Meta Desi is one of the few independent comics publishers (what’s that, I don’t know but it sounds cool) that really do justice to pulp writing. The comics are original, daring and eye-catching. Some of the best writers and creators in contemporary Indian comics(I gotta stop using this phrase) have worked on this book, the second in the series, and the results are anything but boring.
I won’t say that all the stories are great, but they are definitely something you don’t normally come across. From a curry western to a cow-monster's rampage, you see a host of genres explored here. The layout is good, printing and colors make you want to pick it up(thanks to a nicely goofy cover art by Abhijeet Kini) and is certainly worth the price of admission. The one thing that is bit of a downer however is the ever-present self-aware tone; there are pop culture in-jokes galore in an apparent attempt to stuff in too much in one book which does distract the reader from the flow of the comics. While it is not a bad thing, I could certainly do with few stories that are not full on the world-view meter.
Coming to the stories, I loved the curry western one – Once upon a time in the North by Sudeep Menon, Ahmed Sikander and Akshay Dhar(Lettering)i. There was a nice balance between narrative and goofiness in this one, the panel flow is good, and overall feel of the comics is very reader-friendly.
Raakshas Rising- Greater Demons by Akshay Dhar and Tarun Padmakumar is a definite improvement over the teaser in the first volume, and the goofy theme of a cubicle worker turned monster can turn into quite a nice series with lot of monsters and dialogbaazi that won’t hurt.
The Last Baqani #2 also improves a lot this time, shifting the focus to cleaner panels (I don’t know how else to describe the economy of size/layout) and smaller, crisper lines.Loved the Grodd like characters here.
No prizes for guessing I didn’t like Desolation Runner, Super Soldier Squad and Holy Hell much. Desolation Runner starts off with a world weary voice over but soon goes into too much smooth talk for my liking with shades of noir.
Holy Hell is another of those looks good in a poster kind of comics. The jokes run one too many and while I laughed at some panels, I don’t quite enjoy the holy cow turning into an udder monster a la Angry Maushi.
Super Soldier Squad too didn't work for me. While the comics is easy to read and the panel flow is good, the dialog borders on cheesy and the whole thing looks like a pre-teen video game to me, high on action and visuals but missing a connecting thread or a reason why you would care about the characters. May be they need a kick-ass villain here to make them bloody serious?!