Tag Archives: IDW

Quick shot reviews for week 38: If I read another first issue I’m gonna be sick…

A sweet two page sread of recess at Gladstone's school for World Conquerors, art by Armand Villavert.

A sweet two page sread of recess at Gladstone's school for World Conquerors, art by Armand Villavert.

 

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #1(Image comics)            8.7
After having read issues 2-4, this issue quickly and entertainingly explains why the school is named Gladstone’s. Besides that it does a pretty good job of introducing the students of this school for super villains: Kid Nefarious, Mummy Girl, Martian Jones, Ghost Girl and Skull Brother one and two (which we later learn will play a surprisingly important part in this story). Besides setting up the school (including such classes as explosives 101, extortion, oversized reptiles and home economics), and the characters, the story does a great job at unveiling a bit of the driving plot of the series: at the end of the issue we see a hero and villain meeting up in secret to arrange their next fight. The art is by Armand Villavert is beautiful, with sparse, delicate and highly stylized linework it reminds me a bit of the art by Corey Walker in the early issues of Invincible. The big difference being that Gladstone’s look a bit more playful. I think an extra round of applause should be reserved for Mr. Carlos Carrasco for his stark color combinations, which makes the art pop off of the page and makes the book stand out of the crowd.
6. The Vault #1 (Image comics)                                                                                             8
This had come out a couple of months back as well, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. The Vault tells the atmospheric and brooding story of an underwater treasure hunt. It reads very good, and feels like an excellent horror/thriller movie. But don’t worry, it doesn’t read like a movie pitch. It’s a well crafted comic which, I really dug. At first I was a little disappointed by what the treasure hunter team finds. But at the end, let’s just say I wasn’t anymore, and the horror/mystery vibe got amped up quite high. The art (quite photorealistic ) was a bit too standard for me, but that may be a personal taste thing. It fitted well with this story.
7. Demon Knights #1 (DC comics)                                                                                      8
Nothing wrong here, perfectly likeable book about DC characters both widely known (Etrigen, Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage) and lesser known (the Shining Knight?). Looks good, reads even better. It takes place in the dark ages, I think it’s very interesting to see the early roots of the new DC.
8. Wonder Woman #1 (DC comics)                                                                                   8
Well, finally we’re back to a good Wonder Woman story. Great art by Cliff Chang. I don’t really know what else to say. Diana looks gorgeous, she gets involved in a murder plot against the unborn child of Zeus and thing are a quite dark. Good, clean fun, with a bit of a horror edge to it. Well worth your money.
9. Ultimate X-men #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                             8
I liked this mostly because of the characters, though the art (Paco Medina) and writing (Nick Spencer) didn’t hurt either. The characters of course are Karen Grant (aka Jean Grey), Angel (not Warren Worthington III), James Logan (little Wolverine) and firegirl (?) from Ultimate X and Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and Kitty Pride from back in Ultimate Spider-man. Apparently Kitty is becoming ´the most feared and hated terrorist in the history of the United States´, which sounds very interesting. My only critique is that there was a bit too much going.
10. New Mutants #30 (Marvel comics)                                                                            8
Mephisto offers the team a deal to escape from Hell that seems so innocent I can’t imagine (but know there will be) a catch, while Dani Moonstar is defending Hel (notice how this one’s got only one ‘l’?), against the forces of the Fear Itself villain (the Serpent, right?). Great art by David Lafuente, especially the Dani scenes. This guy is so extremely good with expressions, it’s just a joy for the eye to watch the faces in this thing. The story by Abnett and Lanning is solid, fun and entertaining, though I’m still not sure they’ve got the newest recruit, Nathan Grey (aka X-man), pegged just yet.
11. Grifter #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                          8
I liked this despite never having read any Grifter prior to this. This is mainly due to the interesting plot, revolving around Grifter before he’s Grifter being abducted by telepathic space aliens (!?) while on his escape from a swindle. Unbeknownst to him, he’s missing 17 hours from his memory. Because of the abduction, his escape plan goes awry, he does escape from the aliens, but then is hunted by said aliens. Sounds a little out there, but it was really amusing to see that this wasn’t just another superhero story, but more of a science fiction mystery thriller.
12. Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (DC comics)                                                     7.9
We get a very exploitative portrayal of Starfire, which I certainly notice (but have no problems with whatsoever). Beautiful art, okay story. I didn’t understand anything in the second half, other than Red Arrow and Starfire getting freaky together. But maybe that was the point as the last caption says: ‘to be explained’ instead of ‘to be continued’. So, at the least they have piqued my interest.
13. Pigs #1 (Image comics)                                                                                                     7.6
I really didn’t want to read another first issue, but this just looked so good. A stunning cover by Jock, followed by a conspiracy story about a second generation Cuban sleeper cell that’s gotten activated in the present and wants to overthrow the US government. The story switches between past and present and spans nearly 60 years. This is sure to be one of those rare books that’s rife with historic accuracy (the two authors must have done a ton of research) and political intrigue. The art wasn’t the strongest part of the book, but served its purpose well and got progressively better.
14. Star Trek #1 (IDW Publishing)                                                                                    7.5
Pretty standard Star Trek fare here, both story and art are pretty decent. This is a well told story about what looks like a psychic attack after the latest Star Trek movie. Get it if you’re a big Trekkie or really liked the last film (which both applies to me). Props are due to artist Stephen Molar, for really making the characters resemble their motion picture counterparts. If you’re not into Star Trek or the last movie, this is just ‘one of those comics’. It’s certainly not bad, not great either. But positively entertaining, just like many other comics.
15. Nightwing #1(DC comics)                                                                                7.5
This seems to be tying into the cliffhanger from Batman #1, it appears that somehow Dick Greyson has another alter ego besides Nightwing, which Gotham´s heroes don’t know about. Well written by Kyle Higgins, he’s got the relationship between Dick and Bruce down and writes Dick like a real person (eating cereal, grabbing his costume from the floor, facing his fears and insecurities etc). Now the art… it’s great in the action scenes, the rest though… …not so much. When people aren’t fighting they look stiff and indistinct, plus there are way too many two page spreads here.

Come back soon, for more wordy reviews of the top four books I read this week. In no particular order: Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #5, Batman #1, Ultimate Spider-man #1 and Criminal. Last of the innocents #4. 

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Runner ups for week 37: Crawl to me 2, Swamp Thing 1, Jezus Hates Zombies 1

2. Crawl to me #2 (IDW Publishing)
I reacted quite strongly (with my whole body) to this issue, because of this follows a guttural review (sorry, I’ll be swearing up a storm), describing my reactions as I was reading. Just to be clear: This is a horror book about a young family who is vacating their new home were something is horribly wrong. [written at page three:] The first couple of pages had me going ‘What the Fuck?!?!’, almost every panel. [Written at page nine:] Holy shit, I know this can’t be real. Ryan, the main character also knows this, but holy shit is this working on my nerves. We’ve landed smack dab in crazy town. [Written at page ten:] And just when you think things have turned back to normal, people have no eyes. This is some fucked up shit! [Written at page fifteen:] OMG she’s just cutting her hair, but it’s SO fucking creepy!!! [Written at page sixteen:] But I guess that means Ryan isn’t crazy (or at least not the only one whose crazy), as the scissors are talking to her… ‘You know what you have to do right?’. Oh no. No. Not the baby, right? [Written at page seventeen:] And then it looks like the baby’s gonna bite it… Shit man… [Written at page eighteen:] I’m clenching my fist here and have a weird feeling in my stomach… Things are not right. [Written at page twenty-two:] And it ends with the creepy child molester’s belt buckle. Wow, this went fast, but it was scarier than a fucking roller coaster!
Art:9               Writing:9        Overall:9

3. Swamp Thing #1 (DC comics)
It took me a while to get into this issue. I didn’t really care for the first half, but the story really picks up in the last third. That’s the part where we learn about a dreadful new villain (emphasizing once more that Swamp Thing is unmistakably a horror title). This part also shows how Alec Holland is plagued by ´the green´ (Swamp Thing’s connection to all of the world’s flora) and his memories of being Swamp Thing. While I wasn’t particularly excited about the writing, the art though… Oh, my God can this Yanick Paquette guy draw. He was already wonderful recently on Batman Inc., but with this series he has even improved upon that. For a random example of his unequalled artistic qualities, the first page of this book has the best looking pigeons I’ve ever seen in a comic book. They don’t just look like random birds, colored to look like pigeons. These are some realistic goddamned pigeons. Also in my review of Justice League #1, I said Superman’s new costume looks kind of like a royal ceremonial armor. …Well scratch that, in this issue he looks like a fascist superhero… Which I bet is not what DC was aiming for…
Art:9.5                        Writing:8        Overall:8.8

4. Jesus Hates Zombies. A Jurassic kinda life #1 (215 Ink)
This was one of my favorite reads in some time. Especially the number of chuckles (and even laugh out louds) it got from me made it rocket up the chart. The story by Stephen Lindsay doesn’t particularly make a lot of sense (however, I haven’t read the first Jesus Hates Zombies series, so who knows?), but if you want to read something completely different, you should really try it out. While the main character is Jesus (H.?) Christ, this isn’t your momma’s Jesus. For one thing, this Jesus curses like a sailor. It’s surprisingly refreshing to read the son of God go: ‘Sweet candy cane strap-ons! Is it really you, buddy? Fucking miracles never cease!’ Other important characters in this are Abe Lincoln (Jesus’ main wingman in prehistoric times), Benjamin Franklin, (SPOILERS) Elvis Presley and the animated wheelchair of Steven Hawkins (?)… The story: Jesus and Abe are stuck in prehistoric times, which for some reason is becoming infected with a zombie epidemic. They’re struggling with the decision of just getting back or saving reality as they know it. I thought that beyond the Walking Dead I was zombied out, but this proves me wrong. It actually a very good story, both exciting and funny and accompanied by outstanding, energetic artwork by Belgium artist Rob Croonenborghs. The book is black and white, uses a lot of effective dot patterns for extra texture. The only problem I had with this is the format. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a smaller format, I thought some of the more diminutive panels became a bit unclear because of the scale. But seriously go check it out, it’s a ‘gloriously fun-filled prehistoric romp’ of 64 (!) pages.
Art:8.5                        Writing:9        Overall:8.7

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

Quick Shots for week 34: My good taste? I left it in the nineties

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (IDW Publishing)                                       8
This kinda feels like an ultimate take on the Turtles, a new continuity with all kinds of references to what’s happened in the old books. Basically we see the Turtles sans Raphael and Splinter fight this new cat guy, we flashback to a part of their secret origin were we learn of April O’Neill an intern at Stock Gen Research who thinks she’s working on bio-engineering meat. but we soon learn a thing or two about a super-soldier mutagen, from a phone call between the revamped Baxter Stockman and the mysterious general Krang. And we see Ralph eating out of dumpsters and getting ready to open a can of whoop-ass to help another familiar face. Spot on characterization: Michelangelo, after kicking a thug in the crotch: ‘Sorry, no baby gangstas for you dude.’
6. Spontaneous #3 (Oni press)                                                                                              8
This series is taking very interesting twists and turns, although the writing was a little choppy in parts of this issue. Sometimes I didn’t get what the characters were referring to or what happened in a sequence. The reporter, Emily, shares her conspiracy theory with Melvin who’s obviously struck by why he hadn’t thought of it. To top it off we learn that both Melvin and his late father fit into the conspiracy. What really makes this interesting is the relationship triangle between Melvin, Emily and Melvin’s nerdy assistance buddy who is boiling with jealousy for the relationship between Melvin and Emily, while it’s also clear that Melvin is treating the poor guy really bad (in reaction to these things the nerd guy is looking to pay Melvin back) also great is the relation between Melvin and Emily, this weirdly upbeat reporter chick who might be into him a little and thinks that everything that’s happened is cool and fun, while Melvin might very well be too but he is too busy with his own thing and much too serious about it, to see or act upon what’s happening between them.
7. Flashpoint: The Outsider #1 (DC comics)                                                            7.8
It seems that Ifanboy is right. This issue was surprisingly good compared to the rest of the Flashpoint tie-ins (of which I’ve enjoyed a big part).
8. Batman Inc. #8 (DC comics)                                                                                        7.5
Hmmm…. That was weird. At first I was bummed that I saw no Chris Burnum art. After that I’m not sure what I felt. The digital art in this issue varies wildly from panel to panel, some are downright terrible, some are beautiful and some are unintelligible. I really didn’t like the panel that looks like the people were copied out of a computer game, especially those with the plain clothes investors… This issue finally addresses the long neglected idea of Barbara Gordon as a digital Batgirl in Bruce’s Internet 3.0. It’s interesting and could have many more good stories in them (hopefully it’ll stick after the reboot).
9. SHAM comics #1 (Zombie Marge Comix Group)                                                 7.5
A great satire series where golden age comics fallen into public domain are textually re-imagined into sometimes hilarious, sometimes a bit uninspired funnies. I really like the first story about BOZO (Binary Over-Zealous Obliterator) the retro robot. A dope fueled demented killer robot with a Frisbee bolted to his head, who apparently is not programmed to swing THAT way! After the first story the novelty wore off though, and not every story was a winner. Overall it was good for a couple of chuckles and just for reading something else entirely. This issue also contained a story by artist Basil Wolverton which was pretty to look at, which featured erect trees with condoms on them. I think one issue of this was enough for me though…
10. X-men #16 (Marvel comics)                                                                                         7.2
I really want to love this series, but it’s just not letting me. Ghisler writes a great Spider-man though, to Franklin Richards, about debunking the stories about the Bermuda Triangle: ´A good debunking puts hair on your chest.´
11. X-men Legacy #254 (Marvel comics)                                                                        7
They´re in space finally, I´m wishing this series was better.
12. Crossed. Psychopath #3 (Avatar Press)                                                                 7
Really great cover by Matt Martin. The Crossed (extremely sadistic zombie-esque creatures) in this series have a thing for wearing other people’s faces (ala Leatherface). There’s one Crossed woman here though, who wears a cock on her crotch, held together by barbwire… I’m just saying: That’s the kind of story we’re talking about. Story: Survivers picked up a psycho, who is a worse threat then the Crossed, in this one he divides the group. Kills his male companion, and rapes and mutilates the female, while they are sheltering from the Crossed, which he has lead to them. Talking about the deviant… Yep, this was revolting… Boy, this is actually hard to read, it’s so gruesome.
13. Caligula #3 (Avatar Press)                                                                                            6.9
Wow, just wow. Between this and Crossed. Psychopath I’m starting to question David Lapham’s sanity. This was, just so fucking weird. Caligula is portrayed as much more than a mad emperor. He’s immortal and the guy that wants to kill him for revenge, instead gets fucked in the ass by his talking demon horse Incitatus. However, this issue his luck seems to be turning (if only a little).
14. Crossed. Psychopath #2 (Avatar Press)                                                             6.7
Panels framed by the splashes of blood of a minivan driving children over. This makes me uncomfortable reading it next to my wife on the couch…
15. Crossed. Psychopath #4 (Avatar Press)                                                             6.7
Okay, that was it, I felt kinda sick after this although I have to admit it’s easier to take over the top scenes like Crossed swimming in a pool of blood filled by children thrown in a wood chipper, than the rape scene from last issue. I like weird and nasty just as much as the next guy, but this is just too much for me.
16. The Infinite #1 (Image comics)                                                                                  6.5
This one? Also not for me, it’s certainly geared at a certain audience and that’s not me. Impressive how Kirkman and Liefeld have made the most nineties comic ever, though.

For next week, I’m going to try two extra early reviews for Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1. Also, I’ll be digging out all the DC stuff I hadn’t got around to reading in a while, so expect a DC heavy week.

Book of the week 29: Locke and Key. Clockworks 1

Wow. For those that have been reading this blog from the start it’s already obvious what a big fan of IDW’s Locke and Key series I am. For all the others, let me try to explain the genius of this wholly original series by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez (warning this part contains mild SPOILERS concerning the plot of the first 24 issues): Over the span of four six-issue miniseries the reader learns to know the Locke family, consisting of teenagers Tyler and Kinsey, their inquisitive little brother Bode and their mother. In the first issue of the initial mini-series (Welcome to Lovecraft) the father gets murdered, after which the kids and their mom relocate to the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, to inhibit the family estate Keyhouse. In this first series we get to know the characters a bit, for example we learn about brooding teenager Tyler’s guilt about his father’s death. This introduction to the characters however, forms the backdrop of young Bode finding a dark spirit-like ‘echo’ in the well house and ends with him being forced to release this being. Throughout the series we learn about the existence of strange and mysterious keys with magical properties that are hidden throughout Keyhouse. Bode keeps finding these keys and experiments with them. Throughout the course of the series, his older siblings learn about the existence of the keys and use them to their own advantage, as well as to fight the dark force that has been released from the well house. This being is looking for one key in particular, namely the ‘black key’ and does not shy away from killing anyone that gets in his way. While this alone would be enough to produce one hell of a story, the book is elevated even more by the way Joe Hill portrays the characters through believable dialogues and realistic interactions, that make the characters get under your skin. Like the greatest works of fiction, this is not only a book about horror and magic, but more so about emotional interactions.

This issue takes place around Keyhouse in the year 1775. All the characters are new and this initially leads to some confusion about what is going on. We get introduced to some forefathers of the twentieth century Lockes, some familiar locations are visited and a whole lot of explaining gets done. For starters we learn the significance of the drowning cave and the hydraulic pumps, but most importantly we learn the origin of the magical keys.

On the writing side, this issue is pretty wordy and I found the first half a bit hard to get trough. The second half however kept me turning page after page, while an unsettling feeling settled in my gut and my heartbeat steadily rose. Not only do major plot points get some background, also the link to the works of H.P Lovecraft gets made very explicit. Not only do we get a reference to the fabled icy desert plateau of Leng, we even get some chanting of Lovecraft’s language of the Old Ones: ‘Ia! Ia shubniggarauth!’. While this issue left the cliffhanger of the previous volume dangling, it delivered a whole new dimension of terror to the story.

Three random )parts' of panels from Locke and Key. Clockworks 1, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Do you see the Dillon (upper), Allred (middle) and Corben (lower)? Or is it just me?

Three random (parts of) panels from Locke and Key. Clockworks 1, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Do you see the Dillon (upper), Allred (middle) and Corben (lower)? Or is it just me?

Art wise, things were beautiful as always. I find it hard to describe Rodriguez’ style, but this issue I thought I recognized a bit of Steve Dillon in the earlier pages, a hint of Mike Allred in one of the splash pages and further on a dash of Richard Corbin. I’m not saying Rodriguez is aping these artists! These are just little bits of resemblances I see here and there. All in all a great start to this fifth volume of Locke and Key. Seriously go and buy it!
Art:9      Writing:8.7         Overall:8.9