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Manifest Destiny #6 – Review

By: Chris Dingess (writer), Matthew Roberts (art), Owen Gieni (colors) and Pat Brosseau (letters)

The Story: The resolution of the Plant Zombie storyline.

Review (with SPOILERS): A lot happened in this issue.  We got a good and exciting dose of Lewis & Clark (and men) fighting Plant Zombie Animals.  That was exciting and gave the art team a chance to stretch their legs a good bit.

Then the issue went totally sideways with this revelation that the Plant Zombies were being caused by some sort of underground Sarlacc-like creature.  I have to admit that this wasn’t something I saw coming at all.  I’ve consumed a lot of monster-fiction in my life and it takes quite something for a storyteller to throw me a complete curveball like this.  That alone isn’t enough to make the story wonderful or great – I’ll always contend that execution is more important to storytelling that a mere idea – but if you can be semi-original, more power to you.  I don’t mean to totally discount ideas, it’s just that there aren’t that many ideas that are actually all that new and novel.  But, this was at least “new” to me, so bravo!
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The Walking Dead #125 – Review

By: Robert  (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (gray tones) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Is Rick dying or not?

Review (with SPOILERS): I hada lot of “mixed feelings” with this issue.  It’s honestly been a difficult one to even review.  It’s just not an issue that inspires a single, unified feeling, just lots of stray thoughts and disappointments. And that’s a fail for this issue.  The action is coming to a crescendo, and it should inspire a solid feeling rather than a bunch of stray thoughts.

Teasing death is cheap: This cliffhanger would be a million times more effective if Kirkman hadn’t just yanked the football from in front of us a few issues ago.  I mean, we just saw this BIG tease that Rick was going to die because of the zombie-goop bolt.  That turned out to be a total nothing, so why should we get excited that Rick has nicked Negan’s neck with a knife?  Charlie Adlard could have drawn that scene any way he wanted to (or any way Kirkman asked him to).  It looks like a nick for a reason.  If they wanted to kill Negan, that knife would be buried up to the hilt.  They could have used either of these implied death cliffhangers, but not both.

Too much talking!: My goodness did Rick go on and on before trying to stab Negan!  They were building a better place, they were working together, blah, blah…  It’s the same rhetoric we heard back at the Prison and countless times in Alexandria.  I get it and it’s a noble goal.  It’s what we would all strive for in the apocalypse, but farming and blacksmithing don’t make for a very compelling story.  I know that Rick was talking about that to distract Negan so he could stab him, but he could have talked about anything.  He could have talked about surrendering.  He could have talked smack.  But, instead he talked about a theme that has already been kinda played out from a storytelling standpoint.  We’ve seen TWD do a “Let’s re-establish society!” theme for 40+ issues.  It’s time to see something else.

Negan is great: I really hope Negan isn’t dying because he’s so much fun.  Honestly, when he started agreeing with Rick’s spiel, I thought he was just going along with it to pull Rick’s leg, and the next second he was going to say, “What?  Are you nuts?  Just listen to yourself, Rick?  You sound insane!”I thought we were going to see him try to whack Rick with Lucille.  Negan is such an outstanding character, so well-written and drawn, that thinking Negan was about to play his own little trick on Rick is a perfectly plausible explanation.  It’s a credit to the creators that we can even speculate about such things.  Comics are usually pretty literal, but Negan allows for subtext.

So, where does all this leave us? I’m afraid I can’t look forward to any of the major storytelling possibilities.  If either Rick or Negan dies next issue, I’ll feel like this story was too long.  It isn’t that we didn’t need the All Out War story, but twelve issues and making artistic compromises to achieve bi-weekly shipping probably wasn’t necessary.  On the other hand, if both of these guys walk away unscathed next issue, it will feel cheap that they’ve both had their deaths teased, keeping the story from moving forward.  What would be next?  All Out War II?
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Pretty Deadly #5 – Review

By: Kelly Sue DeConnick (story), Emma Rios (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors)

The Story: Just because Death gets a tired of all the yard work, suddenly the world’s about to end.

The Review: I was a bit concerned last issue at how this series seemed to be barreling towards a close mere issues after it had only just started. Not that I love Pretty Deadly so much that I hate to see it go, but it’s different from everything else on the market, and that’s a highly attractive quality that should be fostered, not cut off. So it is with some regret that I discover this is indeed the final issue of the series—for now. DeConnick promises on the last page that Deathface Ginny will return in a second volume.

But do I care, now that DeConnick has deconstructed so much of what’s made Pretty Deadly interesting? And as I asked before, will the stakes ever be higher than the fate of the very world and the life-death cycle? I tend to doubt it. The really sad part is despite the supposedly epic scope of this story, its highly metaphorical nature transforms the battle between Death and the Reaper of Vengeance into a shootout, albeit a fairly intense one, amidst fire and ruin, with plenty of major casualties.
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Black Science #5 – Review

By: Rick Remenber (writer), Matteo Scalera (art), Dean White (painted art) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Grant has to deal with a mysterious, masked assailant.

Review (with SPOILERS): Last issue of this series put it right back on the top of my reading stack.  It was fast and furious and ended in a really cool place with a nifty-looking villain (?) appearing to possibly menace Grant McKay and our heroes.

This issue wastes no time dragging out the mystery of this masked man, it’s Other Grant.  It would be wrong to think of him as Future Grant who is on a sort of Back to the Future mission to help out.  No, this is just Other Grant from another reality who somehow has knowledge about the normal sequence of events that takes place in alternate universes.  Except in Other Grant’s native reality, his Pillar exploded and killed his children and now he seems to be on a mission to stop Our Grant from killing his kids.
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The Field #1 – Review

By: Ed Brisson (writer/letters), Simon Roy (art) and Simon Cough (colors)

The Story: A man wakes up in a Field and gets into the wrong passing car.

Review (with SPOILERS): This is a play on a classic hitchhiker story.  We quickly meet a man who wakes up naked in a field and can’t even remember his name, but he has his phone and immediately starts receiving ominous text messages like, “Watch out!  They’re after you.”  It’s a little like that scene in the Matrix where Morpheus tries to help Neo escape the Agents by giving him instructions on the cell phone.  Eventually, the guy doesn’t follow the instructions, gets into a strange car and ends up on the worst car-ride/road-trip EVER.

Basically, the guy he rides with is NUTS, drug-addicted, violent, random…..  Nice one second, shooting up a restaurant the next.  The whole thing is supposed to make you uncomfortable and it accomplishes that mission very nicely.  The antagonist, Christian, reminds me of every bad hitchhiker cliche, and since our protagonist has amnesia, he has little choice but to follow along with the dude even if it is against his better judgement.

On the positive side, this comic is a good illustration of how panels can be constructed to create a sense of unease.  Zoom in, zoom out, perspective changes galore… I’m sure there is a solid visual theory that they teach in art school about how to make the audience/reader feel unsettled; I don’t know how to explain it, but Simon Roy is all over it in this issue.  Very solid job.
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Fatale #21 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (story), Sean Phillips (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors)

The Story: It’s just as everyone feared—tattoos do make a guy cooler.

The Review: As intrigued as I’ve been by Jo’s invariably sordid encounters with various men, I’ve also been hoping to get a broader sense of what Fatale is really about. Again, immortal woman who drives men crazy is entertaining enough—certainly, it’s been viscerally horrifying enough. But I’m much more interested in the why’s and how’s of all this.* How immortal? Why men? Why crazy? And what for? Surely it can’t just be for the pointless torment of this poor woman and the men around her.

Fortunately, it seems like I’ll be getting my wish pretty soon, as Fraction reveals that Jo has been working on those very same questions herself. She is helped in this regard by Otto, a geriatric scholar who also happens to be the only man unaffected by Jo’s sway. This alone makes him an immediately arresting figure, especially once you take in all his body tattoos, placed on him as a child by his Native-American grandfather. That suggests a certain degree of foresight on someone’s part, doesn’t it, at least in regards to Jo?
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Alex + Ada #5 – Review

By: Jonathan Luan (story/art/design) and Sarah Vaughn (story/script)

The Story: Having been freed from her restrictive programming, what will Ada do?

The Review (with SPOILERS): This has been a wonderful series so far and this issue mostly serves as the fulcrum from the beginning of the story toward its second chapter.

So far we have seen young Alex be given a super-fancy android named Ada.  The gift was from his wealthy grandmother who wanted him to have a friend/companion/sex-toy.  Alex never wanted Ada, but was too kind of a person to abuse her and he eventually became frustrated with her lack of self-determination and sought out a group that could remove the blocks in Ada’s programming allowing her to be fully aware.  That took us up through the last issue where Ada “woke up” and screamed her head off.
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The Walking Dead #124 – Review

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (gray tones) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The battle on the Hilltop rages on… The best word to describe this issue is, choppy.  This is what happens when you push an art-team to grind out bi-monthly issues for an extended period.  The issue isn’t without its qualities – and we’ll discuss those – but it’s still a shame to see the visual storytelling suffer.  TWD has been such a visually strong series for so long that we all know what Charlie Adlard can do.  We’ve seen him glide through issues just like this one without a hiccup, but this bi-monthly schedule is causing his art to suffer.  It’s a little like watching a favorite racehorse start to run poorly because he’s been running too frequently without enough rest by an unscrupulous owner.  Although, unlike the racehorse, Adlard probably will be just fine with a little rest.

On to the issue…

  • Rick is sick: I’m really impressed that the comic still seems to be continuing down this path.  A lot of things could happen.  I mean, Rick could just have a standard infection, but Kirkman is really trying to tell us that Rick is going to die.  The more I think about it, the happier I am with this story direction.  We’ve seen a pretty complete story from Rick.  The only thing that’s left for him to do is die.  Now think of all the other grim signs: (i) Carl is pretty self-sufficient, (ii) Rick has found happiness with Andrea, (iii) Jesus shaking Rick a few issues ago saying Rick is the only possible leader for their group, (iv) Negan prattling on about how the group will fall apart once Rick dies…  However, even with a bedridden Rick, we see that Jesus and Michonne are able to devise a plan to clear out Hilltop, Carl is able to come to the rescue, Maggie has plans… This group shows us that they can be fine without Rick Grimes.
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Rocket Girl #4 – Review

By: Brian Montclare (story), Amy Reeder (art)

The Story: So these two kids walk into a bar…

The Review: Here’s the thing about rockets: they’re great for a thrill ride, but they don’t really let you take in your surroundings. Appropriately enough, that’s been the core strength and weakness of Rocket Girl. Dayoung’s high-speed, chaotic adventures have been almost overwhelmingly fun, like taking one Six Flags coaster after another for five hours straight. At some point, though, you need at least short break to catch your breath for the next ride.

You don’t need much of one—you don’t go to Six Flags to sit on your hams, conversing quietly—and this issue gives us just enough calm in the scene where Gomez and LeShawn assess the situation in a bar. It’s here that, maybe for the first time in the series, you get a more nuanced idea of who these characters really are and what they stand for, which often happens when you separate the supporting players from the star.

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Lazarus #7 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (writer), Michael Lark (art and letters), Brian Level (art assists) and Santi Arcas (colors)

The Story: Forever continues trying to unravel a terrorist conspiracy.  Waste see different paths to being uplifted.

Review (with minor SPOILERS): Another very powerful issue of Lazarus.  This is just about the perfect series for me.  The art is great.  I like the characters.  I love the dystopian near-future setting.  And I LOVE the attention to detail.

This things that I like best in this issue are the subtle moments.  One is when we see poor little Forever being trained as a little girl by Marisol.  Little Forever is so much more composed and collected than a typical 12/13 year old, but there are the moments when you remember she is still just a little girl.  You can train her and beat her with a stick to teach her stoicism, but she’s still a little girl who needs a hug sometimes.  Anyone who has a child can’t help but be touched by the situation and the art.  Kids that age alternate between impressing us SO much that they are nearly adults: They can handle complex concepts, do physically challenging things and start to say things that don’t sound entirely foolish, then the next second, they are crying and after your initial “WTF?” reaction, you remember that they are only 12 years old.  Rucka and Lark (especially Lark) are capturing that age perfectly here.

The other aspect of the comic I really enjoyed were the two different paths to uplift presented to these waste.  On one hand, we continue following this group that is trying to do uplift the right way.  They’re trekking across the country, dealing with death and banditry and awfulness…..but they are going to Wallyworld and look forward to the wonderfulness.  Only they get there and see a line that runs 20-30 miles out of the city of similarly desperate people who want to be uplifted too.  Not many people are going to get their dream.  That’s what they get for trying to be uplifted via the standard procedure.

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Sex Criminals #5 – Review

By: Matt Fraction (writer), Chip Zdarsky (artist), Becka Kinzie (Color Flatting)

The Story: Who will live? Who will die? Whose weakness is their nipples!? All this and a terrifying encounter in a diner, this week in SEX CRIMINALS!

The Review: Hello there, naughty monkeys, it’s been a while.

No really, it’s been a while.

The last time I reviewed Sex Criminals was way back in the start of January. While I’m going to try not to let this affect my review, I think it’s worth mentioning that it’s a little hard to stick a landing after a nine week delay. Indeed, this issue concludes the first arc and begins a three-month hiatus for the series. I don’t know what led to this development, but it’s never good when your ‘season finale’ is floating so far from the energy of the story’s first eighty percent. Luckily Fraction and Zdarsky have helped us to really get to know our protagonists, so they’re about as fresh as any character could be, but skimming your favorite scenes from previous issues wouldn’t be out of line.

In any case, Sex Criminals #5 is a return to the loved and the familiar in terms of its visuals. While Chip Zdarsky’s style never bowled me over the way it did many, you can’t deny that he brings a unique look and a relatable energy to our strange, broken, beautiful wanna-be crooks. In fact, while it may be absence making the heart grow fonder, this might be some of Zdarsky’s best technical work on this book. More than ever, it’s the art that conveys the closeness of Jon and Suzie’s bizarre love affair. And it’s not just their chemistry that comes through. Suzie’s grit, compassion, and humor are all on display alongside some charming looks from Kegelface, Jon, and a very important young student.
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Stray Bullets: Killers #1 – Review

by David Lapham (Writer/Artist)

The Story: Pissing off a killer isn’t a good idea, even if he is a honest-to-god Star Wars fan.

The Review: Confession time: I have never read a single issue of Stray Bullets before. With the supposedly cult status of the series and its reputation to bring in solid done-in-one tales of criminality and violence, I had to take a chance with David Lapham’s supposed magnum opus. With the first issue of this new volume being released just as the Über Alles edition came out in stores, I figured it was the right time to try.

Right away, this is not a typical book, with Lapham tracing a very fine line between obscenity and normality that serves as the very basis of the book. Weaving moments of pure humanity and banality with a more perverse, yet fascinating approach to the more depraved aspects of people. The creator manage to makes this a story that is deceptively simple, yet at the same time warrant multiple readings to get the many points across for the readers.

Part of the charm is how he is able to present the more somber moments through the innocence and utter cluelessness of Eli, our point-of-view character that is also a kid about 10 years old. His curiosity, his small-time mischief and his sense of discovery, accompanied by his mistakes and his more natural traits makes for a certain detachment to what is happening that is quite refreshing, yet also disturbing in its own way. With the progress of his story set through his perceptions, yet not through his own conclusions, the readers get the satisfaction of connecting everything together until the finale, with the characters suffering the consequences of their actions with no one but the readers actually understanding exactly everything.

Still, despite Eli being a rather intricate and audacious lead character in terms of choice, Lapham also inhabits this issue with plenty of other fully-fledged souls, such as Spanish Scott, Ronnie, Eli’s dad and friends and a certain other number of others, making his tale a part of a world more than a tight vacuum where only certain characters are important. By letting the readers know about a certain back-story between most of the characters and letting them connect the dots, this results in the intrigue and the more criminal and horrific aspects to become even more striking and haunting.
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East of West #10 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Nick Dragotta (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: It’s never a good idea to get in the way of someone whose eye just got pulled out of its socket. Doubly so if it’s Death itself.

The Review: To read different books is to allow for our expectations to be adapted. A Geoff Johns book will have a particularly different focus than one written by Peter Milligan and so forth. With each writers having a particular approach toward building worlds, characters and stories, it would be silly to expect them all to be alike in their themes and their methods. It is a part of the game, yet it can be sometimes a bit frustrating if anyone forgets some specificity about some creators.

Case in point, Jonathan Hickman has always possessed a particular style that do not always makes for the most satisfying of issues. The monthly grind, in its own way, does not do a major service to the kind of stories the writer is trying to tell. With a mind set on expansive ideas, building worlds and setting up a unique mythology, the creative process behind East of West is certainly a fascinating one, yet it also suffers a bit from quite a bit of setup and not enough payoff. While the world itself was fascinating enough and the art always splendid, could this issue provide a crack in the plans of the book which might provide some sort of lesser form of enjoyment that this book could deliver before?

The actual answer is more complicated than that, as while the previous issue did seem to spin its wheels a good deal instead of actually progressing with some of the more fascinating elements, this one does so yet in a less obvious and unsatisfying manner. Without actually spoiling anything, the actual lack of payoff in this issue is part of the point, a rather brilliant one in fact, yet one that does still leave readers wanting more.
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The Walking Dead #123 – Review

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (gray tones) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Negan attacks!

The Review (with SPOILERS): Pretty big event on the final page, huh?  Robert Kirkman has either done something very brave OR very eye-rolling.

The topic for discussion is – of course – the fact that Rick Grimes was shot with a bolt from a crossbow on the final page.  Negan’s plan of attack has been to smear all of his Saviors’ weapons with zombie gunk, so this would imply that Rick is infected with zombie goo and is going to die.  He isn’t shot anywhere that can be amputated either – right through the abdomen.

If Kirkman really and truly is killing Rick, that is a very brave decision.  He is the main character and it is his story that we’ve followed since issue #1 back in 2003.  Rick is also the central character of the highest rated drama on cable television.  Can you imagine telling your friends who watch TV, but don’t read the comic that, Rick is dead in the comics?  The thought of that might actually sell some comics…

However, it would make a lot of sense to kill Rick.  I personally think his story has been used up for some time.  It isn’t that we can’t keep having stories with Rick in them, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see how a survivors group of Michonne, Maggie, Andrea and Carl managed after Rick was gone?  We’ve never seen that dynamic.  It would be new and fresh and The Walking Dead could use a little freshening.  It isn’t so much that I want to see the group do any particular thing, it’s just that I feel like I’ve seen the story with Rick in charge.  I’d like to try something new.  Let’s see what ELSE this group of humans can do.
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Starlight #1 – Review

By: Mark Millar (writer), Goran Parlov (art), Ive Svorcina (colors) and Marko Sunjic (letters)

The Story: An aging former space hero finds life on Earth to be depressing.

Review (with SPOILERS): This was a really touching first issue. Back in the old days, I used to actually go on comic message boards.  God, what a horrible experience.  Fun at the time, but…. Ugh!  Mark Millar was always an active discussion topic on those boards.  Saying that you actually liked Mark Millar comics on a comic message board was like admitting that you picked your nose and ate the boogars.  The intellectual minority of the minority of comic fans that go on message boards likes to deride Millar as being a hype-machine who is just interested in doing shocking things to get a reaction.   I actually see a lot of experimental brilliance in his edgier works like Wanted, Kick Ass and Nemesis.  Sure….Millar can be offensive sometimes, but I think he is just interested in exploring artistic boundaries – and when you rigorously explore the boundary, you will cross the line sometimes.

But, dismissing Millar as”hype-machine who writes exploitative comics” really discounts some of his other works.  Did you ready Superior?  There were some really touching moments in that story.  How about Secret Service?  All that stuff about how poor the main character grew up?  That was pretty affecting.  There are even some powerful moments in Kick Ass (the original series).  Millar really can do a touching and heart-felt comic if he wants to.

I think Starlight is one of those more touching works.  If you don’t enjoy the “extreme” Mark Millar…..you should definitely give Starlight a try because it is very different.

It tells the story of Captain Duke McQueen who once had a very John Carter-esque experience of being sucked through a wormhole to a very Barsoom-like place where he fought villains with swords, saved a kingdom, was honored by scantily clad princesses, rode dragons, etc……but gave it all away to go back home to Earth and be with his lady love.  Only, when he got back to Earth, nobody really believed his story and he lived a mundane life with his wife.  And he was happy because he loved his wife….

The issue picks up with a very sad story of how Duke’s wife dies.  We only see her in flashback, but I love how Parlov draws her.  Duke himself looks like an old American football player who has kept himself in shape: big, broad-shouldered, but still gray haired and wrinkled.  His wife (in contrast) looks like one of those ladies who you first assume Duke has a trophy wife who is 25 years old, then you realize she’s just one of those ladies who has held onto her youthful beauty by virtue of hard-work, lifestyle and good genes.  She’s like the idealized version of what you thought your mom looked like as a kid: beautiful, not sexy, just beautiful.  And, since this is just Duke’s flashback memory, who knows if she really looked like that, or if she just looked like that in his mind because he loved he so much?  It doesn’t really matter.  Duke loved her and we get to see the moment where she finds a lump under her breast after a lovely evening out to dinner.  It is really painful and touching because in just those few pages, you get the feeling that she was someone who was a special light in the world and didn’t deserve to die young.
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Velvet #4 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Steve Epting (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors) and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Velvet tracks down a former KGB operative for assistance.

The Review (with SPOILERS): Another strong issue of Velvet.  That’s to be expected at this point.  You really wouldn’t expect this creative team to be tossing stinkers.  But having an issue like this allows you to appreciate some of the little things that make this such a special comic series.  You know how sometimes you see a comic from new(er) creators and it has some crazy-brilliant stuff, but also some things that just don’t work?    Not a problem here.  All of the creators on this series know what will/won’t work in a comic book.

Let’s look at some of the clever stuff that gives this comic a little more…

  • Clever lettering: I can’t even type it here easily, but Chris Eliopoulos does this clever thing of making the Russian assassin say “sorry” by reversing the two Rs in “SORRY”.  It’s just a little trick that makes the guy sound like a James Bond villain in your mind, or Ivan Drago.  It’s important because there is nothing visually distinctive about a “Russian Assassin” – they are just white guys in tuxedos.  It’s just a little thing that makes the comic more effective AND it keeps Steve Epting from being tempted to somehow make the guys look Russian (however you do that) or make them spout some expository dialog during the fight (“Capitalist dogs!!!”).
  • Older, more “mature” hero: I loved the scene of Velvet getting ready for the Carnival of Fools.  She is still undoubtedly attractive, but she’s also in her 40s and things aren’t quite as firm or as lean as they used to be.  She’s not Kate Upton anymore.  In fact, if this were a real life movie, there would be a misogynist article or two about how it was time for Velvet to keep her clothes on.  Here in this comic, it’s just a very effective reminder that she isn’t 22 anymore.  It’s amazing that Epting can capture the little subtleties of a mature woman.
  • Velvet casing the party: When she is in the party and looking for targets, Epting uses this trick of drawing a detailed image of a single person inside a little ~1 inch circle and then having the rest of the party be vague.  It’s just a nifty way of showing, “I am focused on YOU…”  It’s also pretty accurate; if anyone has ever been in a crowded room and scanned it for threats or pretty girls or your spouse, you know the feeling of being hyperfocused and the rest of the room being reduced to white noise.
  • Masks!: It is really hard to draw and color realistic masks.  Do it wrong and the depth gets all wonky and the mask looks like it is floating in space in front of the person’s face.  I’m not talking about a superhero mask either, those are just colored skin.  These are masks like you and I would WEAR that are sitting just off your face.  Super job by Epting and colorist Breitweiser.

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The Saviors #3 – Review

by James Robinson (Writer), J. Bone (Artist)

The Story: It seems to me that James Robinson might take the name ”day of the dead” a bit too literally…

The Review: Having no expectations can be a great thing. When there is no hype or prejudice set against a book, it provides a good chance for the very piece of graphic literature to provide surprises and please the readers with its concepts, its characters and its execution. It’s always a very tough task to let go of expectations, yet it can be achieved through numerous methods.

One of them, it seems, is to not really mind the book’s existence. It might seem a tad harsh, yet I haven’t been wholly impressed yet by James Robinson and his new series The Saviors. While it is decidedly a good idea to base a story around, the world building itself and the various elements haven’t cemented yet to provide for a definitive appreciation on my part. However, it is still a young series and Robinson could very well amplify things in this one. The question is, does he actually achieves this?

What he does well is set up some new ideas as well as presenting new characters. While the focus of the first two issues was decidedly more on Tomas, the writer presents a larger cast here. With each of them being affected by the appearances of lizard men differently and having a different background, Robinson does bring the readers up to speed on their personality and their quirks rather quickly, yet not without efficiency. Some are perhaps a bit stereotypical, yet there is a certain clarity in their motivations and their semi-functionality as a group that does manage to make them interesting enough to make it so there could be development and surprises in the long run.

Still, despite it all, Tomas is still the main protagonist, with a certain focalization on his feelings and reactions brought to the forefront. His personality and his general assessment of the situation driving some of the scenes forward, there is a comprehensible reasoning behind Tomas, yet not one that makes him that interesting or particularly likable in the process. His fears and his desire not to be involved in an underground war against weird lizard people is something that can be easily understood, yet his desire to be protected without him lifting a finger to help in the war effort is something that it more irritating than it is appreciable. While a flawed character makes for a much more interesting lead than a good and utterly perfect one, the character of Tomas Ramirez is perhaps a bit too cowardly to be effectively liked. There’s plenty of room for development and deeper understanding of just who he is, yet so far it’s a bit too soon to properly get attached to a stoner and generally cowardly and detached hero.
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Jupiter’s Legacy #4 – Review

By: Mark Millar (story), Frank Quitely (art), Peter Doherty (colors)

The Story: Introducing the super-yuppies…

The Review: Say what you like about Superman, but there is no denying his deep influence on all comics, whether one intends to show it or not.  He embodies so much of what we consider a superhero, and he came into being so early on at the start of the superhero age, that it’s hard for other superheroes to escape the gravitational pull of his origin story, his powers, his core values, even his costume and quirks.

But what we see in Legacy is more than just an influence.  Millar directly poaches elements of the Superman story.  Don’t take my word for it; it couldn’t be more obvious once Chloe recounts how Sheldon proposed to Gracie with a diamond he made himself, by crushing a piece of coal in his fist—one of Superman’s classic party tricks.  The parallels also cross generational boundaries, from Chloe’s glasses to the tortured lengths her son Jason goes to conceal his own massive superpowers.  Millar’s clearly saying something about Superman, but what?
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The Manhattan Projects #18 – Review

By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: Allegiances shift and new antagonists come to the fore….

Review (with SPOILERS): This issue of The Manhattan Projects was pretty interesting because it closed a chapter while opening a new set of possibilities.  I still think TMP is a little light on overall narrative, but the reshuffling in this issue will allow our oddball characters to be odd in new ways.

  • End of Oppenheimer?: Evil Oppenheimer has been a central character since TMP began and the prime antagonist for the last 6-7 issues.  Is he really dead?  Or did he just just download his brain into the Omni-President’s AI?  I did seem like Oppenheimer was “cured” of his dual personalities before he was shot….
  • Turncoat Einstein: As he says, he is “not a good man”.  All along, Einstein has never really been a team player.  He’s kinda done his own thing and it’s just so happened that his goals align with those of the team.  Now that the team is massively realigning, it’ll be interesting to see how Einstein fits into the new power structure.
  • McNamara is charge: What a great character he has been!  It’s tempting to call him a Rambo-wanna-be, except that he can really dish it out.  He kills the funny blue alien all by himself, takes the alien’s ear and now wants to carpet bomb the galaxy.  He’s kinda like a young version of how left-wing folks see neo-conservatives like Rumsfeld and Cheney.
  • Groves turncoat?: We’ve gotten used to the idea that Groves is somehow the ally of the scientists, but he’s really just been a man on a mission….and now we see that he’s still looking for dragons to slay.  Remember, he was pumped full of truth-serum when he joined McNamara.  He even got a promotion out of it!

The whole thing is a welcome shake-up for the series.  I’m not sure that TMP is ever supposed to really be about anything…..there is no massive storyline.  Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that TMP is a comic series where the plot exists to service the characters.  I enjoy TMP not so much to find out “What will happen next?” but just to see what these whackos are up to.  It’s the comic equivalent of people watching.  That makes it somewhat unique in my pull list and it’s why I try not to get too bothered when I can’t remember plot details like what is/was going on with the FDR A.I.  It doesn’t really matter….the cool thing is that there a FDR A.I. exists at all. Continue reading

Chew #40 – Review

By: John Layman (writer) and Rob Guillory (art)

The Story: Tony Chu is tripping…

Review (with SPOILERS): I felt a lot better after reading this issue.  For some time, the over-arching “big story” of Chew has been slipping from my grasp like a greasy rope.  With easy issue, I had less and less of a grasp on what was really going on.  I still laughed at all the jokes and still found Toni to be really a touching character, but I was missing a lot of the bigger picture.

This issue kinda locked things back down.  Now I understand why Toni was involved and why NASA was involved, what the alien sky-writing means, etc.  I wouldn’t say that I could write the entire Wikipedia article about Chew, but I feel a lot more secure.  Things make sense instead of being random – still FUNNY, but random.  Nice job by the creators.  It has to be really hard to manage the big story for these series because what is a nice reminder for one reader is boring and repetitive for another.  I honestly have no idea where I fall on the spectrum of readers in terms of remembering plot details, but *I* enjoyed the reminders and summaries in this issue.

Also, mega-bonus points for the glossary of food powers in the back!
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Black Science #4 – Review

By: Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (art), Dean White (colors) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: The protagonists try to escape from an alt-WWI while their leader is wounded.

The Review (with SPOILERS): Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this silly comic series.  The first issue was lights-out great!  The second issue was good, but concerning.  The third issue was kinda mediocre.  And, now we’re back to lights-out great.

If I had to give an opinion on this series it is that it will be somewhat inconsistent, but capable of blowing your socks off.  That alone makes it worthy.  Life is too short to even bother with comics that don’t have the potential for greatness.  That’s why I don’t usually bother with 3rd-tier Avengers books anymore: no potential for greatness.

There are a whole raft of attributes that make this a sharper issue than last:

  • WOW-level art: I took some stick last month for saying the art is issue #3 wasn’t quite as good as the previous issues.  I stand by that assessment.  This issue (like issue #1) is just loaded with images that will melt your eyes.  For me, there are two levels of good art.  One is just having the basic storytelling correct and not succumbing to weak panels.  That is a harder task that you might think with so much frenzied action – but Scalera is up to the task.  The second level is: Are there images that just have that singular quality where you go, “WOW!”?  I started to make a list of the panels that made me double-take, but it would probably be easier to list the panels that didn’t cause that reaction.  There are original pages in this issue that I want and I’m irritated that Matteo Scalera’s art rep doesn’t have them up on the site yet.  I won’t tell you which ones because I can’t take the chance that other people might buy them.  It’s inspirational art.  So, what sets this art apart?  It’s just got that little bit of extra energy to the whole sequence when Ward is fighting his way through the Techno Native Americas.  The art looks incredibly like that of Sean Murphy.  Everything is energetic, well-framed and detailed.  Then, we shift gears totally and see that Scalera can draw an incredibly soft-looking pretty woman AND imagine a world that is straight out of Star Wars.  Who knows why the art wasn’t quite to this standard in the last two issues?  Maybe Sclera had something going on in his personal life that knocked him off schedule, maybe the subject matter didn’t excite him as much…Who knows?  And who cares, because any series that can look like THIS is worth reading.
  • Shift away from Grant McKay: I have a feeling that Grant McKay is going to be the Rick Grimes of this series.  By that I mean, central character who I don’t like as much as the supporting cast. Continue reading

Sheltered #7 – Review

By: Ed Brisson (writer/creator/letters), Johnnie Christmas (art/creator), Shari Chankhamma (colors)

The Story: Things are coming apart at the seams as the murderous kids have to deal with outside intervention.

The Review (with SPOILERS): This was another really strong issue for this series.  It starts out kinda slow, but about 2/3 through the issue, it “gets real” when the remaining adult from the last issue is forced to kill one of the murderous little kids as they’re chasing him through the woods.

What I liked about the scene (and the series) is how unflinching it is.  The creators do perform the proper set-up for this fleeing adult: He has seen his friends murdered, he’s running through the snowy woods in the middle of the night (in the middle of nowhere), he’s been shot in the leg, and he STILL has three kids with guns chasing him.  So, the comic does go to great lengths to demonstrate that he really has no choice but to fight back and they demonstrate his remorse afterwards – even though he knew he had no choice.  But, the way they depict the shooting of a kid is pretty blunt.

The whole scene is surreal.  One moment they’re just kids running through the woods after an adult; they are KIDS and don’t really understand life and death and consequences.  They’re chasing the adult just because that’s what the other kids are doing.  The next moment one of these kids is shot through the chest- dying – and the other kids really don’t know what to do.  Their only prior experience with injury has been when friends skin their knees and you call for a parent, except they cannot do that because they killed all the parents.  Now they’re just kids lost in the forest who need help….but can’t get any help.
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Deadly Class #2 – Review

by Rick Remender (Writer), Wes Craig (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Colorist)

The Story: Marcus gets acquainted with life at his new school as he somehow make friends and enemies.

The Review: There is a saying that pretend that all stories have already been told, that everything is a constant reutilization of the same concepts yet with different names and interpretations. While it is a bold statement that can be verified at length in multiple levels of fiction, there is a certainty in saying that many stories and ideas look very similar to each other. With this theory in mind, it comes to the writer to make things fresh and twist things up to make use of an established formula to make it so readers still care about what’s on the page, screen or whichever media is used.

It seems, in many ways, that this is what Rick Remender must had in mind when he created this story. Set in a school that trains assassins, the story focus on Marcus, a young Nicaraguan teen who got a bad start in life. Presenting his story in an overly classical architecture of how school are portrayed in many medias, Remender tries to make it so his concept bring in many comparisons and contrasts for the illusion of normalcy to work in favour of his comic.

It’s a sound approach, yet not one that is really working well in this issue. While there are some neat ideas shown with the classes and their teachers, there isn’t much else working in favour to this storytelling technique. Marcus is still the rebel kid, there is a bully (who is of Russian nationality to boot), there is a fat and nerdy kid and everyone is talking about the new kid in school. There are some tidbits which are interesting, yet for a rather big concepts, Remender does not go far enough to provide enough shock or material for contrast in themes and approach.
Still, despite this, Remender does deserve some credits in the fact that he builds up a whole world, a cast and a setting quite well in the span of a little less than 30 pages. Presenting some clear personalities, cliques and a certain way that the school function, there is a lot of material for development and surprises here that can fuel the series for a while.
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Rat Queens #5 – Review

by Kurtis J. Wiebe (Writer), Roc Upchurch (Artist)

The Story: The battle for Palisade concludes as the mercenaries then party hard.

The Review: There are a quite a lot of changes in the industry going on these days. With many established and well-liked creators going on to create their own series at companies like Image, Dark Horse, Boom and other such places, we live in an age where creativity in the American market is booming. It is something, however, that require some sacrifices, like titles that are released in waves like Saga and Lazarus, who need time after a bunch of issues to catch up and plan ahead.

Another title that can claim to do so is Rat Queens, with this issue concluding its first arc with the next issue coming up in May. One of the very thing which makes the adventures of the Rat Queens a bit similar to the two aforementioned titles is the quality, which is actually quite high. With but a few honest-to-God pure and atypical fantasy comics out there, it’s a refreshing thing to see a title dedicated to the genre, yet not so stuck in its ways as to forget to bring innovation and quality into the mix. Still, does this conclusion brings a painful realisation that the title won’t be out for a few months, or is it a dull affair that makes the wait a bearable thing?

Unfortunately, it’s the former as this conclusion not only brings many of the title’s strength to the forefront, but also present many of the unique and decidedly charming qualities of the title in a penultimate fashion.
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The Walking Dead #122 – Review

By: Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Cliff Rathburn (gray tones) and Rus Wooton (letters)

The Story: After Alexandria is abandoned, both Rick and Negan prepare for the final battle.

The Review (with SPOILERS): This issue is mostly set-up for whatever comes next.  Judging by the letters page, we have four more issues left in the “All Out War” storyline, so the pacing really makes sense: Rick and Gang are bracing for the final battle, Negan is preparing a special type of weapon and Dwight might have some help on the inside.

Starting with Rick & Gang, it’s all pretty standard stuff: Rick knows they need to attack, Andrea is vigilant, Ezekiel is pulling himself back together, Maggie is dealing with her new leadership role, Health deals with only having one leg, Jesus is having a moment of quiet…  The only real call to action is that they don’t have enough food for the entire group.  That fact tells us that everyone hiding inside Hilltop is not an option: The people in there NEED to fan back out into the countryside again, and that isn’t an option until Negan has been dealt with.

It’s all fine build-up inside of Hilltop; nice little character moments.  I’m not sure that I care that much about character-building at this point in the story – I’d rather get onto the climax – but there’s nothing obnoxious and offensive about seeing this stuff.  And hey, Jesus is gay!  Who knew?  Subversion is awesome…

Meanwhile over in Negan-land, things are getting decidedly weird.  Negan has the great plan to smear zombie goop all over the Saviors weapons, and while I do think this foreshadows a sad death or two for Rick’s team (as they waste away from a scratch), it also seems really dangerous for Negan’s men.  I mean, he has thoroughly coated the barbed wire on Lucille with zombie goop, would you want to ride down the road holding onto that thing?  Oop! Hit a pothole and scratch your hand on the barbed wire.  Seems like it would make more sense to just stop on the way to Rick’s compound and get some zombie goop on the way.  And wouldn’t all of their weapons already have zombie goop all over them already?  I mean, it isn’t like we’ve seen the Saviors pouring peroxide all over their weapons before.
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