Friday, April 1, 2011

Free Comics Review for 04/01/11

Welcome to another edition of Free Comics Review! Every week, I read every free comic uploaded to the ComiXology apps, and review it for your pleasure. Today, we have a monster sized week with eleven (!!!) different comics from a bunch of different companies. Are they trying to kill me? Could this be the last Free Comics Column ever? Hit the jump to find out!

Note from the author: As this was originally presented on April's Fools day, here's the original "joke" (which some people didn't find funny at all).

No, you know what? They don’t pay me enough to review eleven f%$&ing comics. I’m tired of this $#%&, I’m just going to phone them in and take this column to another site. I bet Bleeding Cool or Comics Alliance are hiring, and they’ll pay me more. Not Comic Book Resources though, or else I’m going to have to work with that @$$h#/& Ryan K. Lindsay again.

Anyway, Welcome to Three-Words-Only Free Comics Review.

Box 13 Vol. 2 # 13 (ComiXology App)

Written by David Gallager
Art by Steve Ellis

Three words review: Psychodelic yet intriguing.

The final issue of Box 13's second volume is finally here, and it's a double sized extravaganza that brings everything to a conclusion. Or does it?

In this issue, Olivia finally confronts Dan on top of the Orjol (that's the clock tower from earlier issues). Dan, however, is more than he was the last time they met. He has achieved some incredible new powers.

These new powers allow him to see reality in a completely different light, as he takes Olivia with him so she can too see how he experiences the world. What follows was (at least to me) a very funny scene.

I don't think I've ever mentioned it, but if you have seen any Box 13 pages before, the colouring makes humans look very pale, almost (literally) white. When Dan is seeing the new aspect of reality, he sees himself and Olivia in flesh coloured tones.

In the end, Dan's new powers are to be short-lived, as Olivia has to bring him down (without killing him, though). With a good portion of the city destroyed thanks to Dan's actions, the government has to pull a few strings to make it all go away.

As I mentioned above, while this issue acts as a conclusion to this volume of the series, the final few pages make it quite clear that this is not the end of Box 13, and we'll probably be seeing more of this book soon enough.

Daredevil: Yellow #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale

Three words review: Nostalgic and depressing.

Daredevil: Yellow is one of the famed collaborations by the Sale and Loeb team for Marvel, collectively known as the "Color" books. In each of them, an old facet of a modern hero is revisited by the team.

In Daredevil's case, we get a good look at the beginning of his career as a costumed vigilante. What drove him to wear a yellow costume and hunt criminals.

As everyone knows already, Matt Murdock is the son of an old boxing legend Battlin' Jack Murdock. Jack is suffering a resurgence late in his career, which we learn is because his new manager is fixing the fights.

Because Jack refuses to throw a fight, the (appropriately named) Fixer has him killed. Because the cops can't do anything about it, Matt is forced to take justice into his own hands.

One interesting thing is that the origin of Matt's super powers are never really shown on page. I don't remember if it's shown on later issues, but it struck me as a bit odd. However, this does not affect the reading of the book one bit, as it stands on its own without it.

As a whole, this book (and all the other color ones) are very nostalgic, calling back to an earlier era. In that aspect, Sale's artwork is phenomenal. His art is delight to see in projects like this, and this one is probably one of his best looking books (and that's saying something).

Elephantmen #1, Elephantmen #4.5 & Elephantmen: War Toys #1 (Image/ComiXology App)

Written by Richard Starkings, Joe Casey
Art by Moritat, Ladronn

Three words review: Good, crazy sci-fi.

Elephantmen is the science fiction series spearheaded by Richard Starkings (of Comicraft) with art mostly by Moritat. There have been several mini series, one shots, and an ongoing series that have expanded this world.

In the 23rd century, humanity has perfect human-animal cloning, and they have used that knowledge to create incredible creatures collectively known as the Elephantmen. This giant behemoths are a cross between huge animals but with human characteristics.

Humanity being what it is, they use these giant hybrids as basically walking tanks to be deployed in war zones. Behind all of this is the company known simply as Mappo, completely scruple-less and terrifyingly inventive.

However, we don't learn all this information until the #4.5 issue. Before that, we meet Hip Flask, an elephant hybrid that survived many battles and is now trying to live life after the service, something he was strictly not programmed to do.

There is a very moving scene when he meets a little girl who just sees him as a cute elephant, without any of the fears or prejudices that most humans have against his kind. Throughout their conversation, we get flashes into Hip Flask's past.

This is the best kind of science fiction, far enough into the future for it to seem plausible for humanity to develop so, but close enough that it makes you uncomfortable with the possibilities that it presents.

Starking crafts a wonderful tale, but his art collaborators are what really bring the concept home, as Moritat and Ladronn create a horrible vision of the future, and the hybrids look like they walk that line between realistic and ridiculous that makes them truly grotesque.

Eternals #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by John Romita Jr.

Three words review: Beautiful all around.

Eternals was an eight issue mini series released some years back (around the time of Civil War) by the superstar team of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.

The Eternals, in case you don't know, are a race of super powerful beings that populated the Earth millions of years ago, and were created by the giant space Gods known as the Celestials. If you don't know any of this, the comic does a wonderful job of explaining everything you need.

The star of the comic is Mark, a medical student who is not currently enjoying his life. As much as he wishes for a change, what comes for him is something that make him question everything about himself.

A mysterious blonde, Nordic looking man shows up, spouting some crazy theory about the creation of the world and the true origin of sentient life on Earth. More importantly, this man claims that Mark is one of the Eternals, an immortal creature with incredible powers. He just has forgotten everything about it.

Gaiman creates an incredibly interesting tale here. Even if you have never read an Eternals story before (and I was only partially aware of them), by the end of the story you'll find yourself eager to find out more.

At first, I was concerned with Romita Jr. on art, because I felt that his style would probably clash with Gaiman's tone. However, my worries were unfounded, and he really shines here.

This is probably the best I have seen from him, since it looks much more grounded in reality (while still retaining his trademark style) and much better than his current Avengers work, or even Kick-Ass. The colours and inking help out a great deal as well to sell the tone of the story.

All in all, one of the most pleasant surprises I have had while writing this column. Highly recommended.

Global Frequency #1 (DC/ComiXology App)

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Gary Leach

Three words review: Really good ideas.

Global Frequency was a twelve issue series released by the Wildstorm imprint at the beginning of the millennium, when Warren Ellis was doing a lot of material for them. Tonally, this fits right in with books like Planetary and Authority.

What is the Global Frequency? It's a secret group compromised of a thousand people around the world, with all kinds of knowledge that fight against threats that pop up in the underbelly of society.

Behind these thousand operatives is a woman who coordinates the what, who, and where of Global Frequency. When there is a problem that can't be handled by governments (because they won't or can't help), she is the one that comes to the rescue.

One such example is presented with a man who is suffering from strange magnetic-related seizures. In the process, he is causing quite a lot of damage around San Francisco.

What's causing the seizures is one of those grand Ellis ideas, where he mixes the technological advancement and perversity of humanity as a whole. I don't want to spoil it, because the reveal of what's going to happen if they don't stop him.

Gary Leach's art is slightly realistic, which is perfectly suited for this story. However, I just didn't find it very memorable at all. Serviceable, but not going above the call of duty.

Gotham City Sirens #1 (DC/ComiXology App)

Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March

Three words review: Pass the cheesecake.

Gotham City Sirens was a book that started shortly after the events of Batman R.I.P., which saw Gotham in disarray and the three leading ladies start working together.

Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn make for an entertaining ensemble, as their personalities are quite different from each other.

We see them come together to stand against the latest wave of craziness that is washing over Gotham. Considering their formidable abilities, it's hard to imagine anyone that could stand against them as they decide to live together.

Of course, they don't really fully trust each other, and the issue ends in two of them, Ivy and Harley, trying to find out something from Catwoman: Who is Batman?

Dini has a pretty good handle on these characters, having previously handled them in Batman: The Animated Series. He also brings in another of his pet characters, Zatanna, for a cameo.

While I honestly like and appreciate the art by Guillem March, his art is too cheesecakey at times. There are random butt shots, character in strange poses. With such a female heavy cast, this quickly becomes an issue. Nonetheless, his design and storytelling, are quite good for the most part.

Gravity #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Sean McKeever
Art by Mike Norton, Jonathan Glapion and Guru eFX

Three words review: 21st Century Spider-Man.

Gravity was a five issue mini series released some five years ago. In it, we are introduced to the titular character, his powers, and his personality.

Greg Willis used to be a random teenager just like any other, but after receiving mysterious gravity-based superpowers, he decides to move to the big city and become a superhero.

He soon finds out that being a superhero ain't easy. On his very first day, he accidentally knocks out former New Warrior and Avenger, Rage, thinking he was a bad guy, and letting a criminal escape in the process.

To make matters worse, Greg has to deal with his civilian life, as he navigates a new university and a strange roommate. For a Wisconsin boy like Greg, life in the Big Apple is turning out to be not quite what he expected.

Gravity is honestly a very good series, and the themes it deals with, of adult-but-still-a-teenager uncertainty are surely bound to resonate with many readers in the same way that Spider-Man did when he first appeared.

The fact that this series did not become a huge hit is a big surprise for me. Sean McKeever and Mike Norton just work perfectly together to create a new Spider-Man for this new generation, while still being unique on his own right.

Jack of Fables #1 (ComiXology App)

Written by Matt Sturges and Bill Willingham
Art by Peter Akins

Three words review: Fun and sexy.

The original Fables spin-off, Jack of Fables features the solo stories of Jack Horner (the same guy with the beanstalks and giant slaying). This series recently came to a close at 50 issues long. 

The story picks up with Jack, having been recently forced to leave Hollywood with nothing but a suitcase of money and his marching orders of staying off radar.

We get a bit of flashback to how Jack got into this position, which is needed to understand how having a suitcase full of money is a bad thing.

As he hitchhikes across America, he gets taken in by a mysterious group who kidnaps him and takes him to a strange reservation. Capturing him is easier said than done, as Jack is resourceful and nearly immortal. He tries to escape in a very stupid and dangerous fashion.

However, once he gets there, he finds an old and familiar face: Goldilocks. Her appearance is both unexpected and sensual. A Fable-terrorist had probably never looked this sexy, I would think.

Jack of Fables is a far more laid back and funny series than its sister title. Though not without humor, Fables was far more melodramatic, while Jack pokes fun at everything and anything.

Savage Dragon #0 (Image/ComiXology App)

Written by Erik Larsen
Art by Erik Larsen

Three words review: What the f$%k?

Savage Dragon is a long running series over at Image by creator Erik Larsen. This zero issue is an origin of the character, which had previously been veiled in mystery.

Here we learn that Savage Dragon is a former leader of an advanced alien race, traveling the cosmos looking for a suitable place to live described in some religious prophecies.

This prophecy has lead them to the planet Earth, which he feels is the perfect place for them to live. The only problem? Those pesky humans living in it.

He proposes to completely eradicate human life in it so that they may live there. However, some high standing members of his council see his actions as unscrupulous and against their religious beliefs. Because of this, they plan a coup, attacking and wounding Savage Dragon and dropping him in Earth with no recollection of his former life.

Savage Dragon is not a very likable character in this comic, something that Larsen comments on in the back matter. Asides from wanting to wipe out humanity, he also destroys and dismembers a woman (of his species) while having sex with her. While it was consensual encounter, his immense strength caused the woman's death. This is a profoundly strange scene.

Then there's also the vasectomy. Before dropping Dragon into Earth, the people that attacked him perform a vasectomy on him so that he may not produce any offspring. I can only imagine this played a bigger role somewhere down the line.

I did like that Larsen provided the logic, inspiration, and rationalization for this issue in the back matter. I think more authors (particularly creator owned titles) should do this kind of thing.

That's it for this final column! I know no one really reads this because it's in italic, so I can write whatever I want and no one will notice. Remember that you can always read the comics in the ComiXology web reader (with the exception of the Marvel ones) or you can just pirate them off the Internet (even the Marvel ones). You can consider this my resignation letter, so feel free to comment how much this column sucked. I won't really care. Goodbye. 

Signed: Matt Duarte. April 1st, 2011. Valencia, Spain.  

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Anonymous said...

April Fools?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I'd like to think Matt just called me an asshat before he stormed out of the room, not an @$$#0!*

I live in hope.

Matt Duarte said...

Yes, this is indeed my little April's Fools prank. Free Comics Review will be updated with the real reviews over the weekend.

And yes Ryan, I was going for asshat. You can rest easy now.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that an April Fools Joke has to be so vulgar.

Makes me come to this site less and less.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at box 13 at the apps on my phone, they have the whole run of vol 2 to download for free, is it good enough to download the whole run?

twobitspecialist said...

@Anonymous3 - It's a shame to lose you. You always had such provocative comments.

Anonymous said...

Soooo... when are you guys going to return to reviewing paid comics on a regular basis again? Nothing last week, and several weeks this year haven't had a single review. The only semi-reliable feature was the moments of the week, and frankly that alone isn't enough to keep my interest in this site (especially with all the Spider-Man moments, when I've completely lost interest in his series.)

Kirk Warren said...

@Anon 7 - Ryan Schrodt has some real life work he's been busy with and I'm still trying to work my way back into the swing of things after some serious health problems laid me up for a few months there.

I'm actually typing up a Fear Itself #1 review at present. Going to try and do a few short form reviews of some other titles from this week as well. Hoping to get some more reviews rolling out from me on a regular basis over the coming weeks.

MotW should be ona regular schedule again now too. Stay tuned for more on that.

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