Saturday, November 20, 2010

Free Comics Review for 11/17/10

Welcome to another big week for Free Comics Review, both in size and importance. Another set of big news this week is that ComiXology will soon be letting more people use their Guided View technology, which will increase the speed at which comics are uploaded into their service, and will let more publishers to offer their comics. Of course, that’s sounding a bit dreadful right now, because as it is, we have a monster size version of this column, with eleven free comics to be reviewed, which is what caused this review to run a day late. A good portion of them are leftovers from last week, when Radical uploaded a bunch of their first issues for free. Hit the jump to see them.

Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Ian Edginton
Art by Patrick Reilly and Stephan Sejic

This is one of the Radical comics that is now being given for free, I missed it last week, much like the rest of the Radical books in this column.

Legacy of the Lost is a modern retelling of the Aladdin mythos. I can’t say I’m very overtly familiar with the original tale, just the Disney version. Surely, Disney couldn’t changed much, right? (I’m kidding, by the way)

The series starts with Aladdin living on the streets, roughing it out by stealing, cheating and tricking just about anyone that he can get his hands on, even his friends and the people that take care of him. In other words, Aladdin is kind of a douche.

Aladdin gets a strange proposal from a mysterious man, who offers him a lot of money’s worth for just a morning of work. The work turns out to be getting a valuable lamp from a strange cave. You can see where this is all going, right?

Mysterious Man (I’m sure he has a name, but I don’t remember) betrays Aladdin and tries to attack him with giant sand worms (Dune is totally going to sue!) though he escapes into the cave. After the kerfuffle, Aladdin kept the lamp, which obviously has a magic genie inside.

The writing is competent enough, and keeps the story flowing nicely, though it’s hard to provide any surprise with a character that is so embedded on the public consciousness. Art-wise, the book is quite dark at times, and though it all looks very pretty, it’s not very good sequential art.

Caliber #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Sam Sarkar
Art by Garrie Gastonny

Hey look, another Radical book that I missed last week! This one is a western story, with some supernatural elements.

The set-up is quite clever, it involves a frontier town (as these tales usually do), and there is quite a lot of tension between the two groups. It all comes clashing down when a group of cows are killed with arrows, pointing to the natives.

Parallel to this tale is the story of Whitefeather, who is a seer or magically-attuned native, of French descendant. He is a man of two worlds, and he is working his hardest to get the two communities to live peacefully.

One of his visions guides him to a mystical gun, and he learns that he must find the wielder, who is destined to bring law to the world. The man in question is Arthur, a local sheriff.

The twist is that Arthur doesn’t look quite confident of himself. When he is given the gun, things don’t turn out as expected. It’s a nicely done reveal, one that I didn’t see coming.

The art is quite reminiscent of the work of Clayton Crain, dark and shadowy, with a very realistic style. Much like I said on the previous review, it’s very pretty, though not exactly good at telling the story.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Leonard Kirk

Critically acclaimed and multiple award nominated. That’s what Captain Britain was, though sadly “commercially successful” was not in it’s resume. It all started here, with a tie-in to Secret Invasion.

Because it’s a first issue, we are introduced to the team, though not in the usual “recruitment drive” way. The Skrulls have invaded Britain, and they are hitting particularly hard, so a lot of the superheroes available join the fray when Pete Wisdom outs out the call for aid.

Aside from Captain Britain and Wisdom, other people joining the defense of Britain include former Avenger Black Knight, WWII era speedster Spitfire, John The Skrull, and a brand new character Faiza Hussain. She acts as the point of view character, she starts the story as a civilian medic who is trying to help people in the middle of the invasion.

The Skrulls are attacking Britain particularly harder because they want to destroy the gateway to Avalon, the Siege Perilous, thus blocking the possibility of magical reinforcements coming through there.

The comic is packed to the brim! There’s a lot going on, but it never feels too fast paced to follow. Cornell expects you to keep up, but never makes it too hard to do so.

Kirk’s art is wonderfully clean and simple. He has a great handle on just about everything, but he does specially well with the facial expressions.

City of Dust #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Steve Niles
Art by Zid

What do you know, another Radical comic that I forgot to review last week! A sci-fi tale, set in a dystopian (or utopian, depending on who you ask) where imaginary tales are completely forbidden. That means no fairy tales, no stories, no fables, and no religion.

The story follows Phillip Khrome, a policeman that works the murder beat. He lives in the world where there are laws prohibiting any fictional story, and this offense is punished quite harshly by the Imagination Police.

Khrome doesn’t worry too much about enforcing the law, because it’s not part of his primary jurisdiction. He has grown up in a cold, calculating world, and he likes the action that persecuting murderers. Or so he thinks.

In the latest case though, things don’t work out quite as expected, and he accidentally shoots a man pre-emptively. It rattles him somewhat, though not as much as his next case.

Khrome investigates a suicide scene, something quite strange to him. It seems that in the highly scientifically advanced world he populates, suicide is not common anymore. He doubts his instinct and his tools of the trade, but the man has killed himself for a reason. The reason? A book.

I absolutely loved the set-up and execution of this book, and I will probably hunt down the trade. The world created by Niles is an interesting one that is worthy of being explored further.

The art by Zid brings life to a cold and harsh world, and he does so in an spectacular way. He creates a lot of gadgets and aspects of this future that hing on the familiar but brings his own personal touch.

Elmer #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Gerry Alanguillan
Art by Gerry Alanguillan

Speaking of pleasant surprises, I’m not sure if this is just a chapter of a graphic novel, or if this was serialized, but Elmer was a delightful read. Published by SLG, it’s completely written and drawn by the same person, Gerry Alanguillan.

The concept behind this series is that chickens have mysteriously developed consciousness, memory, feelings, and the ability to talk. That means that aside from the obvious physical differences, they are just like human beings.

The story centers around Jake Gallo, a chicken that lives in this world, and he is quite skeptical of humans in general, he prefers to spend time with his kind. He doesn’t live a good life since he doesn’t have a job while his brother and sister are doing much better in life.

Despite the distinctly non-human characters that are at the center of this tale, it is still full of human emotions and charm. Jake, despite being not entirely a like-able protagonist, goes through things that every person can relate to.

There are pretty clear allegories to issues such as racial prejudice, wedding outside of one’s race, and discrimination, which are explored here. It’s quite clever, to be honest.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Steve Moore
Art by Admira Wijaya

Another Radical comic, etc. This one is about the classical Greek hero Hercules.

One thing I should mention is that there is something wrong with the Guided View of this particular comic, and some of the panels are out of order (this shouldn’t affect you if you have an iPad and can see the whole screen). Someone put a couple of the double-page spreads in the wrong reading order.

Other than that, I enjoyed this comic quite a bit. It tells the tale of Hercules and his team coming to the aid of the Thracian’s, a group that they are not particularly fond of. It lags a bit in the beginning, but once the full party gets there, things get livelier.

The hosts that should be welcoming Hercules are instead openly mocking him and his party. Hercules holds, but eventually the insults get the best of them, and they start openly murdering everyone in there.

The party that accompanies Hercules is an interesting bunch, each one coming from different backgrounds, and each one with it’s own set of abilities.

There is a running joke that everyone expects Hercules to be bigger. I found it quite funny, as in most depictions of the character (such as the Marvel version), he is basically a giant hulking mass of muscles, but here he is portrayed as quite muscular but still athletic person, more in line with the classical depiction.

Madrox #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Peter David
Art by Pablo Raimondi

It’s been some years since this came out, but Madrox was a five issue mini series from the Marvel Knights imprint that eventually led to the ongoing X-Factor title. It stars Jamie Madrox, The Multiple Man, who stars a detective agency.

Quite a lot of interesting concepts are introduced here. For example, Madrox has been sending out dupes into the wild, to collect and amass knowledge, only to absorb them later and gain all they have learned. This makes Madrox into a more interesting and multi-faceted character.

The hook to the mini is that someone has murdered one of Madrox’s dupes, and he must investigate who did it and why did they do it.

We also see some other former X-Factor characters, such as Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane) and Guido (Strong Guy) who are helping out Madrox with his new enterprise.

Peter David is basically writing a love letter and a scatting parody at the same time to noir detective tales. Needless to say, Madrox is far from your usual detective-type, a goofball and joker, but who makes an effective detective nonetheless because of his special abilities and knowledge.

This is quite a good series, and I highly recommend it (along with the first two years of X-Factor).

Mighty Avengers #2 (Marvel App)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Frank Cho

A second issue? Bold choice there, Marvel. Mighty Avengers was the secondary Avengers title that debuted shortly after the end of Civil War, and featured the registered heroes lead by Iron Man (while New Avengers was about the rebel team lead by Luke Cage).

This story marks the return of Ultron, right on the eve of the formation of the team, which consists of Ares, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Wasp, Wonder Man, and The Sentry.

Peppered throughout the issue we see short bits of how Iron Man recruited the members. If you are going to do an “assemble the team” montage, you might as well give it in small doses to not overwhelm a reader.

There’s a lot going on here, so if you haven’t read the first issue, it might be quite confusing. Mole Man was attacking the city, while Iron Man was infected by something (which we later learn is Ultron), appears to have been killed, and replaced by a woman that looks like Wasp. The rest of the team is trying to figure what’s going on.

For the first arc of Mighty Avengers, Bendis used thought bubbles, a practice mostly forgone these days. While I appreciate the experimentation, it makes reading this issue a chore, because a lot of the times the thought bubbles are just repetition of what the characters are saying out loud.

Cho’s art is delightful as per usual. He is really good at storytelling and action scenes, and he is particularly good at drawing attractive people of both genders. It’s true that the women he draws are quite cheesecake-y, but on his defense, so are the men he draws.

I’m quite convinced that he drew Ultron (who is in the shape of Wasp) completely naked and then the colorist or inker had to cover every “offending” body part with random clouds.

Extra credit question: Can you find the one place they forgot to cover it? (Hint: it’s a butt).

Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by M. Zachary Sherman
Art by Bagus Hutomo

The last Radical comic I forgot to review last week. It’s a science fiction tale set in the far future, where humans have expanded throughout the solar system, and technology has let people change some of their biological make-up.

There is a lot going on here, and I can’t say I understood everything. The narrative was all over the place, jumping to different people and settings without much rhyme or reason.

The main character (I’m guessing) does not appear until halfway through the book, and it is not smart choice. She is a former marine that is now trying to lead a peaceful life as a miner. She is trying to enjoy the finer things in life when the drums of war start calling again.

An inter-spacial conflict is brewing, between Venus, the last bastion of freedom, and the Alliance, a powerful military force that has conquered much of the Solar System.

The fact that I can’t recall any of the names of the people that appear in this story is a bad sign. The creators were trying to cram too much information into too little space. There’s three different stories going on here, competing for air and trying to rise above, but they inevitably all end up drowning each other.

On the art side of things, the story is not helped by the static and blurry images. Everything looks covered in shadow, and it’s hard to tell who is who, or what side they are playing on. It’s pretty art, but it is not good storytelling art (I know I’ve said it like three times already in this particular column, and it’s for a reason)

Ultimate X-Men #26 (Marvel App)

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Ben Lai & Ray Lai

Whoever uploads these Marvel issues sure loves Millar. I’ve lost count of how many issues of his I have reviewed since I started doing this. This issue of Ultimate X-Men is a prelude to Return of the King, the arc where Magneto comes back with his latest scheme.

Before all that, though, we gain a peek into the life of a younger Magneto, and his alliance with Charles Xavier before everything fell apart. We see them abandoning their old Homo Sapiens life and starting a school and refugee for mutants.

Almost completely told in flashbacks, we start seeing the division between Xavier and Magneto, which would mark the conflict between the two of them for years.

Speaking of the flashbacks, there are some odd choices here. Most of them are “5 years ago” and that kind of thing, but there are some that say “6 months later”. It’s probably better to keep them all consistent, I think.

I would have to go back and re-read all of Millar’s run on Ultimate X-Men, but there are some things that do not gel well with previous established facts. For example, it seems that Wolverine is there in Genosha when it’s founded (he is seen in the crowd there, though it may be an artist error).

Vision Machine #2 (ComiXology App)

Written by Greg Pak
Art by R.B. Silva

The second issue of Greg Pak and R.B. Silva’s creator owned sci fi comic, Vision Machine can ONLY be found through ComiXology (at least until the trade comes out), and all of it is given completely for free. I didn’t know this when I reviewed the first issue, but it makes me appreciate it even more.

In the second part, things take a turn for the sinister, as Sprout, the creators of the incredibly popular iEye gadget, has very clearly dropped their “Don’t be evil” policy, despite how much they claim otherwise.

Users are bombarded with advertisements, their information is shared freely, and deleted at whim. If this sounds at all familiar with you, it’s for a reason. Apple, Google, or Facebook; no technology giant is safe from Pak’s biting and critical satire.

It’s interesting to see how far apart the three protagonist that we met in issue one have drifted. One of them is content with his life, another decides to go off the grid, and the final one is an enforcer for Sprout. Pak’s story took a turn that I wasn’t expecting, but this is still a riveting and creative ride.

Silva’s artwork is clean and refreshingly cheerful. I said in review of the first issue that in these kind of sci-fi tales the art is usually grittier and dirtier, but I understand what they are going for now: in this world, the dark underside is not clearly seen. The takeover was clean and no one but a select group noticed. The world looks just the same as it does every day.

That's it for this week's column! Any ideas, tips, or advice are welcome. Remember that you can always read the comics in the ComiXology web reader (with the exception of the Marvel ones). We always try to improve our content based on your suggestions, and with a new column, it's good to hear back from the readers. So, comment away!

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craig said...

I loved ultimate x men . Ive started to read that instead of the fraction land x men.

question if I delete the comics app will it delete all my comics? its just that 8/to times it will not open when I touch it?

katie said...

did you like his x men run Matt ? I was quite surprised how much more I enjoyed it then the utopia stories just now

Matt Duarte said...

@Craig: It will delete the comics from your device, so you will have to re-download them. If you've purchased any, you won't have to buy or pay for them again, as they are saved to your account and you just need to download them again.

@Katie: I do remember enjoying it when I read it, but it was some time ago. I don't know if I will enjoy it as much the second time around.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Man, my Comixology app isn't showing all that Radical love...I wonder why.

I also found the Marvel app showed Ultimate Spider-Man #1 for about 10 hours but then it was gone. I didn't get a chance to download it either, lame.

I thought Mighty Avengers #2 worked as a good hook for the rest of the arc, it drew me in.

Anonymous said...

Vision Machine in pdf is available for free from greg pak's website.

Matt Duarte said...

@Ryan: I didn't see it at first either, the reason is because these comics were uploaded a long time ago. They weren't free then, but they were made free last week, so they still show up with the original date. Just search it by names and they should be there. And on a personal note, I think you should definitely check out City of Dust. I have a feeling that you'll dig the concepts and story.

@Anon: Thanks, I didn't know about that!

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