Daily Archives: August 14, 2011

Book of the week 32: Xombi #5 (DC comics)

An okay week this time, a perfect number of books, not many from this week, but most of them scored pretty high on my own personal enjoyment scale. Scores averaged to 8.1 on 14 titles. I rounded it all of this weekend with the third story arc from Image comics’ Chew. Which provided some most excellent Sunday afternoon reading material. While writing the reviews tonight I stumbled upon the great little video’s from reviewtopia.net, called A Comic Minute. This totally made my day, go check it out: It’s one minute staccato summaries/reviews with the art from the books in one minute or less!

1. Xombi #5 (DC comics)

Cover art from Xombie #5, by Frazier Irving, published by DC comics.

Cover art from Xombi #5, by Frazer Irving, published by DC comics.

Xombi, to me is the surprise hit out of DC this year. I’ve been a devotee of Frazer Irving’s since his run on the Inhumans (the Silent War miniseries) at Marvel. Thinking back at that now it seemed a crude way of painting comics, more akin to Daniel Acuna then say JH Williams III. The selling feature mainly being that the art was painted, not necessarily how or why it was painted. But with Xombi he has stepped up his game big time. From the first issue onward, it was clear that Irving chose a bold color pallet, with which he would play around in different scenes and shots. This issue, it finally hit me however, that it’s not just the colors or his Dali-esque surrealism, but even more it’s the way he handles lighting that makes my jaw hit the floor approximately once every two pages. Wheter it’s in mundane situations like an apartment with the television being the main light source, or in a magical environment like the flying platforms; Irving understands light sources and the way their light breaks or hits objects, like no other artist I know of.
Opening page from Xombie #5, with art by Frazier Irving, published by DC comics.

Opening page from Xombi #5, with art by Frazer Irving, published by DC comics.

Last issue, I felt, dragged its tail a little, because it was mostly characters talking to explain the back-story of the flying platforms, the Skull Fortress and newcomer Annie. It looked good, was well written and still very entertaining, but I just missed the all-out, wacky action, and that’s what this issue delivers as David Kim (aka Xombi) and his rag tag reli crew prepare to invade the Skull Fortress and fight this series’ adversary Roland Finch. Most of the issue deals with preparing for battle, while only the last three pages depict the beginning of the battle. Yet, still this issue delivers on all fronts. It has the characters strolling through the flying stronghold and admiring its majestic views; getting into fights with each other; talking strategy; battling; and taking some relationship advice. This issue invested much in humanizing the characters, especially Annie and David. Annie is guilt-ridden about her part in Finch’s rise to power and worried about what her time as an exile from the flying strongholds (where time comes to a stop) has done with her life, while David is preoccupied with the fact that he has never told his fiancé about his powers and his superhero lifestyle. When both of these characters get into a discussion with their own problems on their minds, things go BOOM! Writer John Rozum writes wonderfully realistic and relatable dialogues between two characters that are drawn to each other, but too different from each other to make a worthwhile connection. That is one aspect of the story I had not foreseen when I opened this issue. Great human writing, in between of all the over-the-top, whacky, super heroics, make the stakes feel much higher.

A gorgeous page by Frazier Irving, from Xombie #5, published by DC comics.

A gorgeous page by Frazer Irving, from Xombi #5, published by DC comics.

I really have nothing but praise for this issue and this series as a whole. Before I started this volume, I’d never read a Xombi comic (or any Milestone publication for that matter), but that did not cause any problems to my enjoyment of this book. I really can’t recommend it high enough! I was innitially worried that Xombi would disappear after the DC reboot next month, but I just found out that a new series will start in February. (Damn, that was a year old, I don’t think there are plans in the work for more Xombi…) If you’re still not sure about it, please take a look at this Comic Minute from the first issue:
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hPFugrfvcAI.html width=”480″ height=”385″]
Art: 9.5 Writing: 9,5       Overall: 9.5

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Runners up of week 32: Red Skull 2, Red Wing 2, Criminal. Last of the innocents 2

2. Red Skull: Incarnate #2 (Marvel comics)
As a historian myself, and having studied Nazi Germany for a while, I have to tip my hat to Greg Pak for the amount of authenticity he manages to seep into his writing. The amount of research he must have done, must be ridiculous, as well as the way he must have critically edited his own writing and the incoming art from Mirko Colak. This may sound off-putting, but this is no graphic novel historic documentary, it’s a typical comic book, just as you’d expect, only damned good. With the Captain America movie in theaters all around the world Marvel can’t be blamed to publish a Red Skull origin just now. But this is not just another cash cow. It’s a very well executed story, that may have been in the pipeline longer then the movie and tells the story of young Johan Schmitt, the boy that will one day become the Red Skull. The story plays out in 1930’s Germany, where they know what a real financial crisis feels like. Poor, little, red haired Johan is given a rough start at life, and in this heart wrenching tale we see a shade of grey, who may have turned white, slowly turn darker, and darker.
Art: 8.5 Writing: 9.5       Overall: 9

3. The Red Wing #2 (Image comics)
This high concept tale of tie fighter, time traveling high jinks keeps delivering in the quality department! Great art, great writing telling a great story, in an overall fine package. Without spoiling, I really can’t say too much about this book. The one cadet following in the footsteps of his father, who’s missing in action time (and presumed dead) has some issues, while the reader learns that the father’s story is far from over. The concept of time and time travel, get explained to a time traveling fighter pilot, who doesn’t really get it himself. While, this may sound intellectually challenging, even with your brain turned off, in the most passive reading mode, the given explanation turns out to be just as entertaining as it is compelling. This book contains a couple of short pages containing prose, companioned with an illustration. Contrary to some of writer Jonathan Hickman’s earlier work however, it fits seamlessly into the story. The end of this issue has a cliffhanger I could not have foreseen, and I am very much interested to see how this is explained and dealt with. Also, check out the Comic Minute from the first issue of The Red Wing:
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hPFugszCcwI.html width=”480″ height=”385″]
Art:9 Writing:9 Overall:9

4. Criminal. The last of the Innocents #2 (Icon)
If you hate stories with despicable protagonists, then stay clear from this series. Or better yet, stay clear from the whole line of Criminal books by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips, because every one of its main characters have something seriously wrong in their head.  Take for instance this series’ ‘hero’ Riley Richards, he has a lousy marriage, knows his wife is cheating on him, his best friend is a recovering junkie, and he has gotten used to a costly lifestyle that has led him to make debts at the address of some gangster. The only way out of his problems, he decides is to kill his wife and that’s what he sets out to do in this issue. He thinks everything through, and even creates a strong alibi by orchestrating the falling off of the wagon of his best friend. When said friend falls down unconscious, Riley’s alibi will be that he has been with him all night, taking care of him, while in reality he was out killing his wife. Sounds pretty rough, right? Fortunately, this miserable plot is interspersed with little flashback vignettes about Riley’s past in his wholesome hometown Brookview, which are drawn in the Archie style. These ‘dirty Archie’ tales provide both some breathing space in this dark and macabre story, as well as deepening the emotional implications of what Riley is doing. Also, a lovely cover by Sean Philips.
Art: 8.6 Writing: 9           Overall: 8.8

Quick shots for week 32: Chewing on some Detective comics while spontaneously shooting my Sixth Gun at some Marvel comics

5. Chew #11-15 (Just desserts) (Image comics)                                                   8.4
Slowly, but surely I’m getting up to date on this series. These five issues, were all very good, but I have some problems with the story format. This did not feel like a five issue story, more like a one issue story, followed by a three issue story and then another one and done issue. That’s why I was a bit disappointed by issue 15. I was hoping for plots to be resolved, but none were and only more questions arose. Really original story telling though, I don’t think there is anything like this on the stands.
6. Spontaneous #2 (Oni press)                                                                                       8.4
Line of the week? “Erin Brokovich didn’t just go after a book deal, Melvin. And she didn’t fight the power just to get Julia an Oscar. Sometimes we need to put the public good first.”   The story is moved in a different direction as the reporter girl starts piecing together the puzzle connecting so many people in the town of Bayville who have spontaneously combusted. The character of Melvin is also explored some more, and we get to learn a little more of what happened on the day his father died and what role he might have played in this tragic happening.
7. Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine #2 (Marvel comics)                                  8.3
This book is filled with things I didn’t ever expect to see: Magneto and Electro exploding into an EMP, the Punisher shooting the Beast’s head off, Willie Lumpkin’s head on a spike… Really very entertaining, the art has even improved since last issue, this really feels like it could be a big event book. Only problem is the Thing being a zombie pimp, didn’t we also see that in Marvel Zombies?
8. The Sixth Gun #13 (Oni Press)                                                                                      8
Shit, when I got the last page and discovered that this was the second issue of the current story arc I found out I’ve missed an issue, which may have left a mark on my reading experience (it sure does explain a lot!) Will be picking up issue 12 soon, I’ll reread this one then too, maybe it’s score higher next time? Becky and Sinclair fight of a hoard of monsters coming for the remains of general Hume, the good guys win at a great price…
9. Detective comics #881 (DC comics)                                                                          8
Seamless transformation from Francevilla to Jock. Very different styles, but I did not notice the change until al whole lot of pages had gone by already. Since this is the last issue before the reboot and it involves Barbara Gordon aka Oracle (aka soon to be Batgirl) being kidnapped and tortured by her stepbrother, the stakes were high. At one point I really thought they were gonna kill her. They didn’t and the story was neatly wrapped up. Nice ending, I wish this run could have lasted longer.
10 .New Avengers #15 (Marvel comics)                                                                     7.8
Great to see Squirrel Girl in action, kicking Logan’s ass, Bendis writes her really good and believable. I like Deodato, but the last pages really didn’t click with me… Oh, and is he capable of drawing woman that aren’t smoking hot? I mean Squirrel girl never looked particularly attractive right?
11. Ultimate Fallout #4 (Marvel comics)                                                                   7.5
Solid art and stories, finally digging into the Ultimate Origins miniseries, interesting to find out Reed Richards is still alive and maybe not bad to the bone (or deranged?) and of course the black Spider-man who comes to the conclusion, that his costume is in bad taste. Better art then the last couple of issues and the stories have some more meat to them.
12. Fear Itself #5 (Marvel comics)                       only because of the great art: 7
What an odd coupling, this great, great art and this clumsy writing. I appreciate the way that this is going back to the old, wacky, silver age stories, and I give credit for the way the villain’s castle comes down over DC and stuff. That’s really reminiscent of the classic stuff by Stan and Jack, otherwise my disappointments in this series continue strongly. The character voices are mostly off, the story jumps around so much it becomes unclear what’s happening a lot of the time, furthermore there are plot elements introduced that aren’t explained. For instance you don’t get the significance of Cap yelling to the Avengers “Don’t let the hammers hit…” What: Each other? The ground? You? I don’t know, the turnaround page shows that whatever is hit, caused a big explosion. The panel before doesn’t make clear that the hammers are going to hit anything in particular. Oh, and the Thing is turned back to normal by Franklin Richards (who suddenly and conveniently appears on the scene), couldn’t he have thought of that earlier?
13. FF #7 (Marvel comics)                                                                                          6.9
Black Bolt gets his pimp on. I’m not digging the art. Story was just fine. (I know, sometimes ‘review’ is a very big word…)
14. X-men Legacy #252 (Marvel comics)                                                      6.7
Finally Magneto’s change of heart gets explored (if only a little…) It’s weird that Parisians are begging for their lives in English, yet Gambit keeps barfing out French one-liners… This wasn’t terribly exciting, the story of Legion’s escaped persona’s continues and feels very formulaic. This is certainly not the highpoint in Mike Carey’s X-men run.