Tag Archives: Comic book review

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)
Overall
6.3

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

Runners up, week 28: Literary cock thunder, mutant gay mariage and AVX…

2. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Century 2009 (Top Shelf Productions) 
The art by Kevin O´Neill looked better than last issue. Actually, both the writing and art in this were very strong, however I’m just not feeling it. Perhaps I’m oblivious to 90 percent of all the metatextual subliminal messages and symbolism. But there’s also the point that I didn’t particularly like the original two volumes of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; didn’t read the Black Dossier; and besides the League haven’t got the slightest idea about characters like Allan Quatermain or Orlando.  Good ending, to a good book, but I’m just not giddy about this. Also worth noting: Harry Potter shoots lightning from his cock.
Art: 8              Writing: 8       Overall: 8

3. Astonishing X-men #51 (Marvel comics)
I have a nostalgic soft spot for the X-men, and have fond memories of the wedding of Scott and Jean. So, despite all the hubbub surrounding Marvel’s mutant same sex marriage, I dove head first into Astonishing X-men, a series I haven’t read since Joss Whedon left. That being said I had no problem picking up the plot. This is a pretty good jumping on point, so congratulations on that go to Marvel and especially writer Margery Liu. If you’re a fan of weddings then this is for you, otherwise it’s just wrapping up the last story arc. It shows some hectic snippets of the wedding preparations, and of course the wedding of Canadian speedster North Star and lastly a cliffhanger that falls back on the last issue. Overall, I found this issue pretty mediocre: nothing good; nothing bad. Liu has the character voices down perfectly, but writing wise that’s all that stands out. I had high expectations of Mike Perkins on art, but this did not look like his work on Steven King’s The Stand adaptations. Frankly it looked a bit rushed (some of the faces look somewhat… …disfigured). But even rushed Perkins looks pretty good. Ending on a good note, I really liked the soft crayon-like colors.
Art:
7              Writing: 7.5    Overall: 7,3

4. Avengers VS X-men #6-7 (Marvel comics)
I was pretty much down with Marvel’s big summer block buster event… …until Matt Fraction got his hands on it. I’m loving the art by Olivier Coipel. It’s not his best work, but even on an off day, this guy is brilliant. Now Fraction though, that’s a whole other story. He seems to be ticking off all the same boxes he used on Fear Itself (remember Marvel’s last cluster fuck of an event?), alternative magical suits, bad characterizations, disjointed (and  too many) subplots… I can’t wait till the next writer takes over.
Art: 8.5           Writing: 6       Overall: 7.25

Extended quick shots for week 28: Nick Fury and ACE another Dutch comic

A dynamic panel from Nick Fury.Agent of Shield, by Jim Steranko

A dynamic panel from Nick Fury.Agent of Shield, by Jim Steranko

5. Strange Tales #156-163 (Marvel comics, 1967)                                                     7
I keep on plowing through the trade paperback of Nick Fury. Agent of SHIELD. The stories in here are being told in 12 page installments, because the original issues were split between Nick Fury stories and Dr. Strange stories. Issue 156 finally wraps up the first big arc, in which Fury is after Baron Wolfgang von Strucker or the Head Hydra as he was mostly known around then. I was glad to see this long winded rat race come to an end, and welcomed some shorter stories. But sadly writing wasn’t Jim Steranko’s strong suit. Regrettably, the art also took a bit of a dip, when Steranko stopped inking himself. I know that Bill Everett is no slouch either, but it just doesn’t look the same. As far as I have read now, without his own inks Steranko sadly devolves into a Kirby clone (was it the times, or just Marvel’s house style?)
6. ACE #2 (DROP comics)                                                                                                       6.9
And now for a little Dutch flavor. ACE stands for Action Committee Extraordinary, a pan European security agency with national branches. This series shows the adventures of the ACE team designated to the Netherlands. After a zero issue and the number one issue, writer Gert-Jan van Oosten is still setting up the team and the characters, but in this issue we get a gleam of the overall plot direction of this series. In this issue, we follow new recruit John Rock, who can copy knowledge and skills of the people he’s close to. We see Rock get recruited and initiated in the agency. But his welcome turns violent as he gets to fight ACE’s local martial arts expert and gets off on the wrong foot with another new recruit, who seems to be having a secret agenda of his own. Reading this issue, it felt like Van Oosten’s love letter to the classic Chris Claremont X-men. We have a bit of a danger room analogue, a quite physical welcoming ordeal, a team consisting of members with exotic powers as well as exotic ethnicities, fun banter between the characters and of course there is a Madrox the Multiple Man analogue. I love how subtle he manages to get these references in there, without it standing in the way of telling his story. The series’ artist is Ranjit Dommisse, a guy clearly channeling J. Scott Cambell (though a bit more cartoony), I love the way he portrays his women and the visual style he manages to set forth throughout this series. However, I have some issues with his linework and the lack of details (both in faces and backgrounds). Still, this issue’s got a beautiful two page spread introducing all the characters and a wonderfully choreographed fight scene.

Runners up of week 27: Captain Roffa, Nick Fury, Invincible

2. Captain Roffa#2 / SUPER comics #2434 (Windmill comics)
I recently stocked up on all titles published by Rotterdam-based Dutch comic publisher Windmill Comics, so expect to see some of their products popping up in the following weeks. First up, Captain Roffa number two. This series stars Rotterdam’s own superhero while also offering a tongue-in-cheek Shazam parody. As in the first issue (click here to read my review), the first thing to strike me is the art. In contrary to the first issue, this one is in color and it’s amazing to see the detail in the thick-lined, tight cartooning of artist Boykoesh. Every issue of this series contains two stories. While these eight page comedy-adventure stories aren’t really to my taste, I have to admit that they are executed very well by writer Johan de Neef. The first story tells of an encounter with the Night Vampire (who looks an awful lot like Rotterdam’s own Jules Deelder) and in the second Captain Roffa gets help from the Giant of Rotterdam (back in the 1940’s the tallest man in the Netherlands). The biggest weaknesses of this issue are the two pinups: personally, I think they are a big step down from regular series artist Boykoesh, and I would really have liked these pages to be filled with more enjoyable content, such as the OHOTMU-style character bios’ that separate the two stories. But that’s just nitpicking: this issue is all kinds of fun and I hope it finds the hands of as much young readers as possible. If this won’t hook them on comics, I don’t know what will!
Art: 8              Writing: 7       Overall: 7.5

3. Strange Tales 150-156 (Marvel Comics, 1966)
This nearly comprises the first half of the 2000 Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD trade paperback. I had always heard of the legend that is Jim Steranko, but other than his iconic covers was not familiar with his work. This trade paperback is basically a showcase of his first work in comics (besides these he had only done two Harvey Comics). The first three issues Steranko worked over layouts by Jack Kirby, with words by Stan Lee. Then there were two issues written by Roy Thomas and full art by Steranko and after that Steranko handled both writing and art. The first issue that was fully done by Steranko was a step backwards, he was still clearly getting his sea legs. But after that it Dyna-soars upward! Dynamic, cinematic action shown through groundbreaking sequential storytelling, makes this super spy caper a delight for the eye. On the writing side, things gradually get better from Stan Lee, to Roy Thomas, to finally Steranko unleashed. The first couple of installments clearly have more than enough word balloons obscuring the art in a manner that we have come to know from working the Marvel method. But still, if you take it for what it is –a fun throw back, over the top sci-fi, super spy series- you WILL be enjoying yourself
Art: 8              Writing: 7       Overall: 7.5

4. Invincible #92 (Image comics)
Many people have said it before, and most of the time I didn’t agree, but this issue really made me feel that Invincible has peaked and now is struggling along. I love the characters, the writing and the art –normally. But in this issue Robert Kirkman’s writing felt disjointed and the art was just not as good as I have become used to of Ryan Ottley. Sadly the same goes for the pages drawn by Cory Walker. While the overall plot is enjoyable and fun –Invincible is depowered and Robot and Monster Girl talk about what happened when they were in another dimension (for 700 years!), the subplots left me entirely cold and the one with ‘black Invincible’ even made me cringe…
Art: 7              Writing: 6       Overall: 6.5

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.

Reviews for week 43: Ultimate Spider-man 3, SHIELD 2-6, Animal Man 2 and much more

Because of a very aggressive flu that has struck the whole family down this week, a whopping 23 books were read. But because the sickness hasn’t fully wore off yet, I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time reviewing them. So, in rapid succession my thoughts on the books I read this week:

1. Ultimate Spider-man #3 (Marvel comics)                                                            9.2
This is shaping up to be the origin story of all origin stories, it doesn’t miss a single beat. Everything from the funny, to the emotional is there. We still haven’t seen a costume, but we did see Miles his first spider-powered heroic feat! Plus, we get to see how this story fits into the greater continuity of the Ultimate universe. The art was a bit less detailed than the last issues but still beautiful. It’s a blessing that no one wears masks in this because Sarah Pichelli draws every face unique and every expression exquisite.


2. SHIELD
(Volume 1) #2-6 (Marvel comics)                                                               9.1
Apparently we’ve got Galactus to thank for the Gregorian calendar! The main plot of this series basically revolves around SHIELD’s old leader Leonardo DaVinci, who has come back and wants to change SHIELD (when he led the brotherhood, its goal was to protect Earth from anything that would stand in the way of achieving humanity’s and Earths ultimate potential), the new leader Isaac Newton however has calculated the date the world ends and is steering to that which he accepts as inevitable. Thus, the dichotomy between humanism and religion/fatalism is a central and very interesting part of the plot. Ultimately of course, this conflict comes to a boiling point; a war of ideas, actually! I really love how this series uses big ideas and weaves them into the tapestry of the rich (yet apparently vastly unexplored) history of the Marvel Universe. I am really excited to see how all of the subplots (about the two warring factions, this kid Leonid who wants to stop them, the mysterious figure of the Forever Man and Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards stuck in the future) get woven back together. Which, I guess, is what we learn in the second volume of this series (which is currently being published). However, I will wait till we have all the issues, so I can read them all in one sitting. With a complex series like this and with the crazy big ideas that we have learned to expect from Jonathan Hickman, I think reading it in one big chunk will work better than having to wait one or two months between issues. It’s a shame I’ll have to wait a bit for the continuation of this story. But I’m sure it will be worth the wait, as this really is a tour de force of comicbooking by both Hickman and artist Dustin Weaver.

3. Animal Man #2 (DC comics)                                     9 
I can appreciate the art a whole lot better than in the first issue, which is mainlydue from me getting used to it. But I still find it too inconsistent for my taste, some panels are picture perfect and very expressive, yet others look a bit clumsy. Also, I think the uninked linework in this book is very effective and looks really interesting, but it seems to be getting into the way of the colours. In some of the smaller panels the tattoos that appear on Buddy’s body are black instead of red, and also what’s with the pink on his chin? That being said, this issue is quite the accomplishment just from looking the way it looks. I’ve said it before, but to my knowledge it has never been more true that there literally isn’t anything out there that looks even slightly like this. On the story-side, I’ve got nothing to complain about. Once again we see how Buddy Baker balances his family life as a husband and father of two with his super heroics. Undead animals still find a haven in the Baker household as Buddy and his daughter Maxine go on a journey to explain why dead animals are walking around and why Buddy is bleeding out of his eyes and suddenly covered with mysterious tattoos.

4. Batman #2
(DC comics)                                                                                                        9
And yet another artist that draws exquisite breaking glass. More smart and innovative storytelling techniques. This is the Batman book you CAN’T not read.

5. Northlanders #41-43
(Vertigo)                                                                                   8.7
Issue 41 is a beautiful little one-and-done story about the daughter of an island leader who loses all her privileges when her father dies. Very striking, unusual art by Marian Churchland, which fits the book perfect. Oh and the colours (Dave Mccaig) are also nothing to sneeze at. Plus another great example of Brian Wood writing strong women. Issues 42 and 43 are the first two chapters of a nine issue story about the first settlers on Iceland. beautiful, hard lined art by Paul Azacetta. This is one of those stories where there are no good guys and you’re constantly wondering ‘now why’d you go and do that?

6. Ultimate X-men #2
(Marvel comics)                                                                        8.5
High ratings for the art and the spotlight on Iceman, Human Torch and Kitty. Writer Nick Spencer proves his comedic genius in the bit where Johnny goes: ´Ha! Bobby used to date a crazy chick!
A little disappointed with the new villain rev. Striker, if was left up to me this character would have never been dredged up after the classic graphic novel X-men. God Loves Man Kills. Striker was originally a great character, his later incarnations though? -Pretty sucky. This latest version looks like a half human Sentinel, only not as cool as Bastion (an important and cool looking X-men villain back in the nineties).

7. Resurrection Man #1-2 (DC comics)                                                                        8.3
After finally having read this one of DC’s 52 new first issues, I understand some of the thing I heard on many a podcast. This reminds me of a solid ‘90’s Vertigo series. This totally has the feel of DC’s mature imprint both in art and writing. It looks good and really is comparable to art from ‘90’s Vertigo series like Shade the Changing Man. Even the story credits reek of old Vertigo, with its type writer font and stereoscopic colour combination. Written by Abnett and Lanning it’s a bit darker then I’m used to seeing them do, but it works wonderful.

Aaaand the price for hottest new villains goes to the Body Doubles! But maybe they are a bit too attractive, the scene where they are lying on each other in their underwear makes no sense. I understand that DC has gotten a lot of shit about their depiction of woman in the relaunch books and in most of the books that I read I didn’t have a problem with it. But this is just silly and sexist…. If it fits the story, sure make it sexy and if there’s a good reason for it, I can get behind the exploitative angle, but this is just unnecessary and totally random cheese cake… When they have some (really still not much) clothes on however, they make for really fun villains. This series chronicles the story of this guy who resurrects every time he dies, with a new power set. He seems to be missing his memory and is visiting an old friend of his dad for some answers when he encounters these two sexy bounty hunters from Hell. Oh, and in the course of two issues, he’s already died three times. Great fun!

8. Batwing #2 (DC comics)                                                                                                    8.2
Wow is this dark and bloody, and really good! Really refreshing to read a superhero book set in Africa and one where the stakes are realistic and terribly high.

9. Reed Gunther #1-2 (Image comics)                                                                           7.9
Poppycock! This was way better than I’d ever expected. Finally bought it after all the good things I kept hearing. And really I can’t find anything I’d wanted to see different. The first issue is a fun little all ages story, beautifully cartooned about a cowboy and his bear lending a hand to a female rancher who’s cattle is preyed upon by a giant river snake. The second issue sees our heroes entering a haunted mine only to find weird reptile creatures and a magic dagger… The creators have found a great way of building a continuing story through single issue stories. If this series is an indication, the brothers who created Reed will get far in the industry!

10. Aquaman #1 (DC comics)                                                                                             7.8
I can see that this would be very new-reader-friendly. I don’t think I’ll be getting into this though, mainly because of the character. But I’m curious enough to sit the first story arc out. We’re basically introduced to Aquaman, the least popular of all superhero’s , who is taking the decision to live on land instead of in Atlantis. Besides that we are also introduced to a weird race of piranha humanoids who are bound to wreak havoc on the surface world. Great art by Ivan Reiss!

11. OMAC #2 (DC comics)                                                                                                       7.3
I appreciate the art, it just not really my thing. I couldn’t get into the writing, even with a lot of effort. Again, a lot of strong nineties vibes, which I´m not digging. This was my last issue.

12. New Mutants #31 (Marvel comics)                                                                         7.2
I’m loving the thick lined indie art by David Lafuente but I bet I’m in the minority on that one. I only wish they would have gone with the more painterly style of colours-lines, like back in Ultimate Spider-man. Story not much special. It’s just one of those frigging Fear Itself tie-ins…

13. Justice League #2 (DC comics)                                                                                     7
It’s beginning to dawn on me that the Justice League just isn’t for me. I’m not a huge DC guy, and especially this new incarnation seems rather… …silly. The art is okay, but just not for me, and really, both art and story are sooooooooooo nineties, which isn’t always a good thing.

14. Dunwich Horror #1 (IDW Publishing)                                                                  6.8
This is based on the works of H.P Lovecraft. It contains a decent adaptation at the end, though I’m not sure how true to the source the main story stays.

Only quick shots this week. Winner is Cloak and Dagger 2!


1. Spider Island: Cloak and Dagger #2
(Marvel comics)                                9.2
OMG Emma Rios draws the most disgusting spiders! And Nick Spencer is a genius writer: ‘You just unchain me here, and I’ll go ahead and make you look like the smartest man who ever got his nuts chopped off by a light dagger.Dagger has some attitude, I love it! Plus, smart writing (Spencer reminds me of my lessons in history), and Cloak and Dagger have never looked better. This was fucking awesome, it makes me want to curse, it was so good!


2. The Authority. Book 1: Relentless (tpb) (Wildstorm)                                 8.9
This, back in 2000, was what got me balls deep into comics. I was always reading X-men, but after the Grant Morrison run, my devotion of the comic book medium was wavering a bit. This series was the first thing to point me away from the stereotypical, mainstream comic books about capes and tights. But it’s not just from my personal reading experience that I think this is a majorly important comic book. Just like Miracle Man and Watchmen, this was one of those steps in deconstructing superheroes. In this case by showing a group of heroes who are pro-active about changing the world and a bit more radical than your average superhero. I think this is my favorite series of Warren Ellis written superhero stories, and the first time that artist Brian Hitch stepped up his game, to look as good as it gets.
3. Severed #3 (Image comics)                                                                                              8.9
On the first page of this excellent horror story set in the 1920’s, it suddenly struck me that Attila Futaki’s art reminds me of Windsor McKay’s art on the Little Nemo newspaper strip. This story is crafted extremely well, with the first couple of pages of the first issue showing a flash forward of the main character as an old man who’s missing an arm. Throughout the rest of the series where we follow him as a twelve-year-old, you are waiting for this boy to get his arm chopped of around every corner. Brilliant stuff, genuienly creepy. This is horror at it’s very best.

 4. Spontaneous #4 (Oni press)                                                                                         8.8
The plot about a mysterious string of spontaneous combustions stays very… …mysterious. However, this issue things take a turn as we learn that the cause of everything that´s going on lies closer to the main characters then they´d ever imagined. Once again beautifully drawn and very humanly written.
5. X-men Regenisis (Marvel comics)                                                                              7.8
This issue explains how the X-men get divided between the newly formed school of Wolverine in Westchester and the Cyclops led militarized mutant enclave of Utopia. I was shocked and perhaps a bit disappointed by Storm staying in Utopia, and shocked yet pleasantly surprised to see Emma heading for Westchester. …and then disappointed again by her staying.
6. Action Comics #2 (DC comics)                                                                                    7.5
The art looks rushed and badly inked. From the backup material, it becomes clear that it’s mostly the inks that are to blame. Because the pencils by Rags Morales look great. Otherwise a perfectly likable story of a vulnerable Superman and Lex Luthor who may be manipulated by a greater force.
7. Spider-Island Spider-Woman (Marvel comics)                                               7.4
Pretty solid art by Giusupe Gamuncoli, combined with a story by Fred Van Lente that very effectively portrays Jessica Drew as the insecure heroine that we have gotten to know over the years. In this one-shot she has to rescue Alicia Masters, the Thing’s blind girlfriend. Reed Richards wants Master’s blood to contain the basis for an antidote for what’s happening with the whole Spider-Island thing. In the course of the issue, of course she has to face down with the Thing and also, The Gypsy Moth?
8. The Authority. Book 3: Earth Inferno and other stories (tpb) (Wildstorm) 7.4
The cover of this trade credits Frank Quietly as artist before Chris Weston, inside however, the first half of the Earth Inferno story arc is drawn by Weston. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but, when you expect Quietly art, Weston is a bit of a letdown. I understand however, that this was the era that this title met a lot of misfortune. Still, I’d like the publisher to be more honest about the insides. Fun little book where writer Mark Millar explores the characters a bit more than his predecessor. Which doesn’t mean the scale of the action is less, this arc sees Earth trying to expunge all life. This also has two nice little one and done stories I had never read before!

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