Friday, February 25, 2011

Free Comics Review for 02/23/11

Welcome to another edition of Free Comics Review! This is a strange week, because there were no new Marvel comics, as it is normal, but DC and Image rose up to the challenge and filled it with plenty of free comics, including a deluge of Luna-Bros material. Hit the jump to see the reviews.

American Way #1 (DC/ComiXology App)

Written by John Ridley
Art by Georges Jeanty & Karl Stoy

American Way is an alternate-history comic set in the 1960’s, during Kennedy’s presidency. It was originally published by Wildstorm, though it’s not part of their extended universe (such as WildCATS or Gen13).

In the universe of American Way, superheroes have existed since the first World War, always helping the United States in their conflicts, using the banner of Civil Defense Corps. You get the general sense that things are going better because of them.

We experience the grand heroics of the CDD through the eyes of Wesley Cathan, who acts as the everyman in this tale. He gets to experience the actions of these superheroes up close when an alien invasion hits Earth.

Of course, as it tends to be with these things, not everything is what it seems. I really don’t want to reveal exactly what, but Wesley Cathan finds himself working as the liaison for the CDC and discovers a terrible secret.

I found this comic very entertaining. The reveal was grand, but the way the story builds up to it is pretty good as well. What I liked is that, despite the fact it is set in the past, it doesn’t wallow in nostalgia like others do (Alex Ross, I’m looking in your direction!). The comic acknowledges that the 60’s were just as shady as any other decade.

The art is... acceptable. I guess that’s the best I can say about it, as there was nothing particularly good or bad about it. It’s just there, tells the story, and gets out of the way. Good thing the story was strong enough to carry the comic.

Dogs of Mars #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Tony Troy, Christian Weiser, Johnny Zito
Art by Paul Maybury

Dogs of Mars is a creator-owned comic about a colony in Mars, and the people that inhabit it. That’s a whole lot of writers, and just one artist, so I don’t know if the credits are wrong.

The story follows Zoe, the captain of the colony in Mars. There are two different time lines throughout the comic, one that shows the members of the crew relaxing, and the other after a catastrophic event.

Why are humans on Mars? To carry out experiments from the look of it, which feels real enough. Things are not exactly easy for the people that are there. Even though this story is science fiction, it’s grounded enough in reality.

Zoe has to deal with the stress of the situation, living with her partner, and a young officer that wants to take her position. Oh, and table tennis, too.

Suddenly, something goes horribly wrong with one of their missions, and all that takes a backseat to the survival of the group. Her leadership is tested more than ever.

I really enjoyed the art, which is completely done in only three colors: white, black, and red as the main color (think the coloring scheme of Casanova). It helps with the claustrophobic feel of the comic.

Girls #1/ The Sword #1 / Ultra #1 (Image/ComiXology App)

Written by Joshua Luna & Jonathan Luna
Art by Joshua Luna & Jonathan Luna

Perhaps I am cheating with this one, but I am going to review all three Luna Bros. comics in one go, as they were all uploaded for free when I wasn’t looking in the Image app. They are very three different stories, but I’m grouping them together for brevity. I’ll give a quick overview of all of them...

Girls is about Ethan Daniel, a twenty-something guy living a small town in the middle of nowhere. His main worry is that he just plain sucks at talking with girls. He was even shot down by the town’s “easy girl”. On his way home after a terrible day, however, he runs into a mysterious naked girl n the middle of the road.

The Sword is an unusual superhero story. Dara Brighton is a college student that happens to be visiting her parents when some mafia-types show up at their house looking for a sword. We quickly learn that these people have superpowers, and they use them to hurt Dara’s family in order to get the sword they are looking for. They leave, but Dara accidentally finds it, and gains mysterious powers.

Ultra is even more strange than the previous two. It’s about the life of a superhero, but we don’t actually see any of that. We see Pearl, Liv, and Jen on their night off as they go around the town having fun. It’s an interesting issue, and one I would have liked to read AFTER seeing these gals in action. Starting a series with this issue is a bit of an odd move.

All in all, the Luna bros have a great handle on dialogue, making it sound very realistic and engaging. This is helped by their soft-texture art, giving all these comics (regardless of the setting) a very grounded feel.

If you want to read a more in-depth review, go here

Morning Glories #1 (Image/ComiXology App)

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma & Rodin Esquejo

Morning Glories is one of those series that everyone talks about. So if you were waiting to check out to see whether or not it lives up to the hype, now is your time to see for yourself on the Image app.

The comic is about a prestigious prep school, and the students that are accepted and or drafted into it. From the very beginning of the series, a lot of mysteries are thrown at the reader, but not much in the way of answers. The comparisons to Lost are indeed quite accurate.

We meet the main cast of the series, a group of kids from different backgrounds and families, although they all have one thing in common: they seem very smart and they are quite strange.

Once they get to school as the new class, we find out that they all share the same birthday. From there on, things get even weirder by what they see and find around the school.

I’m not sure if Spencer is embracing teenage stereotypes or trying to sublimate them. Every one here looks like they walked out of a cliche book: there’s the over achieving student, the school slut, the straight-up-evil kid, the misunderstood artist, etc.

Eisma does a great job with the art, utilizing dynamic angles and clear line work. It actually reminds me quite a lot of R.B. Silva of Vision Machine.

Unknown Soldier #1 (DC/ComiXology App)

Written by Joshu Dysart
Art by Alberto Ponticelli

Speaking of series I’ve been interested in checking out, DC uploaded the first issue of the recently-cancelled Unknown Soldier, which was published on the Vertigo imprint (it might not show up initially on the DC app, download it from the ComiXology one first).

This is a modern reinvention of the DC character, this time set in northern Uganda, a place ravaged by tribal conflicts, poverty, and famine. Our protagonist, Moses Lwanga, finds himself there as a doctor trying to help anyone he can.

Moses is an interesting character, a pacifist and an activist that finds himself having random visions of mad violence. We see the run up of the weeks before his trip to Uganda, which is where he was born.

Once there, he is attacked by some child soldiers, and something strange happens to him. When threatened, all those violent visions come to life, as Moses dispatches of his attacker violently.

The comic raises an interesting and age-old question: can you fight violence with even more violence? This single issue does not hold the answers, but I am interested in reading the rest of the series to try to find out.

The art work is quite unique and suited to the story. It’s gritty, dirty, and sketchy and it would probably feel out of place in any other non-Vertigo book. The horrors of humanity have never looked this appropriate.

Vixen: Return of the Lion #1 (DC/ComiXology App)

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Cafu

This is the first issue of a Vixen mini series from a year or two back, which seemed to tie in with some of the goings on of the Justice League of America (or at least they feature heavily in this issue).

Here, Vixen finds out some information about the murder of her mother, which prompted her to leave her country of Zambesi. I’m not sure how big of a change this is, as I have never read about Vixen’s origin before.

She travels back to Zambesi to sets things right, and she faces the murderer of her mother, only to find out that he has superhuman powers as well.

It is easy to see that Wilson honestly cares about this character, and puts a lot of effort into making this issue as interesting as possible. I just don’t really care about the character that much, truth be told.

Cafu’s art is interesting and very pretty, but I think it would probably look better on another book. Don’t get me wrong, the scene of Vixen fighting in her blue dress is incredibly choreographed and the action flows quite well. I just think that he draws clothes and fabrics so well, that it’s a crime to put him in a superhero book with all that spandex.

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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