Category Archives: Book of the week

Approximately 600 words about the favorourite comic book I read this week.

Everything looks better in the dark: Amoras #1

Last Tuesday I was at my local supermarket, standing in line and glancing at the magazine rack when suddenly my heart skipped a beat. Was that actually a comic book down there in full frontal view? An actual, adult oriented comic (ironically vertically positioned at a child’s height)? Then, the image on the cover and the name above the title suddenly clicked with something I’d recently heard about on the radio.  Regardless of my enjoyment of the comic I bought, that Tuesday I felt instantly happier because for the first time since I was twelve, I’d actually bought a ‘serious’ comic in a store that was not specialized in comics. 

Amoras #1 (Standaard Uitgeverij)
amoras cover

The title of the comic I bought is ‘Amoras’ and above the title the cover displays the name Willy Vandersteen. Vandersteen is the creator of one of Belgium and the Netherlands biggest comic series Suske en Wiske (or in translated editions, according to Wikipedia Spike and Suzy, Luke and Lucy, Willy and Wanda or Bob and Bobette), and these are the main characters in Amoras. Suske en Wiske, first published in 1945 was (and still is) a very kid-friendly, all ages book, suske en wiskecombining elements of science fiction and fantasy covered in a thick layer of action and humour. In honour of the centennial birthday of Vandersteen, the publisher has started this spin-off title, in which the familiar characters, events and settings take a dramatic u-turn from what the reader is used to with Suske en Wiske.

I have never been a fan of Suske en Wiske. As far as I can recall (the last time I spent any amount of attention to reading an album must have been over a decade ago) the storytelling was very stiff, the humor as sharp as a spoon and the ligne-clair art-style did not appeal to the teenager that was gorging himself on 90’s superheroes. So, before I delve into the actual reviewing here, I have put a disclaimer that I know next to nothing about these characters and I’m looking at this Euro-comic through a lens that was sharpened on American comics.

This is the first issue (actually a 54 page album) in an on-going series; the next instalment is planned for next fall. Basically what happens is Suske and Wiske (suddenly nearing the end of their teenage years) accidentally end-up in the year 2047. What we see of the world has been turned into a mysterious dystopian wasteland, where Wiske is kidnapped by Dr. Krimson who runs a high tech fascist police state. Of course, Suske attempts to rescue her and gets help from a new female character called Jérusalem. Back in the current time, regular cast members Lambiek, Jerom (estranged from each other) and Sidonia find out that Suske and Wiske are missing. While a third plot thread deals with their friend professor Barabas being abducted by the clumsily time-hopping Dr. Krimsom to improve his 3d-copied version of BarabasTele Time Machine.

Jérusalem's got the hots for Wiske (art by Charel Combré from Amors #1.)

Jérusalem’s got the hots for Wiske (art by Charel Combré from Amors #1.)

To me this whole project reminded me a lot of the recent ‘reboot’ at DC comics over in the States. When they stopped their whole line of comics to restart them all with new number ones, the line-wide trend throughout most of the 52 new titles seemed to be going back to the 90’s as far as art was concerned as well as focussing on darker, edgier stories. They even had a TV ad backed by a dark, heavy metal-grunge soundtrack. And the whole Amoras package seems just a little too much ‘look how dark and gritty Suske and Wiske have become’. I find the idea behind it interesting, but to me as an outsider it feels like a desperate measure to try and bring in new readers… (…and I’m not seeing anybody jumping back to the original title because of this ‘edgy’ spin-off.)

Story-wise, this first instalment lacks originality. Sure it’s cool and fun to see Wiske physically fully developed running around in a sexy outfit, or Jérusalem attempting a trip to sexy town with Suske. It’s also kind of refreshing to see the titular characters curse like actual people do, as well as actually physically hurting their adversaries. But these novelties do not outweigh the fact that the story regurgitates all the beats of any standard time travel story. Also, I got really irked by story/continuity inconsistencies (in one panel Suske is wearing a gun over his shoulder while in all the surrounding panels he remains unarmed, in another panel Jérusalem -who it’s established is deaf and can only understand people through reading their lips- is talking with Suske while turned with her back to him, see image above). However, I’m not ready to write-off writer Marc Legendre. I had not read any of his earlier stuff, but it turns out he’s pretty accomplished and I’ve just ordered his graphic novel ‘Verder’(apparently the only comic to have ever made the short list of the prestigious Dutch Libris Price for Literature). Hopefully my next experience with his work will click more with me.

Is Amoras the creative explosion that will draw in new readers to the Suske en Wiske franchise? Only time will tell, (Art bij Charel Cambré, from Amoras #1).

Is Amoras the creative explosion that will draw in new readers to the Suske en Wiske franchise? Only time will tell (Art bij Charel Cambré, from Amoras #1).

The art of the series is delivered by Charel Combré. Being an American comic fan, the first thing I thought when I saw his art is ‘this guy needs a strong inker’. In no way is this guy a bad artist, but the line-work is a little too inconsistent for my taste. Some panels are scratchy, sometimes thick and thin lines don’t really blend in a way that makes sense to me. Other panels are quite gorgeous and clean however. I also looked at the press kit for this Amoras and saw some of Combré’s pencils, which in my opinion look better than the final product. Also, I did a Google image search on this guy and found out he did the artwork for a title called Mega Mindy, in which he used straight edged, bold lines giving his art a much more clear, clean and confident look. Throughout most of the book the colouring (also by Cambré) is superb, but the last couple of pages seem rather crude in comparison. To end things on a positive note, there are flashes of brilliance in the widescreen action scenes at the beginning of the book and throughout the book the dynamism is excellent.

The art is really dynamic, and the action is explosive (art by Charel Cambré, from Amoras #1).

The art is really dynamic, and the action is explosive (art by Charel Cambré, from Amoras #1).

Ultimately, I think the idea behind Amoras is interesting and a very worthwhile endeavour. However, I have my doubt about the execution and I seriously question how many readers will jump from this series to the regular Suske en Wiske. Regardless of my critiques, I DO admit I found it hard to give this book a fair chance. Unconsciously, I was hoping the book would not deliver and confirm my preconceived notions about Suske en Wiske. Because of this, I will revisit Amoras in November for the second album and try to give it a fair shake to win me over.

Art 6.5  Writing               5 (+1 for the idea behind this series)

Book of the week 28: Walking Dead #100

1. Walking Dead #100 (Image comics)
With a hit television series; a great video game; a table top game; action figures; statues; t-shirts; novelizations; and the news that this anniversary issue has become the best selling single issue of 2012, the Walking Dead really doesn’t need any more hype. Still, it’s one hell of an achievement that Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and Tony Moore) have come this far with their little zombie book. The remarkable feat of reaching one hundred issues isn’t what’s most noticeable about the latest issue though: It’s the strong character driven plot and the emotions it evokes in readers.

This anniversary issue is a real stomach turner. I won’t spoil anything specifically, so rest assured and read on. In the last couple of issues Rick Grimes and his little community of survivors have reached out to a larger community not far from them. When they learn that this Hilltop community is being extorted by a man called Nagin and his gang of enforcers, Rick offers to deal with them. At first it seemed to work, twice Rick and his people encountered Nagin’s followers, and twice they killed most of them, sending the survivors back to tell Nagin that the Hilltop is now under their protection. In this issue, we get an idea of the size of Nagin´s gang as they retaliate and randomly choose one of the main characters to make an example of.

Again, labeling this book as merely a zombie book is doing it a huge disservice. Sure there´s some zombies getting their heads chopped off. And, sure the story is set in a world gone to hell because of the dead rising with a bad apatite. But really, this is a story about survival and the strains that such extreme situations put on relationships and society as a whole. It´s because of Robert Kirkman´s choice to focus on character interaction, instead of mindless zombie whacking, that the gruesome horrors that fictional characters inflict on each other drive straight home with a sickening emotional sucker punch. Case in point is the death in this issue. Here we see a character that was introduced in the first couple of issues having his or her head brutally bashed in, right in front of his or her loved ones. A character that, time and time again has proven him or herself as crucial to the survival of Rick and his people. A character that had just found some happiness in this post apocalyptic wreck of a world. The character that just a couple of pages before his or her death utters the phrase: ‘I can’t stop thinking about tomorrow. I never used to do that.’ A character that was built up so strong that readers will miss him or her like a real person. Heck, I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene the rest of the day. My mind kept going back to all the good memories about the character and the five pages that show the horrific last moments in shocking detail.

On that last note, this issue isn’t just an issue filled with horror for horror’s sake. It sets up Nagin as a villain that makes The Governor (remember him?) look like Mary Poppins and changes the status quo of the series: Just as everything seemed to be looking up for Rick and his people, they now find themselves in a new bleak situation, which I can’t imagine they can easily get out off. Still, I can’t wait till Rick gets his hand on Nagin.

I’m not sure what to say about the art. It was as fantastic and dire looking as can be expected from Charlie Adlard. Although I have to wonder what his reaction was when he first read Robert Kirkman’s script. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to render some of the stuff in here.
Art: 9              Writing: 10     Overall: 9.5

Book of the week 27: Green River Killer. A True Detective Story

Front Cover of Green River Killer. A True Detective Story

1. Green River Killer. A True Detective Story (Dark Horse comics, 2011)
This is one of those times that a recommendation really works out. After listening to 11 O’Clock Comics #218, I decided to pull this one out of the dusty old pile labeled ‘to read’. Despite its 225 pages, Green River Killer is a quick read (still it’s due to this baby that I didn’t get around to reading more recent stuff), there’s lots of panels with few to no words and this is the strong suit of this beautiful original graphic novel. With stark black and white art by Jonathan Case, and lean writing by Jeff Jensen, this book excels in brooding atmospheres and human emotions.

Art from the opening sequence of Green River Killer. A True Detective Story, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Art by Jonathan Case from the opening sequence of Green River Killer. A True Detective Story, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Green River Killer was the popular name given to a Washington serial killer that slew at least 48 women in the 1980’s and 90’s. This ‘graphic novel inspired by true events’ , follows detective Tom Jensen, who spent 20 years working this case. As the reader gets more engrossed in both Jensen’s career, his relentless drive for finding the killer and his personal life it becomes apparent that the case is slowly but surely taking over his life. And that’s where the uniqueness of this book comes in: author Jeff Jensen is the son of the main character and as such he has witnessed firsthand how the case of Green River Killer has affected Tom Jensen. Jeff wrote this book ‘to gain a better understanding’ and this shows in that this book is as much a detective story as a premier character study. In one of the caption boxes near the end of the book Jeff reveals a tiny bit of how he and Tom prepared for this book. It shows a lot about how emotional things must have gotten: ‘He still doesn’t speak of June 17, 2003. The details he gave me were few, and offered reluctantly.

A young Tom Jensen, portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A true Detective Story.

A young Tom Jensen, portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A true Detective Story.

When you´re watching a television series like The Wire, you don´t expect to be blown away by spectacular visual effects. The same rings true for a personal, deeply psychological and procedural book as Green River Killer. While the art is certainly strong and it´s perfectly enjoyable to admire Jonathan Case his brush strokes, it also has something unremarkable to it. In this instance the art mostly seems to serve the story. And that´s perfectly fine. Where Case´s art does shine though, is in his facial expressions. Whether it´s the hauntingly empty stare of Gary Leon Ridgeway AKA the Green River Killer, or the great array of expressions of Tom Jensen, which range from angered, to saddened, to professionally detached, to horrified and uncomprehending  (to name but a few) Case depicts them all in a perfectly convincing manner. This is also the case for the locations and backgrounds of the story. Without a doubt Case has put a lot of research in reconstructing all the real life scenes, and it pays off in a glow of authenticity that radiates from this book.

Gary Leon Ridgly as portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A True Detective Story.

Gary Leon Ridgly as portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A True Detective Story.

All in all, this is a book that will haunt me for weeks after putting it down. And will probably make for an interesting reread. I highly recommend Green River Killer to fans of the crime-, detective- and procedural genres, but honestly this is a book about real persons, with real relations being put to the test through some horrible and dark scenarios, and who doesn’t like to read that?
Art: 8.5                       Writing: 9       Overall: 8.7

More quick reviews: Walking Dead 90, X-reboot and a bunch more Image titles

As I’m busy once again I bring my reviews once more in a shorter form. I had a good week with the X-men relaunch and a bunch of Image comics. Enjoy:


1. Walking Dead #90 (Image comics)                                                                         8.8
Lots of character development, as some characters grow decidedly more towards each other (Rick and Andrea sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…) and Rick and his son Carl finally have a good moment to express their feelings, while the guns-ablaze cliffhanger from last issue is diffused by… …words. Plus, Rick likes to kill people, it’s just easier than having to face people in an argument.


2. Wolverine and the X-men #1 (Marvel comics)                                               8.7
I see Doop! I see little Nightcrawlers (OMG they are BAMFS!!!), and prof X!!! OMG the whole school is a Danger Room! Not too keen on this latest version of Chris Bachalo’s art. But this was the most fun I’ve had with X-men in a great long while. And it’s also funny that it seems to me that when the rest of the Marvel Universe is interesting, the X-titles suck, and when the X-titles are great, I couldn’t give a damn about the rest of the 616 Marvel Universe (which is clearly presently the case).

3. Uncanny X-men #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                      8.7
This is some of superstar artist Carlos Pacheco’s best work since his return to Marvel. CyclopsX-men are ready and looking for a fight. If that weren’t enough Mr. Sinister activates the San Francisco Sleeping Celestial and flies of in its head, to start… …Sinister town? Great funny bits between Namor and Emma Frost! And I love Storm as the moral heart of the team, asking who in this team has never been known primarily as a super villain (and only her Hope Summers and Cyclops raising their hands).

4. Gladstone’s School For World Conquerors #6 (Image comics)        8.6
Holy shit, this was the best issue of this series so far. While the art was a bit inconsistent (especially the rendition of the adult adversary), in the story all the plot threads that got dangled in front of the reader earlier in the series get masterfully pulled together and the story reaches a dramatic crescendo as the kids lose some of their innocence and learn that the fights between superheroes and villains are staged.

5. La mano de destino #1 (Castle and Key Publications)                                  8.5
Great little first issue of a six issue miniseries about a Luchador (a masked Mexican wrestler) who’s working his way up the ranks to exact revenge on the ringmaster… Great, exciting Kirby-like art made to look very vintage!

6. Northlanders #45 (Vertigo)                                                                                        8.5
The Icelandic Trilogy continues, with the second chapter being drawn by Declan Shalvey. I don’t think I have to say anything other than that. GO BUY IT!!!
7. Chew #17 (Image comics)                                                                                               8.5
A food fight gone horribly wrong, even more strange food powers and Chew’s partner Colby is a dick. I’m loving it!

8. Northlanders #44 (Vertigo)                                                                                            8
The story about the founding fathers of Iceland continues with an account of feuding families. This is such smart writing, it’s amazing. I really admire Brian Wood´s ability to write perfectly believable human emotion in a big story of historical events.

9. Ultimates #3 (Marvel comics)                                                                                        8
I wish they would have given the artist (Essad Ribic) more time on this, some pages are deep-fried comic book gold, while others look rushed and even unfinished. In this Nick Fury, Thor and the rest of the Ultimates get their asses handed to them some more and ultimately Thor goes on a suicide mission.


10. Chew #16 (Image comics)                                                                                                8
Chuckles abound as the strange writings in the sky draw attention off of the chicken prohibition and onto UFO research and Layman introduces us to another culinary gifted character, a voresophic, which gets really smart as long as he’s eating.

11. Uncanny X-men #544 (Marvel comics)                                                                 8
Good little ending, accentuating that Cyclops X-men will be something (or already are) something completely different then the good old X-men of yesteryear.

12. Pigs #2 (Image comics)                                                                                                  7.5
I´m not digging the art, it’s a bit too crude and empty for my tastes (it could have used some more details and refinement). On the other side, I am very much digging the story (about a Cuban-Soviet sleeper cell that was recently activated to execute their 1950’s protocol to assassinate the U.S. president). It’s the most interesting plot I’ve read in a long time. I loved the pages of the familia visiting the White Russian and inviting him to pick up arms and execute his part of the protocol. The sequence featured terribly tense dialogues, which clearly showed the different concerns of the parties (The White Russian having all but forgotten his original mission and trying to protect his family and the life that he has built up in the U.S. over the years really doesn’t want to join his Cuban buddies in their plans).

13. Extinction Seed #0 (GG Studio)                                                                             7.2
I have no idea what this was about, one part was set in the 1960´s, in another they were using laptops. Some characters are doing mysterious stuff in Berlin, coincidentally (or not?) another is heading for Berlin (and posing in bath all sexy), then there are two sexy girls tickling each other in a park while they are being observed. Oh, and a journalist (I guess) was writing about meteors. I guess this is supposed to be teasing, but to me it was confusing and incoherent. The art is good, high on the cheese cake, but a bit inconsistent in the linework. Now the coloring (by Alessia Nocera) however was fucking magnificent!

14. The Vault #2 (Image comics)                                                                                   6.5
The art in this is okay, although the facial expressions could have been much stronger. This issue has some clumsy, stiff and over-explanatory dialogues as the crew of explorers discuss whether or not to open their new mysterious archeological find (a sarcophagus with what looks like a vampire skeleton in it). What´s basically a great, original concept that could work in any storytelling medium is rendered impotent by horrible dialogues and the lack of any logic in the choices the characters make. In the end, the expressionless faces of the characters stand in the way of any of the drama and action coming across to the reader. On the positive side, the writing brings across a lot of atmosphere and the plot of this series is very thrilling.

Finally… …book of last week review 41: Ultimate Hawkeye 2

Okay, once again stuff is interfering with writing reviews, so here’s a short one for my favorite book of last week. Hopefully, I’ll be more current coming sunday.

1. Ultimate Hawkeye #2 (Marvel comics)
And this shows once more why Ultimate Hawkeye is so much cooler than his 616 counterpart. He’s more akin to an athletic and military schooled version of Bullseye than the fun loving Robin Hood clone that we know from the Avengers. He’s portrayed by Jonathan Hickman as a strategist ala Captain America, only with a kick ass attitude (remember, this is the same guy that used his fingernails as deadly ranged weaponry back in Millar and Hitch’s run, not the glasses wearing Grifter lookalike from Jeph Loeb’s run). Not only do we get to see this great character in action, but we also get treated to some beautiful artwork which is even better than last issue. Dynamic layouts; emotional facial expressions; energetic action scenes; beautiful splash pages; and a confident thick line of ink: I COULD NOT possibly love this series more… …Could I? Well, this issue ends with Hawkeye asking Nick Fury for backup from the Ultimates. However, since the Ultimates are occupied elsewhere, Fury sends Ultimate X, his covert mutant team of Angel, Firestar(?), Jean Grey and the Hulk. Kill me now, I can’t wait for next issue.

Art:9               Writer:8.5                  Overall:8.7

Book of the week 40: Mystery Men 5

1. Mystery Men #5 (Marvel comics)
This is the last issue of a shockingly awesome miniseries about a ragtag team of 1930’s pulp heroes set in the Marvel Universe. If you haven’t read any of the previous issues, I highly suggest you go and check them out. In the pages of Mystery Men, writer David Liss and artist Patrick Zircher have introduced five brand new and very unique heroes into the history of Marvel. This reads like a very pulpy story and because of this some of the new heroes aren’t very typical. Still, this series has all the traits of a great Marvel comic. Whether you like everything from Captain America to X-Factor, or you´re totally burned out by events like Siege, Schism or Fear Itself, you can’t go wrong with this title.

Mystery Men is (very noirishly) narrated by Dennis Piper, AKA The Operative. The Operative is basically a Robin Hood-esque cat burglar. His pinstriped three-piece suit complete with gloves and a hat is complemented by balaclava (which is totally my word of the week!) face mask. This guy has no superpowers, but in this issue we learn where he has acquired his fighting skills, burglary techniques and thick skin. The series opens with The Operative’s investigation of the murder of his girlfriend. His search quickly leads him in the direction of a dark figure from his own past. Along the way however, he meets four eclectic allies: Sarah Starr, AKA The Aviatrix, the sister of his deceased lover but also a female pilot with her own set of Rocketeer gear; Ezekiel Wright, AKA The Revenant, a Broadway stagehand who uses his skill in visual effects to fight crime; prof. Lewis Green, AKA Achilles, an archeologist who has been tasked by the adversary to retrieve the magical amulet which gives him the powers of the hero of Greek myths at the price of other people’s lives; rounding out the Mystery Men is The Surgeon, a doctor who’s been horribly scared when his house was set on fire because he was tending strikers. Now wrapped in bandages he keeps on playing doctor, his favorite prescription being justice preferably administered through a syringe.

The villains are a group of industrialists who are getting rich by actually causing the Great Depression, lead by an evil maniac, known only as The General. The General in turn is a lackey of Dr. Strange villainess Nox, who has him abducting and sacrificing children to return her to her true form. Last issue our heroes managed to save all but one of the children that where still kept prisoner. The one still missing is the baby of aviator Charles Lindberg, who is especially valuable because his fame will give his death a greater emotional impact throughout America, thus intensifying the power of the demonic ritual.

This final issue sees the group getting back together to thwart Nox and The General for good. As can be expected, it’s full of action. As I mentioned in my review of issue 4, I really appreciate the dynamic panel layouts that Zircher uses for the action scenes. They give the flow of the story a nice acceleration, while also showing how wild and chaotic fights can be. This, together with Liss’ skillful use of pacing the story through different page layouts (ranging from nine panel grid pages, to full-page spreads, and everything in between) makes this a superb read.

I’ll try not to compare the art style with that of other artists, as I am wont to do. So let’s just describe it as a slightly photorealistic version of the Marvel house-style (not surprising as I have found out Zircher is a Marvel veteran), with very effective use of blacks and shadows. Both characters and the scenery look very much like they really are from the thirties, which I guess means that Zircher has put a lot of research into this project.

This issue offers an interesting and satisfying open ending to a wholly original series, set in the continuity of the Marvel Universe. It’s a shame that a title like this may get overlooked because it ‘doesn’t matter to the overall continuity’. I’d like to congratulate Liss and Zircher for creating a landmark stand-alone miniseries. In a mere five issues they have developed a cast of three-dimensional characters that I hope we will see more of in the future.
Art:9               Writing:9.5                 Overall:9

Book of last week: Ultimate comics. All new Spider-man 2

Exactly one week later than I had wanted:

1. Ultimate comics. All new Spider-man #2 (Marvel comics)
High expectations notwithstanding, I was pleasantly surprised by this issue. Ever since the Ultimate Spider-man video game and artist Stuart Immonem replaced original penciller Mark Bagley, I have loved the Brian Michael Bendis written alternate take on the friendly neighborhood Spider-man. While staying true to the core of the character comic readers have loved for more than fifty years, the ultimized version of the wall crawler has been redefined for a new generation with original takes on both characters and stories. Originally there were a lot of references to the original continuity, lately however the whole Ultimate universe has gone topsy-turvy and has never been more unlike the original Marvel universe. The pinnacle of this new direction perhaps being the recent death of Peter Parker and the announcement that he is being succeeded by African American/Latino youth Miles Morales.

Just as the first start of Ultimate Spider-man back in 2000 the story that is being told is super decompressed. Originally we didn’t get to see Peter Parker in costume until the sixth (?) issue. If the first issue two issues of this series are an indication it looks like Bendis is taking his time again, this time around. So while this may not be for everyone and might read better in a collected edition, it works completely that this series as of yet is pretty low on action, while it’s packed to the brim with emotional punches and funny bits.

As to what happens in this issue, we see Miles panicking about the fact that the bite of an irradiated spider has given him some mysterious superhuman abilities (not all like the original Spidey). In his panic, he visits his friend Ganke to demonstrate what’s happening to him and voice his fears of turning out to be a mutant. In doing so, he accidently discovers yet another new ability. Later we see an important moment of bonding between Miles and his father about the (criminal) history his father and uncle share. Finally, we see Miles getting text messages from Ganke explaining that just like the original Spidey he isn’t a mutant but has somehow gained the abilities from the bite of a spider (which I guess is the first thing actually steering him to becoming the next Spidey).

So while the story is as good as it gets, the art by Italian penciller Sarah Pichelli may be even better. Seriously, this book looks so good it made me weep. Reading this issue and taking in the gorgeous artwork was a miraculous experience that made my eyes bleed in a good way (the best way). If it was possible in some shape, way or form I’d marry this artwork (I think it’s slightly more realistic my wife would share me with artwork than with the artist). Effective linework, dramatic camera angles, dynamic action, really Marvel should count their blessing that she wants to work for them. I especially admire Pichelli’s ability to render every character through very unique and realistic body types and postures. Whether it’s the young Miles (the slimmest and scrawniest Spider-man ever?), his geeky and slightly obese Asian friend Ganke, or Miles’ father with his stern expression, freckled face and bald head they are all very realistically, fully developed , three dimensional characters. And honestly I can’t wait to see Miles in his costume, because he is the youngest and smallest Spider-man we’ve ever seen and I have always liked the fact that the first Ultimate Spider-man was always portrayed as a slimmer and shorter version. And no doubt Pichelli will be able to use Miles diminutive dimension to great effect in action scenes.

Overall, this issue offers tons of beautifully drawn and well written character development. Additionally, we get a first peek of Miles his new and mysterious powers and the supporting cast is slowly being expanded, with perfectly fleshed out human beings, as we have become to expect from Brian Michael Bendis’ last 160 issues of Ultimate Spider-man.
Art:9.5                        Writing: 9.5                Overall:9.5

Book of the week: Batman 1

Batman 1 variant cover by Ethan van Sciver

1. Batman #1 (DC comics)
Again with a Scott Snyder book? Yes, again with a Scott Snyder book. I understand how much it looks like I have turned into a mindless Snyder fanboy as of late (last week his Image book Severed was my book of the week for the second time in a row, and his first issue of Swamp Thing was my third favorite book of the week). But this man has some major story-telling props, he’s a fan of the medium and an accomplished novelist. Apparently, those things make for a deadly combination when writing comic books, whether they be of the horror kind or the superhero ones. But I digress…

I was honestly worried that the DC reboot would interfere with the quality of Scott Snyder’s magnificent run on Batman, which started back in Detective Comics. If this first issue is a good measure, my worries were uncalled for. Not only is this a perfect continuation of the noir-ish story he was already telling, it’s also a damned good first issue for entirely new readers (while small sayings and Easter eggs are there for readers of Snyder’s Detective Comics run to remind them, that this story is naturally progressing). The rebooting stays at a bare minimum in this title, aside from Jim Gordon not having grey hair anymore, I can´t see any changes in the continuity.

Jim Gordon by Greg Capullo

Look who got his hair dyed, it's Jim Gordon as drawn by Greg Capullo in Batman #1 (DC comics).

The story picks up with Bruce returning to Gotham and relieving Dick Greyson of his duty of playing Batman, after traveling the world in Batman Inc. Besides that we see Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damian visiting an elite party, where Bruce unveils his plans for the Gotham skyline. Later we see Batman meeting up with detective Harvey Bullock, to investigate a weird, sadistic, ritualistic murder which reveals a message for Bruce Wayne. The issue ends with a cliffhanger showing DNA traces of the culprit found at the scene of the crime pointing to someone very close to Batman.

Batman rogues by Greg Capullo

It's a couple of Batman's enemies as rendered by Greg Capullo in DC's Batman #1.

It is very smartly written, as a narrative we read a speech Bruce Wayne gives about Gotham, while the issue starts out with a small breakout at Arkham Asylum introducing (and showcasing artist Greg Capullo marvelous new renditions of) Batman’s rogues gallery. Later on in the story we learn about Bruce’s new contact lenses, which have incorporated facial recognition software. This allows for a couple of caption boxes to introduce all of the secondary characters. In an interview with Snyder over at War Rocket Ajax I heard him say that this story arc will build on all his previous Batman work (including the Gates of Gotham miniseries). This excited me to no end, because I really liked the villain that got introduced in Gates of Gotham. In this issue we are already seeing the seeds of how this all may connect to Gates of Gotham (Wayne enterprises is aggressively investing in Gotham’s future architecture).

Batman and the bats by Greg Capullo

This is how good Greg Capullo can make Batman look, art from Batman #1 by DC comics.

And, (oh boy) the art. I’m not very familiar with Greg Capullo, in my mind he was ‘another one of those Image’ artists. But oh my God is he good! He is the perfect successor of Jock and Francisco Francevilla. It’s dark, it’s dynamic, it’s detailed, highly stylized and a bit exaggerated. Capullo was born to draw the Caped Crusader and it looks like he’s having a good time doing so. Especially the scenes where Bruce is in costume look fantastic! In the plain clothes scenes I get the sense that Capullo’s style isn’t really my cup of tea. But notwithstanding my personal taste, this looks ravishing.
Art: 9.5                 Writing: 9           Overall: 9.2

Book of the week 37: Severed #2

Sorry, I just can’t get it up… My book of the week review, that is. I’ve got a pretty busy week with work flowing into my evening hours, so instead of my normal (and timely) 600 word review, these are my abbreviated thoughts on Severed #2.

Book of the week 37.
1. Severed #2
(Image comics)

Okay, Scott Snyder, Scot Tuft and Attila Futaki have quickly become comic book Gods in my book. In just two issues, they have created a world so realistic, so raw, yet brimming with boyish naivety and childlike optimism. This slow burning horror story set in the 1920’s really is an amazing, unique endeavor in today’s market. Last issue we met the main character, 12-year-old Jack Garron. He wants to meet his natural father, and to do so he ran away from his foster home and jumped on a freight train. This initially didn’t turn out very good. But this issue Jack’s luck takes a turn as he gets his two sole possessions back from the child molesting train-cop and finds himself that rarest thing of all in the hobo life… …an  actual friend. But even his new-found friend is wearing a mask. We also learn that last issue’s villain Mr. Porter is a man of many names and it’d be more accurate to call him ‘the salesman’ (a vocation fitting perfectly in the historic context of this story), also we learn that he’s no mere sharp toothed child molester, but something far more terrifying. Meanwhile it’s very interesting to see how Jack is fooling himself about his background (after he’s learned that he’s a foster child, nothing seems real to him anymore other than his father inspired hobo life) and how he handles his first big disappointment.

The art by Attila Futaki is just as unique as the story. For lack of a better word, this feels kinda European (which is a bit ironic as both artist and reviewer are European). With his painterly style and cinematic storytelling Futaki lets his art breath and gives each panel enough room to maximize atmospheric effects. Just like last issue, I like Futaki’s color pallet, which strongly and effectively affects the ambiance of the scenes.
Art: 9.5 (some spots not as detailed as to make this perfect)
Writing: 10 (perfect!)
Overall: 9.7 (Oh, and check out next issue’s cover, now that’s creepy!)

Book of the week 36: Locke and Key. Clockworks 2

1. Locke and Key. Clockworks #2 (IDW publishing)

The cover of Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW.

The cover of Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW.

And once more it befalls writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez that their comic is my book of the week (just like seven weeks ago, and ten weeks ago). It’s really easy to make this my pick again, however it’s pretty hard to write something new about this series (since I already wrote about how great this book looks and how wonderful it reads twice already).

If you haven’t read anything of this series, I think you could pick up this issue and enjoy it. But if you don’t read the previous four volumes you’re really doing yourself a disservice. To shortly pitch this series to new readers: it’s about the three Locke kids who live in Key house, in the town of Lovecraft (Massachusetts), with their mother and uncle. Throughout Key house, there lay hidden a hundred different keys, with diverse magical properties (one to open heads, one to open a portal which turns you into a ghost, one which turns you into a giant, one which turns you into an animal etc…). One of the keys has the power to end the world as we know it (the Omega key) and that is the key that the main bad guy Lucas ‘Dodge’ Caravaggio is after. Dodge has gotten his hands on a couple of the keys and doesn’t shy away from using lethal force to get what he’s after.

Another beautiful splash page by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Another beautiful splash page by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

The latest issue of Locke and Key. Clockworks, picks up the story again, after the events of the last volume (Keys to the Kingdom) and a little bit of (much appreciated) background information got to us in the last issue. While the Locke kids think that the bad guy is dead, he’s actually closer to them than ever, and well away to achieving his nefarious goals.

The inside of Tyler Locke's mind, as drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. From Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, published by IDW.

The inside of Tyler Locke's mind, as drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. From Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, published by IDW.

Just to show you that this really is a dark horror book (SPOILER) this issue opens with the youngest of the Locke kids, Bode, throwing another kid under the school bus. Another example, showing just how fantastical this story is at certain points (SPOILER): the girl, Kinsey Locke, had removed her hate and fear from her head, using the Head key. Since then, the embodiment of her hate and her fear were confined in a closed-off coke bottle (they actually drowned in the never endings stream of tears of the fear embodiment). This issue, they escape from their bottle, climb into the oldest Locke kid’s (Tyler) head and wreak havoc in there. In part turning Tyler into a self-pitying, destructive crybaby. Just to show the amount of thought that the creators put into this book: the embodiment of Kinsey’s hate is wrapped up in newspapers. Reading this issue I discovered that the newspaper headings change every panel, to address something that’s currently happening. I’ll have to go back and see if they did this from the start. If so, that’s some pure genius Easter egg hunting material!  And just an example of the godlike artistry of Mr. Gabriel Rodriguez: I have never seen shards of broken glass flying through the sky depicted so beautifully as this:

Really, have you ever seen any better shattering glass in the pages of a comic? Art by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW publishing's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Really, have you ever seen any better shattering glass in the pages of a comic? Art by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW publishing's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Oh, and did I mention that Tyler and Kinsey find a new key at the end of this issue? I’m guessing it’s the Time key or the Clockwork key or some such, as there’s an hourglass on it. I can hardly wait to find out what it does.
Art: 9.5           Writing: 9.5    Overall: 9.5