Wednesday Morning Quarterback: AK Comics

By Michael “Skitch” Maillaro

Hey everyone! How’s the wife and kids? I’m dropping back in for a little fun in my old stamping grounds. An article in our local newspaper tuned me into the appearance of a comic company called AK Comics.

AK has been publishing in the Middle East for the last few years, and only this month has started bringing their books to America. I was intrigued by the idea, and immediately ordered the books from Midtown Comics (who seems to be the only place that had all four in stock). I was pretty impressed by the books and wanted to share them with our readers.

First up, some background from Wikipedia: AK Comics is an Egyptian-based superhero comic publishing venture, and the first example of the genre produced in the Middle East. The company first began publishing monthly titles in February 2004, and its comics are produced in both Arabic and English. AK Comics was founded by Ayman Kandeel, (hence the initials); Marwan el-Nashar is the managing director and Sara Kareem is the English-language editor.

It is heavily influenced by American comics giants DC Comics and Marvel, as well as British comics, Japanese animation, and even the Kill Bill movies.
As explained in the first inside page of various issues, the intention is "to fill the cultural gap created over the years by providing essentially Arab role models, in our case, Arab superheroes, to become a source of pride to our young generations."

In the article in my local paper, Dr. Kandeel commented that so many great fictional characters came from the Middle East, such as Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad, so it always amazed him that they didn’t have a modern Middle Eastern super hero that could rival Superman. I have to say that judging by the first issues of AK’s four series, AK just might have found a way to get a foothold in the industry.

One thing I noticed immediately about AK Comics is they are actually about 2/3 the size of most American comics. Also, they are much less pages, but not in terms of story. Most Marvel or DC comics are 32 pages, with 10 of those pages being ads, self-promotion, etc. AK Comics are 24 pages, with only 2 pages of ads. This seems like a reasonable trade off as the books are only $2.95, which is much less than I am used to seeing for independent books.

As for the series themselves:

Rakan #1 Review
Story: Dr. Ayman Kandeel
Dialogue: Todd Vicino
Artist: Raphael Albuquergue
Each of the first issues were real stand out comics, but Rakan was the best of the bunch. The market is glutted with superhero comics, and Rakan was a perfect change of pace. Rakan is a true quest book with a Middle Eastern flair! Set in medieval times, Rakan was the lone survivor of a tribe that was wiped out by the Mongols.

As is typical in myth and legend, Rakan gets raised by a sabretooth tiger and her son, Arameh. Rakan encounters a former general with mystical powers who trains him in the arts of Sheba. The general is killed, and sends Rakan and Arameh on a quest to find his daughter.

The introduction to Rakan promises dark forces, wizards, and dragons along the way! Sounds like Rakan and Arameh are in for one hell of a journey, and I will definitely be along for the ride. Rakan reminds me of everything I loved about Crossgen comics, and hopefully AK will be along for a lot longer than CG was.

The art and descriptions in Rakan #1 were quite beautiful and Kandeel, Vicino, and Rafael Albuquerque should be proud of their work in this issue. They very quickly captured the heart of this longtime comic reader. The story seems to be building on a proud tradition of myth and legend, and has potential to be one of the best comics out there.

Score (out of 10): 8.5

Aya, Zein, and Jalila all share a common setting. They are set in the near future in a supposed age of prosperity after a 55 Year War between two unidentified world powers. But, these first issues already showed some cracks in this peace. This fictional world based in the Middle East seems like a great setting, and I would love to see a 55 Year War Sourcebook or Official Guide to the AK Universe to get more information.

Aya #1 Review
Story: Dr. Ayman Kandeel
Dialogue: Todd Vicino
Art: Allan Goldman

One of my biggest complaints about comics has always been the lack of strong female characters. My wife is an avid comic reader, and we have a daughter on the way, so we are always looking for female characters that are not just pin-ups or damsels in distress. Aya seems to fit the bill here. I have to admit, in my own ignorance, I was somewhat surprised to find such strong females in a comic from the Middle East. AK really has done wonders to break down my ignorance.

Aya comes across like a female version of Batman. Her mother has been wrongly accused of killing her father, because of the great sexual inequalities in the Middle East. In order to fight crime and injustice, Aya is working for or with someone called Number Zero. The first issue jumps right into the action and doesn’t force feed the back story down your throat. This really got me right into the story and without even really knowing Aya’s story, I was cheering her on.

Score (out of 10): 8.0

Zein #1 Review

Writer: Todd Vicino
Artist: Raphael Albuquerque

Zein is another unique character. He is a survivor of an ancient advanced society who was cryogenically frozen until our time with his brothers and sisters. He uses his advanced technology, including his computer ISIS in order to protect his land. In this issue, a mysterious swarm of scarabs in on the loose, and Zein discovers these scarabs are machines, and have ties to his own past.

Zein was a very strong book anyway, but the ending of this book floored me. Most first issues set up the status quo, but Zein shatters it almost immediately! I can't wait to see how Zein and Scarab's story plays out. AK managed to set up some major payoffs down the road.

Also, I can't wait to meet more of Zein's cast. It seems like this book will have a strong supporting cast with his siblings and ISIS. Zein's quest to resurrect the forgotten civilization sounds like it has a lot of storytelling potential, and it should be interesting to see how Scarab's influence will change things.

Score (out of 10): 8.0

Jalila #1 Reviews

Story: Dr. Ayman Kandeel
Dialogue: Sara Kareem
Artist: Allan Goldman

I have to admit that based on the first issue, Jalila was my least favorite of the AK books, but that is like saying George is my least favorite Beatle. Jalila's first issue really set up some cool ideas, like the idea this world of peace of prosperity might not be what it seems. This issue also features a nice twist in the end, which led me to a second reading. It was foreshadowed early in the issue, but until you read the whole comic, you don't see how the pieces fit. This is terrific comic writing, and the team of Kandeel, Kareem, and Goldman carried it out brilliantly!

My biggest concern about this issue is that we never really got to know Jalila. We met her supporting cast and get glimpses at the world around her, but she felt like a complete mystery. Hopefully, this will be addressed in future issues.

Comics are often called childish, but this issue was far from it. The comics opens with a scene with Jewish, Islamic, and Catholic leaders gathering together to demonstrate the peace and unity of this new Middle East. But, this gather is ruined by a terrorist attack, and it was a powerful statement. I dream of a world where this meeting can happen in the Middle East, and it always saddens me that there are forces that act against it. But, then we see Jalila acting against this ignorance, and we are reminded how one person can be a force for positive change. In history, we've had men like Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Ghandi. Hopefully, this message got through to readers of this comic, both in the Middle East and in America.

Score (out of 10): 7.5

That about wraps up my look at AK Comics. I have to say that I was really impressed by their initial offerings, and I am looking forward much more from this company.


Blogger oroboros358 said...

Nice review blackmore and I have to say I'm pretty interested. My funds are stretched as it is but I'll check my copy of previews to see if I can find any of these comics.

6:23 PM  

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