Eventually, after reading about their new initiatives (morbid curiosity) and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik asking readers to give them a fair chance I decided "why not"? I decided that, for the rest of the year, I'd try buying some of Top Cows' trades and doing reviews of books that I picked up. Top Cow has a good number of creator owned projects from writers I like, so those are going to a big focus for me, but I am also going to check out some of their ongoing properties. Feel free to suggest any books you might think are worth a look.
Today, I am taking a look at the first trade for Ron Marz's Witchblade run, which is currently ongoing and generally receiving positive reviews, and, arguably, Top Cow's most famous book and recent movie, Wanted, by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. Hit the jump for my reviews.
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Mike Choi
Collects Witchblade #80-85
Witch Hunt is the first arc from current Witchblade writer Ron Marz, of Green Lantern fame. The story is basically an introduction to the characters and the concept of the Witchblade title and it works very well in that regard, which is one of the books main strengths.
The story is about Sara Pezzini, current wielder of the Witchblade, and her attempts to unravel a conspiracy that put her in a coma. Marz does a good job with the story sequence by having it begin with Pezzini in her coma, for the entire first issue in fact. After she wakes up from her coma, she investigates what happened to her, which leads to her uncovering a conspiracy, which forms the basis of the story. It is actually a rather low key story with Marz mostly focusing on introducing everything to the reader. This is not say that there is a bunch of exposition and info dumping, but the story does focus around all of the introductions, so there is a tad bit more talking than fighting, if that isn't your thing.
One of the odd things about certain aspects of the story was just how cliched they were. They didn't really ruin the story, but it was disappointing to see Marz use them. There also isn't a lot of action either, with what few fights there are lasting only a few pages. The story isn't boring but, rather, just not overly compelling. The story is solid, paced well and it is not bad, just a little underwhelming. In fact, that is the best way to describe the whole thing, underwhelming. Even the fight where Pezzini saves the world is underwhelming.
One thing that could have helped make up for the story was also lackluster - that being the characters. The various characters that show up throughout the story are surprisingly similar. They all function as characters just fine, but there is nothing really unique about them to differentiate them from one another. I do not really have that much of a problem with it in this arc since it is an introductory arc to the whole series and I wasn't actually expecting these characters to have that much personality to begin with.
The art by Mike Choi, while good, is something of a disappointment as well. If you have read any of his current output from Marvel, you can tell that it's his artwork, but, unlike his Marvel work, there is a heavy Marc Silvestri influence, almost like it's trying to mimic Silvestri's art and it looks a little off at times to me. It also has the same problem a lot of comic book art has, everyone looks too fit and good looking, but it is a lot more pronounced, like looking at a magazine or image where everyone is blatantly photoshopped or airbrushed. Again, not bad but not up to his current standards. Also, every character is fully clothed throughout the story, not that you would guess that from the covers. The only reason I mention this is because I was honestly surprised by it based on my preconceived notions going in.
Verdict - Check It. Despite the fact I have not sounded too positive about the book, it is not a bad book. It is a solid and perfectly fine by-the-numbers story that is designed as an introduction to new readers, which it does a good job at. Worth a look if you are at all interesting in the Witchblade series.
Written by Mark Millar
Art by J. G. Jones
Collects Wanted #1-6
Mark Millar tends to divide comic readers into two groups - those that like his work and those who don't. I typically fall into the former category. Ultimates was one of the series that got me back into comics and I loved it and its sequel. However, I don't like all of Millar's output and Wanted definitely falls into the "don't like" category.
First off, though, let's talk about what's good in Wanted. Millar does have a solid foundation for the book. It's about a supervillain cabal that secretly rules the world after defeating all of the world's superheroes many years earlier. The first issue actually does a lot in setting up the idea and is a pretty good read on its own while hinting at great things to come, much like the first issue of Civil War did. A lot of the characters are generally solid, even if they are extreme versions of classic Marvel and DC characters, but that is obviously intentional.
Millar does a good job creating the world of Wanted. He provides some nice details and history about how things are and I wouldn't be adverse to reading a prequel for the book. While Millar does have some interesting ideas and starts off with a solid base to build, he fails to capitalize on what he has set up.
The biggest problem with Wanted is that after the first issue it turns into a juvenile, even childish, mess. I could go one listing a lot of examples but, honestly, I don't really want to have to go through the book again to get specifics and would end up ranting over what would more than likely come off as minor things to some people. Basically, Millar was going for cool and edgy and metatextual commentary about comics, but missed the mark by a million miles. Everything comes off as absurdly stupid or as some juvenile power trip and the rare moments of brilliance are outweighed by this over the top style.
Another huge problem is the main character, Wesley Gibson. He goes from being an unlikable loser to being an unlikable asshole, which makes reading about his exploits less than enjoyable. I am not unopposed to reading villain centric book. Ellis's Thunderbolts is one of my favorite books from the past few years. But Millar also takes some of the villains to their logical extremes and it's as unappealing as it sounds.
The same thing applies with cursing. I think it can help to add to the tone and mood of a book when used appropriately, but Millar, again, takes it too far and it becomes unintentionally bad. And not in a hilariously bad kind of way either. Same goes for the villains behavior at times. I'm not expecting nice people, but some restraint on Millar's part would have been nice and made these characters less than the mere characitures that they are.
Verdict - Avoid It (like the plague). All of the good ideas that Millar introduces are swamped by the juvenile, well, crap, quite frankly. Just a horrible, horrible book. Also, if you were thinking this was anything like the movie (I knew it wasn't going in, for reference), don't even bother as it's nothing like it and only related by some mild themes and the odd scene making it into that "adaptation".