Pullbox Reviews: Penultiman Looks at Life as Second Best

Writer: Tom Peyer

Artist: Alan Robinson

Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Letterer: Rob Steen

Covers By: Alan Robinson, Jamal Igle

Publisher:  Ahoy Comics

Available: Now (release date was October 7), with a cover price of $3.99

Sometimes, second place just really sucks.

Penultiman, second-highest and best evolution of the human species, is having a crummy day. His adoring fans don’t understand him, his nemesis called him a liar with a grating voice—and even surrendered to the police so as not to have to deal with him any longer, and even his alter-ego, FBI analyst Wayne Cruz, can’t get so much as one day off from his job.

Having been exiled from his home-century (the 910th) because he was simply too archaic, Penultiman and his trusty (if a bit preachy) biomechanical understudy, AntePenultiman, have become 21st-century Earth’s hero. From their off-world base of operations-slash-alternative outcomes predictor, the Predoubt, they work tirelessly to save lives, prevent evil, and…not feel so bad about being an outcast.

Ho, hum.

But now, like a…like a vision from the FUTURE, Parent has summoned Penultiman home to save his people—and perhaps earn his way back into their good graces!

Well, maybe. If AntePenultiman doesn’t mess everything up back at home, first…

Out now from Ahoy Comics is the first issue of Penultiman, a new monthly by Tom Peyer and Alan Robinson. Set (mostly) in the modern day, the book examines what it feels like to be the reject of one’s own culture despite being a hero to another. Think Superman, as an adult, only his planet didn’t destruct, but instead said, “Nah. You’re not quite good enough for us.”

Oh, the feels!

Actually, Penultiman is a complete hoot. Peyer spins off a great tale that takes itself just seriously enough to filter in real emotion (I mean, think about it: how would you feel if you’d been rejected, not just by your own family, but by your entire culture?), while maintaining a generally light and playful tone (Zev Zolo, Penultiman’s nemesis, tries to destroy the world with a cosmic pinball machine that employs fiery pinballs of death to threaten the masses, fer cripe’s sake). Action is brisk, and setup is lightning fast: the first three panels should be used as a mastercourse in brevity. While let’s face it, this is not exactly a Hemmingway-esque character study, dialogue is taut and effective—and if Penultiman comes off a bit angsty, can you really blame him?

Alan Robinson is the perfect choice as artist for this book. His style, reminiscent of Todd Nauck, is fresh and heroic, but captures all the feels effortlessly, somehow without coming off as maudlin and overdone. Matching his writer’s tone, Robinson’s faces strike that perfect balance of light-hearted, peppy fun and deeper, more powerful emotion. And he has a blast with some of the crazy settings and devices throughout the book (I personally loved the cosmic pinball board, as well as the horrid weapon threatening Penultiman’s home century).

This is a book where colorist Lee Loughridge gets to shine. Bright, bombastic and fun, there’s enough shifts in setting and theme to allow Loughridge to play with the full spectrum of palettes, and he nails every one, evoking just the right tone and balance to each setting.

Letterer Rob Steen gets to play some in this one too—via a variety of bubble and dialogue vs narrative styles, sound effects and word placement. Rather than distract from the flow of the book, Steen’s lettering integrates into the work, offering the true feel of a good, old-time comic book.

All in all, a really fun premiere issue, with plenty of promise for a good time of an ongoing title. As long as your literary palette leans a bit more toward Dave Barry than Fyodor Dostoyevski, you’re going to enjoy yourself.

And speaking of literary palettes, for those of you who don’t just want the funny picture books…

Also included as the kind of super-special add-ons one only gets from a cool publisher like Ahoy, are the literary shorts, ”How to Field-Strip a George Forman Grill,” “Recommended For All Ages,” and “Strange Medicine.” Trust me, they’re as fun a read as Penultiman was, and that’s an accomplishment!

So, off to your LCS (or Amazon, or ComiXology) with you! Penultiman issue one is available now, at a low, low sticker price of only $3.99 (plus applicable taxes)!


Review by Andy Patch

Contributing Editor, thePullbox.com

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