POWER UP #1
BOOM! Box
Written by Kate Leth, Illustrated by Matt Cummings

“The customer is not always right, especially when he tries to kill everybody”

A new series by the creators behind the cartoons and comics of Bravest Warriors and Adventure Time? Worth checking out, right?

It’s a charming comic whose whimsy is largely due to Cumming’s art— a perfect example of today’s very simple graphic aesthetic, one that features hyper-expressive cartooning. It’s those expressions that lend the comic its energy and verve. Really, the backgrounds, be they interiors or simple color washes, exist only to enhance the characters and their expressions. The other strength is in the timing of the panels. Things are perfectly paced to capture humor and pathos, often nicely sequential in set-up and follow-through. The moment of “power up” is dramatically paced, an effective use of page-turn into a colorful double-page spread.

The writing? Well, it’s more of an “eh.” It’s pretty standard stuff as our “everyperson” hero encounters the strange and is suddenly thrust into a new paradigm of the world. It’s all a bit normal for this kind of story, especially considering the surrealism that marks the creator’s previous works. The main characters are very well realized and interact with each other in both real and humorous moments, but without such signature art, I doubt that the story could distinguish itself in any special way.

Grade: B

FIGHT CLUB 2 #3
Dark Horse Comics
Written by Chuck Palahniuk, Art by Cameron Stewart, Colors by Dave Stewart, Lettering/Design by Nate Piekos of Blambot

“Joseph Campbell forgot ‘Sits on the front porch for a couple of days’ as part of the hero’s journey”

So… the Narrator/Sebastian makes his way into Project Mayhem’s headquarters, except he’s already there because Tyler Durden takes command of his network of anarchistic agents? This issue marks the transition into a kind of second act (explicitly referencing Campbell’s heroic journey at one point) but the subjective nature of the POV created by the writer/artist is starting to confuse things to the point that it’s disruptive to the story. We all know Sebastian/Tyler are the same guy at this point, but it’s presented as if everyone else in the world does not. How can he stay on the porch outside the Mayhem Sanctum at one moment and the next panel command everyone’s attention inside? I’m all for creative narrative structures, but you can’t use the same one from Fight Club 1 if you are amping up every other element of the story into a Fight Club 2.

That’s not to say there aren’t some effective moments. There’s humor/satire with Sebastian catching his son reading the Bible; there’s some disturbing moments as Mayhem attempts to cull undesirable members of society; there’s some intrigue as we start to see the true extent of Mayhem’s reach. Philosophical and moody, issue #3 shows the strengths of previous issues, but the style of storytelling is starting to get in the way of it all.

Grade: B-   

PREZ #2
DC
Written by Mark Russell, Penciled by Ben Caldwell, Inked by Mark Morales, Colored by Jeremy Lawson, Lettered by Travis Lanham

“The electoral college has a strict ‘no take-backs’ policy, similar to my third grade four square games.”

The nation elects its first teenage President, thanks to the pettiness of the electorates. Along the way, we get even more satire, more emotional beats, and even some philosophical musings, amid a whole lot more world-building.

There’s so much packed into every page of this comic. A lot of the humor comes from what’s visual and/or what’s in the background, swirling around the characters who are oblivious to the absurdity of their world. Some of it’s basic sci-fi stuff— the people have implants that produce heads-up displays instead of carrying around a smartphone, for example. Other times it’s pretty biting satire— the advertisements that follow the people through the hospital unless you opt-out for fifty dollars. Unfortunately, it gets a bit much, and there’s a line the book crosses into pure silliness that makes the world feel too unreal at times. When that happens, it threatens to take away from the satire because these situations just can’t be taken seriously.

There’s one really poignant moment as Prez visits her father in the hospital. The speech there is just so moving and effective… Can I pull it out and frame it? It’s a truly heartfelt moment for anyone who feels down or insignificant or just needs to take a moment to step back and wonder about the universe. I don’t care if the rest of the series tanks. That sequence was worth it all.

Grade: A      

WEIRDWORLD #2
Marvel
Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Mike Del Mundo, Colors by Mike Del Mundo & Marco D’Alfonso, Letters by VC’s Cory Petit

“Hey, it could be worse. They could have picked other 80s’ toys like Pound Puppies or Go-Bots.”

The craziness, or I should say weirdness, of issue #1 contines. Arkon the Barbarian continues his quest to return to Polemachus, now aided by Warbow, Warrior of the Crystallium, who has a quest to rescue Crystar the Crystal Warrior.

The art continues to be reminiscent of the 70s/80s high fantasy style, and most of the pages are brilliantly rendered, especially when Warbow’s crystal body is in contrast to the backgrounds. I’ll admit that other times the colors are a bit too muddied or overall blur together, lending a kind of “sameness” to a page and things lose their distinction at first glance.

With the introduction of Warbow, it’s clear the comic is also using as its source material the world of Crystar, which apparently was one of Marvel’s attempts in the 80s to create comics and toys in hopes to elicit a licensing deal, but it failed to connect to audiences. Sure enough (thanks, Wikipedia!), the other named character, Moltar, is a key player in the Saga of Crystar. An intriguing spin on some obscure characters.

Grade: B   

Grade

N/A

Conclusion

In other news, I enjoyed my brief vacation through Italy, which incidentally has an amazing history and tradition of comics, called fumetti, including Disney comics, Dylan Dog, Diabolik, and more.