Saturday, February 26, 2011
Here's my reviews for this week. We've got vampires moving on, Brubaker dropping the ball again, a Defective Comic, and a callback to an unsung Marvel creator from years gone by. I also link to some of my other reviews and the week is completely won by the sadness and sheer awesome of Nick Dragotta's art. Hit the jump to be enlightened.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Danijel Zezelj
By now, you should all know I am an unabashed fan of this title. But what that means now, a year after launching, is that I’m possibly even more scrutinous of each and every issue. I’m analysing form, structure, specific art, and overall quality of craft. I know, I should be doing this for every comic I read, and definitely every comic I review, and I do. But I do it with American Vampire even more so. Which makes it all the more impressive that it continually lives up to the analysis.
This issue is the first one-shot of the series. I generally like one-shots, but I expect a really satisfying story arc. I want to have the tale set up, a fair degree of story relayed, and then a conclusion that brings everything together. Not a page can afford to be wasted. This comic uses nearly every panel to effect.
The overall tale is Skinner Sweet roaming the country in 1919, years after his Wild West days, and stumbling across a Wild West recreation show. There, he finds a few souls he’d been in contact with back in the real wild days. He also finds out one piece of very interesting information that draws him deeper in. It’s a good hook and provides motivation for Sweet to want to do what he does here.
Snyder has become a writer who uses captioned thoughts really well to progress the story but also lend the character more depth. It still feels like Snyder wrote this as a novel and is cherry picking the best lines for inclusion. It’s great. Here, we are given just that extra layer of Sweet and are given a more wholistic view of the character. We see him interact with others, even those who have wronged him, and we see him commit violence that is graphic but not gruesome. It makes sense that after so much time being an immortal killer Sweet would be detached from the murders he commits.
Zezelj is an artist that fits into the American Vampire school of sketchy lines and implication of form and emotion. It’s nice when a title uses different artists but keeps them in a similar style. There are many great artists who I don’t want to see draw American Vampire because their style doesn’t fit the world – and this book is an exercise in style at all times.
Verdict – Must Read. If you haven’t tried American Vampire before then this issue would be a good toe-dipping exercise. It’s got the basics of the series, though not everything, and it should win you over. The villain of the piece, or at least the man capable of the most violence though not necessarily the most terrible character, is shown to be a man who can remember, and possibly forgive. Or at least overlook. He’s also a man who is getting comfortable with his immortality and is ready to walk away because he understands everything he knows will eventually fade away while his fidelity remains strong. It’s a great concept that will surely inform the character as time travels in this title.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Francesco Francavilla
It’s weird that Snyder only writes two titles, for now, and they always both ship on the same week. It puts him in competition with himself every time it happens, and he usually wins…
Anyway, I want to review this comic, I enjoyed the opening three-issue arc, and I love Francavilla’s art. However, I can’t review this comic right now because the issue I bought has the first 12 pages, and gives them to me twice. A shocking, and annoying, turn of events but I guess I can quickly tell you about those 12 pages.
Well, I can go further than that. Francavilla’s art is gorgeous and vividly coloured, as always. It’s his trademark and it’s a great way to be remembered. He continues to make James Gordon Jr a creepy and strange addition to the tale. This is going to play out, but I don’t think in any way we are expecting. Many are painting this forgotten son as the villain but I think it will be more than that. He doesn’t come off as a malevolent force so much as he does a sad individual yearning for positive attention. That’s what I get from the few pages we’ve seen of him so far. We certainly don’t know everything yet.
Seeing Batman still affected by the gas that took him down in the last arc offers up opportunities for Francavilla to give some truly disturbing and strange images. The judging and menacing eyes Batman sees within the ship are exceptionally spooky, especially with the floating lettering of what Batman is hearing. The shark, however, isn’t quite as satisfying. It looks more like some sort of killer whale, and maybe that’s what Francavilla was going for, but I am unsure. The text would indicate a shark.
Batman is tripping out, he’s seeing shadows in the shadows and it’s interesting to see the hero lose his grip a little.
And that’s where my issue ends, with the reflections of a spider’s eyes giving me the willies. I would love to know what happens next and might try to see if my issue was an anomaly and so my LCS might pull a swap for me.
Verdict – Check It. What I read was decent but it’s hard to judge an issue by the opening act. I’m sure it all comes together but what I have so far is fun but doesn’t feel like I can’t miss it. Francavilla does a very pretty double-page splash that uses some design to bring the Bat into the fight, but the overall tale is fun yet not exemplary. But, again, perhaps the last half of the issue capitalises on it all and wraps it together…
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta and Mark Brooks
I reviewed this issue on CBR so I won’t say too much right here. What I will say is, this is the funeral from last month’s death. Funerals are meant to be sad but this is just heartbreaking. It’s a silent issue, mostly, and that’s a smart choice. Hickman lofts the ball up and Dragotta alley oops it in for a reverse slam dunk that’s amazing. If you buy this issue for no other reason buy it for the art. Dragotta is going to be a major player, you heard it here first, and this issue will be his calling card for some time to come.
There are at least four absolutely amazing and classic moments in this issue that will live on for a long time. This is Hickman’s strongest issue, on Fantastic Four and maybe just in his career, and it’s interesting to note that my other favourite issue of the FF was his mostly silent issue underwater. Perhaps I don’t like Hickman’s words and he gets great artists. Perhaps.
Verdict – Must Read. This is the best issue of this week, easily, and it’s so strong that I might even pick up FF #1 Even though I specifically told my LCS not to pick it up for me as I was jumping off. I’m still uncertain because Dragotta isn’t back, he was just here for a one-shot, but Hickman has shown me here that he can pull things together. I’m thinking about this. Thinking long and hard.
Written by Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery
Art by Andy Belanger
I reviewed this one over at CBR but I will say a few things. This book, as a whole, is pleasing me greatly. This issue is one of the best ones, not as great as the brilliant issue #7 but it’s a grand reveal of William Shakespeare and for all the wait on this moment they stick the landing. Thus ends the second act and the final act is going to be blood soaked, that much is for sure.
One moment of this comic struck me as a brilliant and yet completely gross in its inventiveness and ability to shock and amaze at the same time. I love that double splash and if Belanger ever wants to sell it then I want to buy it. Gorgeous, glorious, and gruesome.
Verdict – Must Read. This comic comes off as smart but more so it is fun. It’s gone above fanfic and really found its own place with what it’s trying to do. This issue is well put together and ends with the last second before it all descends into madness.
Written by Timothy Truman
Art by Tomas Giorello
Another comic I reviewed over at CBR but I’ll drop some good thoughts. I love me a good Conan comic. I’m not usually an art guy, I just dig when Conan and his world is drawn well. Maybe it stems from a youth seeing wickedly gorgeous Frank Frazetta art. I loved Cary Nord’s take on the character but Giorello here absolutely blows me away. His art in this book is amazing. You will feel like you’ve discovered an old comic from your grandfather’s era. This comic hums with the dust and age of eras gone by. I can think of nearly half a dozen splashes or large panels that I would buy as a poster and hang on my wall – space pending.
As for the actual narrative, it is pretty decent but pales in comparison to the art. I also find Conan first acts to usually be pretty standard, though Truman does make sure we get lots of good Conan tropes on display.
Verdict – Buy It. I don’t recommend an issue on the art alone but this issue must be looked at. Go out, buy it, and be in awe of the great art you have just delivered unto yourself.
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Wellington Alves
I loved the first issue. It was an old school PM&IF issue that was fun and yet still had a cool story. This issue is good, but suffers from the second issue slump so many titles seem to have. The tale is set, the players are in motion, and then things slow down a little.
Iron Fist rescues Power Man, the young and newer version Victor Alvarez, from the Commedia Dell’Morte. There’s a good relationship between these two as Rand is trying to make him a better and more grounded hero whereas Alvarez just wants to rush out and punch the world. The dynamic is effective and offers room for more growth and drama.
We follow Alvarez into his art school and his pairing on a scene with another woman isn’t just coincidence, this all plays into Power Man’s fight with the new antagonist Noir. This confrontation will play out throughout this series but here it’s kind of only hinted at. Their civilian alter egos interact but not much happens because the reveal doesn’t come yet. It’s good but mostly just a tease.
Whereas, we have Rand doing some business work for his company and coming up against El Aguila – a “third-rate Zorro” if Rand’s words are to be used. The fight between the two is engaging and we get some narrative throughout it so it’s not a wasted scene. My favourite aspect being the callback name of the CEO of the prison company Rand is investigating. The man’s name is Joe Duffy – and if you know your Power Man & Iron Fist history then you’ll know that’s just pure awesome. It made me smile. As much, or even more, than I did when I saw the Alison Blaire School for the Performing Arts.
I am also interested in seeing Rand’s personal life play out as he’s no longer with Misty, and is already in bed with another. A person he works with. A person he has much personal history with. A person who is already jealous of Misty. I really appreciate Van Lente putting this sub-plot into the title. Rand’s personal life is interesting where he’s gone from expecting to be a daddy to now being kind of a dick.
At the end of the issue, we see the major villain of the piece and his name is Pokerface. And he has a poker, like a fire poker, shoved through his face. It’s weird. I’ll give Van Lente time to convince me this guy is the real deal but for now he’s a final splash page to be scoffed at. I scoff because he has a henchman named Heart-Club-Diamond. This henchman is playing card themed. And he’s weird. Also, Pokerface has sharks behind him, geddit?, he’s a card shark – I assume that’s what Van Lente is going for even though the saying is actually card sharp. I bet he fights next issue with cards that are sharp, oh sweet irony, ha. And finally, at the bottom of the Pokerface reveal we see the next title might be called Bad Romance. I’m not even going to explain that one.
Verdict – Buy It. This might not be as good as the first issue but it still packs plenty in. I was let down this issue wasn’t as funny as the last one, this feels more like Van Lente setting things up, but there’s still plenty on offer to enjoy. However, understand this comic isn’t trying to be inherently a serious and adult comic. It’s certainly aiming to be good, don’t mistake my words, but it’s having fun at the same time. And it is succeeding in most areas.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato
The Shang-Chi arc ends and while there’s some satisfaction to be had mostly it is just another by the numbers resolution that Brubaker delivers on this title (perhaps a bit harsh, he’s only resolved two arcs so far, and only will as he leaves the title after the next one-shot issue, but still…Brubaker is not ending these stories strong).
Shang-Chi is in dire danger from his father’s machinations and the Secret Avengers saunter in to save the day. This happens relatively easily, which is a shame. The father, now named Zheng Zu, has been built up and yet it all comes tumbling down with only a few swift moves. Brubaker scripts some great action and fights for Deodato to deliver but he doesn’t set up much character work.
It feels like the narrative is progressed one plot point at a time but nothing is really developed. It’s just pushing the story forward. Much like the first issue, we get to the end and things have changed but it doesn’t feel like a lot really happened to get us there. These stories are relatively forgettable because the only really cool moments are the action oriented ones. There’s no character progression and that’s not for me. But I’m sure this comic appeals to many, so take my words with a grain of salt.
I will say, I’m dropping this title when Brubaker leaves but I feel I might have been dropping it anyway. Brubaker starts the arcs well but then they just descend into colour by number plots of punching and easy resolution.
My only fanboy gripe – there’s no way Max Fury saw Moon Knight do anything because MK was on Max’s blind side. A man with a patch over one eye doesn’t have great peripheral vision on that side. In fact, he has none. But that’s just me being pedantic, ha.
Verdict – Byrne It. Just flipping these pages will give you the overall idea of what happens here. Everything was set up and here we get it knocked down. Overall, the Secret Avengers mythos is changed but it doesn’t feel like five issues worth of movement. The next one-shot will be Steve Rogers and John Steele in WWII and we’ll see what happened with Steele and that should be fun. If you look through Brubaker’s history he usually does these one-shot issues so well. A shame he can’t make the team arcs stick.
Written by Chris Sims, Brian Clevinger, Ray Fawkes, Adam Warren
Art by Joe Vriens, Jim Zubkavich, Scott Hepburn, Jeff Cruz
I talked about this comic on CBR but you need to know why this comic is fun. In between arcs, here we are delivered an anthology issue from a variety of creators. I wish every title did this in an off month where the creative team needs some breathing time. This concept is genius (has it been done before?) and this issue shows why it works. This issue is fun on many different levels.
Verdict – Buy It. I haven’t been completely won over by Skullkickers to be honest but this issue works purely because it is small doses. The characters work well as icons of themselves here and each creator brings some level of creation or pomp that works on this landscape perfectly.
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Tonci Zonjic
I also wrote more on CBR about this comic so check that, too. Who Is Jake Ellis? is a spy tale with a weird supernatural or sci-fi element. Jon is a reluctant spy but his imaginary friend, Jake Ellis, is able to help him through most problems. There’s mystery behind this set up but there’s also a great relationship. Jake Ellis, the gray man, has become one of my favourite creations of 2011. And that makes me think - army people often call their most proficient and effective soldiers graymen, could this have been a consideration with this character?
You really need to buy this comic if you are a fan of crime fiction as it is usually represented on the shelves these days – not that this comic is like anything else being put out right now.
I also need to mention Zonjic because I had never seen his art before and it is really pulpy and strong here. I can only place his name to Marvel Divas and I didn’t read that title but I had an idea in my head of what that art would look like. I was clearly way off because Zonjic is an awesome artist.
Verdict – Buy It. The story is intriguing, the characters different and well played, and the execution is damn fine. This is one of the best comics shipping right now that I worry many are missing. It’s only a short mini from Image so pick up the first two issues and thank me later. Seriously.
These are my reviews, if you read any good comics this week let us know in the comments. Also let me know if you minded me including links to reviews elsewhere.