Review: Elephantmen Volume 1: Wounded Animals

Published on April 19th, 2011

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope your week is going well, I know mine is because I’ve picked up the latest volume of American Dad!, but that’s not why we’re here. With every Tuesday comes a new edition of Trade Tuesday here at Comic Impact. This week features the very much unappreciated, Elephantmen from writer Richard Starkings and art mostly from Moritat, but there’s a number of other artists that contribute to this book. If you’ve ever read a comic book in your life, you’ve probably seen some lettering from Mr. Starkings.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably noticed an issue or two of Elephantmen sitting on a shelf at your local comic shop or comic convention. For me, this has always been one of those books that I’ve been curious about, but never picked up because I’ve been a dumb-ass for the majority of my life. Every time I saw an issue of Elephantmen, I would flashback to the late 80’s/early 90’s when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were bigger than The Beatles (that’s right, I went there) and there were a billion copycat cartoons. Examples including: Cowboys of Moo Mesa, Street Sharks, and Biker Mice from Mars. The thought of re-living those cartoons turned me away from this book for a long time. Luckily, Comic Impact leader, Simon, assured me that Elephantmen was nothing like those cartoons and after a while, I decided to try it for myself. Instead of getting some lame story with an interchangeable animal, what I got was an intriguing and heartwarming story about ostracized man/animal hybrids just trying to find their way in the world.

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In a nutshell, Elephantmen takes place about 200 years into the future, where this nutty scientist, Dr. Nikken, at the MAPPO Corporation has created these creatures known as the Elephantmen. His idea was to use human women in Africa as hosts and create half human, half animal creatures that are bred to be killing machines. When they are born the Elephantmen are sent to a school where it is incessantly drilled into their psyches that they are property of the Mappo Corporation and their only purpose in life is to kill and die for MAPPO. Eventually the U.N. finds out what’s going on and decides to step in. A violent war takes place, but eventually the Elephantmen are liberated. Problem is, these poor creatures now have to find a way to integrate into human society.

The most prominent character in the book is Hip Flask, a Hippopotamus who works for the Information Agency (government agency used to gather information for law enforcement). Hip also works at the agency with Ebenezer (Ebony) Hide, an elephant hybrid who is the star of the first story in the book. The first story is so simple, but so engaging at the same time. All it is, is Ebony meeting a little girl named Savannah on the street who just stops to ask him questions. She takes an immediate liking to Ebony and decides to become his friend, despite her mother’s prejudices with Elephantmen.

This book is extremely well written. The characterization is so good, the fact that these are walking/talking African animals is secondary. I now understand why Simon is always going on about how great this comic is. It’s really interesting to see how different the characters are. Hip is a friendly, laid back kind of guy, but then you have Elijah Delaney who is a borderline insane crocodile. Then there’s Tusk (warthog), who was so abused mentally and physically that he actually is insane. One of the most interesting characters, I thought, was Casbah Joe. Casbah is a camel hybrid who’s mind is so ingrained by the programming from MAPPO, that he still believes that he is property of the corporation. There’s a guard from MAPPO who’s life Casbah saved during the war and eventually the guard meets up with Casbah. The guard immediately treats Casbah like a slave and he just accepts it.

With all the extra stuff this Trade has, it is well worth the fourteen bucks Amazon is charging for it. I only have a couple complaints, the biggest being the book itself. The pages in the book are really thick and even though it only contains about 7 issues and the bonus stuff, it’s about as thick as a dictionary. This makes the book really heavy, I got tired just holding it up to read it. The binding isn’t so great either, I was worried that pages might start falling out if I opened it all the way. I think when I buy volume 2, I might go for the hardcover to see if it’s put together better. In the end though, the content is what’s important and I had more fun reading this book than I would if I had spent the day at Disneyland.

Ken Zeider
Ken@ComicImpact.com