Tag Archives: Image comics

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

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.

Runner ups for week 40: Sweet Tooth 26, Wolverine Debt of Death, Red Wing 3

I only got around to reading four comics this week. So no quick shots, only the runner ups and tomorrow my book of the week: Mystery Men 5, from Marvel.

2. Sweet Tooth #26 (Vertigo)
Just to show what a cruel man Jeff Lemire is, he starts off a new three issue storyline which leaves last issue’s cliffhanger flapping in the wind for another three months. In some respects it sometimes feels like Sweet Tooth was partly inspired by the television show Lost and with this new storyline it looks like Lemire has taken another page from the Lost writers as he takes us back to 1911 to the search for an Alaskan Christian mission that seemingly has nothing to do with the present-day storyline. I am sure though, that these three issues will explore the cause of the plague that has hit the world, killing hundreds of millions as we have seen earlier in the series. The art is brought to you by none other than indie comic luminary Matt Kindt. Kindt is the perfect addition to the small stable of artists to have replaced Lemire himself on this book. While having a very unique look of himself, it’s so much reminiscent of Lemire’s work you wouldn’t notice it’s not Lemire when you don’t look at the credits. This issue’s beautiful watercolours and limited coulour pallet work wonderfully to accentuate the mood and time of the story.
Art:9               Writing:8.5                 Overall: 8.7

3. Wolverine. Debt of Death (Marvel comics)
A fun little one shot about Wolverine in Japan (in the seventies?) getting tangled up in a high tec, noirish, yakuza crime conspiracy involving SHIELD. One of his old buddies ends up dead and when he gets on the trail of this guy’s missing kids, he soon finds out things aren’t what they seem. Oh, and there are super deadly giant killer robots from World War Two. This is a very nice one and done, stand-alone story. Especially the art is well worth your money. Both colors (Bettie Breitweiser) and pencils (David Aya) are beautiful. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to find out this was written by David Lapham. The writer that brought us the foulness that is Crossed. Psychopath still has the chops to bring a story that doesn’t make you want to vomit (I AM a fan by the way). If you are looking for a Wolverine story that is not connected to the X-men, Avengers, Daken, Schism or Fear Itself you should really get your claws on this little gem.
Art: 9.5           Writing: 7.5                Overall: 8.5

4. The Red Wing #3 (Image comics)
Can a series be too original? Can a title be so unique that readers don’t have enough reference to place it in? That may just be the case in the third issue of The Red Wing. I love how scribe Jonathan Hickman is taking the well-worn science fiction trope of time travel for a spin. And I love the way that artist Nick Paterra visualizes time travel and chrono disintegration. But man, this issue just made me scratch my head. It has action, and human drama, both plot and character development but where is the overall story going? I haven’t got a clue and am curious to find out, but this may read better in trade when all the big concepts and mysteries can be enjoyed (and presumably understood) in one sitting. In this issue, we see the present being attacked by the future, the father of the main character being abducted and tortured by a future version of the main character, and the main character’s friend following their attackers to the future (seemingly only to disintegrate). The art is good, but a bit inconsistent, the facial features and linework looks like a blend of Frank Quitely and Jeff Darrow, but Paterra’s real knack is for drawing exciting space fights between a bunch of different space(and time)crafts.
 Art:8              Writing:8.5                 Overall:8.2

Runners up for week 38: Criminal. Last of the innocents 4, Gladstone’s 5, Ultimate comics Spidey 1

2. Criminal. The last of the innocents #4 (Icon)criminal last of thew innocents 4 cover
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Despicable Airlines keeps on flying. With captain Riley Richards at the helm, you will be sure to get whatever you desire and don’t have to worry about the repercussions for your loved ones. As we like to say here at Despicable Airlines: ‘No one ever got rich over their scruples, so let them fly!’

In this final issue we learn whether or not Riley Richards gets away with killing his wife and manipulating everyone close to him over some money issues. If you thought Riley had made some dire decisions in the previous issues, you’ll be astounded at things he is willing to do in this issue. The art, by Sean Philips, starts out a bit worse than it has been in the rest of this series. The main initially character doesn’t look like he had earlier in the series. However, he quickly picks up the high level of artistry from previous issues and ends on a stung note. Basically, this is the story of a man who has let his life go down the drain and is willing to do literally everything to get things back like they were in his youth. Even if it means he will have to live a lie (and even fool himself) for the rest of his life.  These four issues provide an illuminating peek into the darkest corners of a human soul. It’s not fun, but boy is it good!
Art: 9              Writing: 9.5                Overall: 9.2

3. Gladstone’s school for World Conquerors #5 (Image comics)     Gladstone's school for World Conquerors 5 cover
This is one of those series that takes well-known concepts and puts an entirely original and invigorating spin on it, in this case it plays with the tropes of the superhero genre and changes it up by telling a story from the viewpoint of the children from super villains, and their everyday life at a school for super villains. This issue is just heaps of fun, fun, fun! It’s impressing how, so far, with every new issue we learn something new about the characters and the world they live in. This issue sees Kid Nefarious banding together with his classmates to head out to earth (issue one explains that Gladstone’s is located on Mars) and defeat the Red Stormbreaker, the superhero who defeated all their parents. A fun detail is that Kid Nefarious learned about comic books for the first time, last issue. Now he’s constantly got his head in old comic books where he reads about the exploits and repeated defeats of his (and his classmates) parents, by Red Stormbreaker. Figuring that as villains their parents have never worked together to best Red Stormbreaker in combat, it’s up to their combined powers and education to restore honor to their parents’ legacies. This issue has great faux silver age art as well as great, dynamic action scenes by Armand Villavert.
Art: 9              Writing: 9       Overall: 9

4. Ultimate Comics Spider-man #1 (Marvel comics)ultimate spider-man 1 cover
Wow, this was really great. I just love the fact that Marvel’s ultimate editorial team is daring to put their ass on the line and do away with the old. This really feels like what the Ultimate line was ment for, putting new and unexpected spins on a bunch of characters we know through and through. The new Spider-man, Miles Morales (who isn’t Spider-man just yet) feels like a real, three-dimensional person. Brian Michael Bendis portrays him as a smart, but insecure kid. His supporting cast (parents and uncle) also feel really real. Plus, while this new guy also gets bitten by an irradiated spider, it looks like he has some interesting and original powers of his own. I´m thrilled to find out more. I really hope eventually we get to see some of the supporting characters from the old series (most notably Aunt May and Gwen Stacy), because Bendis wrote them so good and they were a very important part of Peter Parker´s story. Oh and the art, is this the first time Sarah Pichelli has done an entire Ultimate Spider-man issue? It’s spectacular, no scratch that, it’s ultimate! Because I always like to get a peek of the creative process, I’ve added this video of Pichelli drawing a page from Ultimate Spider-man:

I just wish we’d get some audio with it. I’d love to hear some of the thoughts that go into the drawings.
Art: 9              Writing: 9       Overall: 9

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. 

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!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book of the week 31: Severed #1

The theme of the my comic book reading this week was the number one. Besides a one-shot and a few books that did not fit in theme, I read ten number one issues. Let’s just say it’s a good warming up for DC’s September reboot. I’m really glad with my selection of books this week, many high scores and even a solid 10 in Severed #1. Also I’m delighted with the selection of different publishers books I’ve sampled this week, ranging from IDW, Dynamite, DC, Image, Abstract Studio, Marvel to SLG.

1. Severed #1 (Image comics)

The cover to Severed #1, with art by Attila Futaki, published by Image comics.

The cover to Severed #1, with art by Attila Futaki, published by Image comics.

I had not heard anything about this title before hand and went in without any expectations (except for expecting Scott Snyder to deliver one hell of a story). It was while looking at the cover though, that I first started to fall in love with this book. The cover explicitly channels the look of the eighties horror movie posters I’ve grown up with. Furthermore, a great design element on the cover is the use of the art nouveau-ish decorative borders (coincidentally also used in the Snyder co-plotted Batman: Gates of Gotham miniseries), which even incorporate the logo of Image comics.

The first thing that struck me, when I opened the book, was the color. The first scene is a flash-forward, (technically the rest of the book is a flashback, but whatever…) set in or around the nineteen sixties, which is most apparent (besides the television performance of Elvis and the distinctive furniture) by the orange hue of the living room wallpaper. In the following flashback, which takes place in 1916, the scenes all have their own color palate, which doesn’t pop off the page as does the first sequence, but are still very vibrant and dashing to look at.

Popping colors by Attilla Futaki, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

Popping colors by Attilla Futaki, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

The second thing that stood out to me where the pencils, I’ve never seen the work of artist Attila Futaki before, and I’ve never seen anything like it. In fact, the art felt so new to me, that I had to warm up to it a few pages before I started loving it. I’d say it’s a bit painterly, yet has a very classic aesthetic which harkens back to the more detailed and loose art styles that could be found in old EC comics. As it turns out Futaki is a Hungarian artist, who has recently been awarded the Hungarian Zorad Erno award for best artist of 2010. Judging by the art in this issue, that prize was well deserved. It’s a really unique style and perfect to set the mood for this horror series.

Here's Jack, waiting to get on the train to begin his Hobo life. Art from Severed #1, by AttillaFutaki, published by Image comics.

Here's Jack, waiting to get on the train to begin his Hobo life. Art from Severed #1, by AttillaFutaki, published by Image comics.

Writing-wise the first sequence, set in the sixties, is used as a rather cliché framing device to set the story up. However, since this story seems to be steeped in eighties horror movies, certain clichés are just part of the territory and in that context work like a charm.  In the first few pages of the flashback we get to know Jack, a talented violin player in his early teens, who after a heartfelt and good-humored bedtime conversation with his mother runs off into the night to live the life of a hobo. “See the country… Play the streets for nickels…” He wants to walk in the minstrel footsteps of his father. Things almost immediately go haywire. But at least he meets up with some hobo’s who may or may not be helping him out. We also get introduced to Fredrick who is taken out of an orphanage by one mister Porter, who is likely to be the villain throughout this series. And what a classic villain he is. Porter is introduced as working for General Electric and Frederick has been selected for an apprenticeship at his company. In the car the boy and Mr. Porter talk about business. When the boy asks about Porter’s rough way of dealing with things, the man says with a grin: “Behind these pearly whites, I got razor sharp teeth.”  When the boy laughs at this reply, Porter continues straight-faced: “I’m serious, Freddy. These babies are all show. Underneath… My real ones are sharp as knives. But sales is all about appearances and it’s hard to sell anything if you look like a shark.” This moment had me laughing out loud, because of the absurdity of the dialogue, yet it provides a horrible feeling of foreboding. This sequence stands as a good example of how the writing of the team of Scott Snyder and his newcomer, childhood friend Scott Tuft works. It hits on all the right notes; a little humor; a little drama’ some emotion; excitement; and a lot of ominous subtext.

Apparantly Mr. Porter really has sharp teeth. Great writing from Snyder and Tuft, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

Apparantly Mr. Porter really has sharp teeth. Great writing from Snyder and Tuft, from Severed #1, published by Image comics.

After reading I concluded that this may very well be one of those special cases where a comic book is actually crafted and executed perfectly. The first issue of Severed is genuinely creepy, funny, moving and as intriguing as should be expected from a first issue.
Art: 10      Writing: 10     Overall: 10

Book of the week 30: Chew 9 (and 10)

Yeah, my pick this week is old… Screw all that day-and-date shit, good comics are forever. They are all I need to please me, They can stimulate and tease me, They won’t leave in the night, I’ve no fear that they might desert me. Good comics are forever, Hold one up and then caress it, Touch it, stroke it and undress it, I can see every part, Nothing hides in the heart to hurt me…

Aaaaaaanyway, I resumed reading Chew this week and it blew me away:

Book of the week 30: Chew 9 (and 10) (Image comics)

Dear misters Layman and Guillory,

Thank you for the joy that is Chew. That was the most important thing I wanted to tell you. I got the first Chew trade for Christmas last year and really enjoyed it. While I moved on to single issues after that, I somehow never got past issue 8, despite the fact that I was loving the crap out of your series. After your winning of the Eisner for best continuing series last week (congratulations!), I decided to resume the reading of your series. Since there were a lot of other good comics I wanted to read this week (for reviews of which you have but to look below) I only read issue 9 and 10, finishing the second story arc ‘International Flavor’. These two issues though where the cream of my crop.

What I have wondered since the first issue of your series is whether or not your protagonist Tony Chew’s affliction of being a cibopathic is real? In the first issue you introduced the notion of someone gaining the experiences of whatever he or she eats. You have introduced this concept so convincingly that I started to look into it. While I think cibophatogy (or is it cibophathy?) is a fantastic gimmick to use in a story about police work, I have not been able to find any information on these cibophats. Strangely every google hit refers to sites about your series. This drives me banana’s!

I thought the mere use of cibopathics in your series was unique enough, but during the reading of the first trade I already realized you did not have all your eggs in one basket, and that virtually anything can happen in this book. This sets your title apart from many other currently published books, you really don’t know what twists and turns the story will take next. A good example of your unique characters is the mute chef, who can only communicate through cooking. You describe him as following: “A scholar and classicist, he has translated the complete works of Shakespeare into cuisine.” I understand that explaining the genial, surreal madness of this will not make it funnier, so let’s just leave it at that.

Praise however should not be exclusively reserved for the story itself, the way the story is told is also exquisite. You seem to refine the rules of the medium by such inventions as a page with three subsequent (and through caption boxes thusly addressed) cliffhangers.

Rob Guillory art from Chew 9 (Image comics).

Rob Guillory art from Chew 9 (Image comics).

And what about the art? While at first it may be estimated as ‘merely’ cartoony, upon further investigation it proves to be top notch cartooning in a most expressive way. Mister Guillory gets across emotions in his pencils as well as humor, drama and kick ass action scenes. From the last category I would like to point out the spread of Chew kicking in a door, gun ready, screaming: “Sheathe the fangs, motherfucker.

Rob Guillory art from Chew 10 (Image comics).

Rob Guillory art from Chew 10 (Image comics).

Issue 9 and 10 close out the arc where Tony investigates a small island nation that seems to have found the way around the worldwide chicken prohibition. His research however leads him to a conspiracy revolving around international chefs, chicken substitutes, a fighting cock and vampires. All the while he falls in love and his partner seems to be giving up his ass to cover for Chew? I hope we get to read some more about that…

To make a long story short: Thanks for the great comicbooking and congratulations on the Eisner. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your series and hope it keeps selling like hot cakes.

With kind regards,

Gerard van der Waal
1. Chew #9
Art: 9     Writing: 9,5         Overall: 9.3
2. Chew #10
Art: 9     Writing: 8,5         Overall: 8.8