline, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Judith Hunt and Ricardo Villagran. Evangeline had originally appeared as a black-and-white feature in Comico's Primer, which also featured the first appearance of Matt Wagner's Grendel.

When Comico made the switch to color, it published two issues of Evangeline in color before cancelling the book. In 1986, the rights were picked up by Lodestone Publishing, which republished the two Comico issues under one cover as Evangeline Special Number One.

The story opens with a truck traveling across the barren wasteland of Mars. It pulls up to a sort-of future truck stop, and a beautiful woman gets out. She walks into the truck stop, where a couple of guys are playing a video game. She checks one guy's face against a picture she's carrying. It matches, so she kills him.

Turns out, Evangeline is traveling across Mars, hunting down the men who razed a Catholic orphanage several years before. The men raped the nuns, killed the children and burned the building to the ground. Soon enough, Evangeline tracks down another of the men in a casino.

Finally, she learns that the men were acting on orders of a corporate executive. She seduces the executive, and once she has him alone, poisons his drink. And finally we learn Evangeline's secret: she's not a survivor of the orphanage massacre out for revenge. She's a nun. A nun secret agent.

In the second adventure, she's on board a cargo ship, the City of Pennsylvania, posing as a contessa, bound for some other planet on a secret mission.

The other men around the table with her, however, are hijackers. They take over the ship and jump it to a nearby planet, where a derelict warship floats in orbit. One of the hijackers was the captain of that ship ten years previously and left a huge load of gems on board.

Problem is, the crew he left in cryostasis have somehow revived and are waiting for him when he returns. There's a savage fight that destroys both the warship and the cargo ship. The hijacker and a couple of his boys manage to escape in a lifeboat, while Evangeline and a thief named Jonny Six follow in a second one. They descend toward the planet below, which shows signs of large lifeforms on its surface.

Alas, Lodestone Publishing never came out with another issue. Evangeline was picked up the next year by First Comics, which was better anyway. You can see from the panels reproduced here that the printing had several problems with colors bleeding into one another. The First Comics were better printed on higher quality paper.

I thought the series was pretty good, although I lost interest after several issues. The action was well-plotted and written; this was some of Chuck Dixon's earliest published work, but he showed the affinity for action-adventure he has continued in the years since. But the character of Evangeline was fairly cold, like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, only with tits. And the art, though it showed flashes of inspiration, never really broke through and grabbed me. And as the series hit its fourth issue, the art team started rotating and never was able to find firm footing, so by the 8th issue, I quit. I don't know how long it ran after I gave up on it, but I don't think it was very long.

Two postscripts:

Number one, original artist Judith Hunt has, along with Ben Dixon, released her first two Evangeline stories as a webcomic here. There were apparently plans to release new stories by Hunt at some point in the future, but the webcomic cuts off in the middle of the first First issue, and the last entry in Dixon's blog about the Evangeline project was on July 20, so it may be dead again. However, if you're interested in reading the original Evangeline stories mentioned here, you can do so at the link.

Second, even though I wasn't a huge fan of the comic, it did apparently make an impression on me. When I went through Basic Training in 1992, our drill sergeants made us name our rifles. I named mine Evangeline.

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