Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 06/20/12

They're ready, so come and get your Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews while they're fresh!  We're taking a closer look at a number of titles this week, including Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar's Remedy #1, Grim Leaper #2, and more!  There's lots to say on the subject of each and every comic we're looking at, so I invite you to hit that jump and see what's what!

Written by Ryan North
Art by Mike Holmes
Backup Story by Paul Pope
Other Backup Story by Chris Roberson, Georgia Roberson, and Lucy Kinsley

Seeing as I don't actually dig the television show that much, I have a hard time gauging how many people are big Adventure Time fans.  Nevertheless, I am having a hard time not gushing about Ryan North's splendiferous comic book adaptation.  It takes the parts I do like about the show and mixes them with all the things I like about Ryan North's writing (which is everything), resulting in a pretty good time!

This issue is no exception, as we take a break from ongoing stories for one of the most enjoyable one-shot stories I've read in maybe forever.  North starts from the admittedly tame premise of BMO baking a cupcake (which is cake baked in a literal coffee cup - how is that not the best?) and somehow works the whole thing into Finn and Jake voyaging into an alternate world that is pretty similar to their own but with some minor difference that mostly have to do with spelling.  In between those two, we also get a look at Finn and Jake's friendship, some princess saving, and some butt-rhyming (hint: it is less gross than that sounds).  It's pretty much everything I could ever want in a comic?

Anyways, going back to that alternate world, Finn and Jake run into Adventure Tim, whose name is an admittedly hilarious play on Finn and Jake's catchphrase.  The whole thing really unnerves our regular heroes, a situation that is not improve at all by the many other near-similarities they encounter while visiting this crazy land.  I won't go into anymore detail, as the jokes are worth experiencing for yourself, but if you enjoy Ryan North's usual writing or things that are funny, you'll probably enjoy it.  Also worth noting: there's a wicked D&D joke thrown in there that had me chuckling pretty hard.  It was some topological stuff.

As before, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb make a great team on art duties.  Oops!  Sorry about that, Mike (see comments)!  I clearly need to look at these comic books a little closer sometimes.  Fortunately, everything I said about Paroline and Lamb still applies, although it`s even more impressive that a completely different person did all the things I've been impressed about!

Holmes' recreation of the show's style is picture perfect, and I really dug his creative layouts and excellent moment selections.  He has some terrific comic book instincts and his work acts as a near perfect compliment to North's writing.  He manages to pack in all of North's jokes with seeming ease, and I would not be at all surprised to hear that he added in jokes here and there throughout.  One of my favourite parts of the book is seeing all the different expressions Holmes managed to fit into a story.  While I know that Finn and Jake are pretty expressive on the show, I feel like Holmes almost takes it to the next level with some of their offerings.  It's definitely some great stuff.

It's also probably worth mentioning that this issue has a four page backup story by Paul Pope, who is kind of a big deal in comics.  His story sees Finn and Jake finding a sheet of paper that could probably most accurately be described as a "hole in the universe".  The two take turns looking through it to some rather interesting results.  I will admit that the whole thing was maybe a little over my head, but it made for some enjoyable moments nonetheless.

There's also a one-page backup written by Chris Roberson and his daughter Georgia and drawn by Lucy Kinsley.  It's a cute look at what happens when the Ice King grows tired of princesses and decides to try his hand at marrying queen's.  I think it's great that they included something like this, and for a single page, it tells a really complete story.  It was definitely a fine addition to the package.

Verdict - Buy It.  Adventure Time #5, like Adventure Time #1-4, is a ton of fun.  This series' humour is right up my alley, and every issue seems to just be getting better and better.  Adventure Time, like many of my favourite comics, is the perfect blend of being entirely appropriate for children while also being incredibly fun for adults.  Love it.

Written by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
Art by Ben Stenbeck

As I've said numerous times before, including earlier this week in interview with Christopher Golden, I'm a pretty big fan of Golden, Mike Mignola, and Ben Stenbeck's Baltimore books.  They're possibly my favourite thing being published by Dark Horse at the moment.  I just can't get enough of this world where World War 1 was ended early due to a plague of vampirism spreading throughout Europe.  That strikes me as a pretty solid concept, and this creative team has done some terrific stuff with it during the first two volumes of the series.

One issue in, the current two-part story, Dr. Leskovar's Remedy, looks pretty good.  While both The Plague Ships and The Curse Bells were focused on specific, immediate threats that Lord Baltimore had to contend with, Leskovar's is paced a little differently.  This story feels almost like a slice of life moment in Baltimore's journey to find Haigus, which is a nice change.  Of course, considering who Lord Baltimore is, slice of life involves plenty of death-defying fights at almost every corner, so that's pretty alright.

But even with those cool action moments, Mignola and Golden manage to sneak in a number of poignant character moments that seem small, but say a lot about who Lord Henry Baltimore is as a person.  It's really impressive how much those quiet moments communicate.  A similar thing can be said during a two page sequence where there's absolutely no dialogue - it's just Baltimore walking through a seemingly abandoned town.  The idea is deceptively simple, but actually pulling it off properly and effectively takes an incredibly amount of skill.  That kind of talent seems to be on display in every single panel.

To no one's real surprise, Stenbeck kills it on art duties.  He's shown himself to be a complete package before, and he does it again here.  His work is just as good during those quiet moments we see throughout this issue as it is during the knock down, drag out fights.  Every person, no matter their prominence in the issue, looks like they are a unique individual with a story and a life, which is appreciate.  And while Stenbeck's monsters have always looked great, I feel like they're even better in this issue, which fits perfectly with what's going on in the story.  As well, I feel like this is the most expressive Lord Baltimore has ever been, and while his slight smiles or looks of surprise may not be of the greatest importance, their inclusion adds a lot to the reading experience.  On top of all this, Dave Stewart, the book's colourist, deserves a whole bunch of kudos.  His colours go a long way in establishing the proper atmosphere for this title and are much appreciated.

Considering that Leskovar's is a two-part comic, what's at stake here isn't nearly as high as what happened The Plague Ships or The Curse Bells.  This story really is a look into a smaller part of Baltimore's life - a footnote in his quest to kill Haigus, if you will.  Sometimes stories like that can feel less important or worth following than bigger, more ambitious tales, but that is not the case here.  The creative team manage to give this story just as much weight and attention as any Baltimore tale that's come before or that might come after, which is impressive as heck.

Verdict - Buy It.  After a certain point, it can become difficult to find different ways to say the same thing: Mignola, Golden, and Stenbeck once again provide a terrific comic that tells an engaging story.  I truly hope this team stays together in the long-term, because it appears that there's plenty of more Baltimore to come, and I can't think of any other creators I'd rather have penning his exploits for our enjoyment.

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Chris Samnee

So I one hundred percent dissed this title in my Previews, going out of my way to mention how I wasn't intending on buying it, but when I got to my shop this week, I saw that it had been set aside for me without my asking (due to the fact that I'd purchased the first thirteen issues, obviously).  I don't know if I'm the only person who does this, but I have a hard time not buying a comic that my shop pulls for me under the (understandable) assumption that I'm intending on buying it.  So while I considered telling them I hadn't intended on actually buying it, I didn't have the heart in the end, so despite my claims to the contrary, I did purchase the latest episode in the Man Without Fear's adventures.

The question then becomes, was I right in my initial dismissal or did my shop do a me big favour by setting aside a copy for me.  The answer isn't all that clean cut.  Like a lot of earlier issues of Daredevil, there is an awful lot to like in issue #14, but it also has a lot of the same shortcomings that have been giving me pause over those past issues as well.

I would like to spend a good chunk of this raving about Chris Samnee's wonderful art.  Whatever I may think about the pacing of a story, I almost always have a hard time complaining about the pictures when Mr. Samnee is the one creating them.  Part of it definitely has to do with how I'm always transported back to when I first discovered Samnee during his work with Roger Langridge on Thor: The Mighty Avenger, but the vast majority of my love of his art obviously has to do with just how good it is.  Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin are hard acts to follow, but if anyone in Marvel's current stable of artists can, it's definitely Samnee.  And Daredevil #14 is yet more proof of that fact, as Samnee provides the book with some killer visuals to accompany Mark Waid's story.

Unfortunately, Waid's work here continues to leave me a little cold.  I mean, it's not like he's a bad writer.  I think we can all agree that Mark Waid is a pretty capable and accomplished guy (and that's not even considering his recent experiments with online comicery).  Frankly, his start on Daredevil last year was rightfully setting the world (and most of the internet) on fire.  It was some brilliant, innovative, and exciting stuff.  However, I feel like some of that early energy has been running out of late, and this issue is more of the same of that.

Here, we see Chancellor Exchequer Beltane, the Minister of the Bank of Latveria explain to Daredevil that he's being punished for stealing the Omega Drive - the same MacGuffin that's been sustaining this series for far too long - and subsequently gases Daredevil with a substance that slowly eliminates all of his sense.    Exploring how a hero who relies so strongly on his senses would make do without seems like a pretty neat idea for a story, but it kind of feels like Waid doesn't really have all that much beyond that elevator pitch.  This issue feels like its lost some of its direction, a sentiment that I've been getting from this book for the last few, so while it ends on a cliffhanger, I have a hard time working up the effort to be all that concerned for Matt's well being.

Verdict - Skip It. I've been having issue with the story in this series for a while, but the good will it built up during the first arc or so resulted in me following this book longer than I would have otherwise.  So while I didn't make good on my decision not to buy the title, I certainly intend to give it a miss next time around.  There simply isn't enough interest being built to keep me around, despite how great the art might be.

Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Aluisio Santos
Backup Story Written by Ryan K. Lindsay
Backup Story Art by Daniel J. Logan

I'm feeling a little torn about Kurtist J. Wiebe's Grim Leaper.  The book's premise, that Lou Collins is cursed to constantly die and be reincarnated in the bodies of other people in his hometown, certainly leads to some really interesting ideas and concepts to explore.  Unfortunately, I feel like there's almost too many possibilities to examine, which is resulting in Wiebe trying to pack too many things in at once.  So while we get glimpses of a whole bunch of cool things, none of them really get enough time to develop.

Indeed, in the rush to reunite Lou with Ella Patrick, the girl he met last issue who also suffers from the same curse, Wiebe skips through a number of fascinating situations that I would have loved to get more page time. Lou actually dies twice in this issue, meaning that we get scant little time with either of the lives he's jumped into, which feels like a missed opportunity to me.  I was especially disappointed that we didn't see more of his second body, Chuck the bus driver.  The optics of him leaping into a body that was so closely involved with his last one was an idea that I hope gets a closer look in issues to come, but I was far more engaged by Lou's discovery that Chuck had a wife and that the marriage between the two wasn't going all that well.  I would have loved to see a bit more time spent on this portion of the story.

Admittedly, it's entirely possible that Wiebe will be picking up on some of these threads in the issues to come, but at the moment it feels like they're just going to be lost in the shuffle, which is kind of frustrating.  Of course, I recognize that as a "gory romantic comedy", the relationship between Lou and Ella is going to be the focus of the book, but I think the story would benefit from a bit of a better balance between the main and sub-narratives.  As it is, it feels like there's too much going on everywhere, meaning that no single element of the story has enough room to breathe.  There's a lot of parts of this book that I'd love to see more of, but we just keep getting less of everything.  I think parring out a few of the less important (although still incredibly interesting) elements of Grim Leaper would benefit the overall product.

On the art side of things, I still really like Aluisio Santos' style and feel it works really well for the over-the-top story we have going on in Grim Leaper, but I can't get past the book's colouring.  The choice to have one overriding colour in every panel, with a few complimentary colours accompanying them, just isn't working for me.  Although the main colours switch as we go on (and could maybe be reflective of the mood of each page), I find it more distracting than anything.  I honestly think the book would benefit form having a more natural colour scheme, or at least a more consistent one.

This issue's backup story is a little more special for us at The Weekly Crisis, because as you may have seen in our Moments of the Week, it's written by our very own Ryan K. Lindsay.  Having first encountered Ryan's work over at Thought Balloons, where I've read quite a bit of his one page scripts, I will say that this five-page story threw me for a bit of a loop.  I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite like this from Mr. Lindsay (or anyone for that matter).  We have the story of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman that revolves perhaps a little too much around food.  Eventually, the man finds himself grossly overweight and wronged by the woman he thought loved him.  We see him grapple with these challenging discoveries and hatch a rather novel (read: disgusting) plan of revenge.

I'm not going to lie, the first time I went through this story, I was pretty grossed out.  Revulsion would probably be a pretty apt word for how I felt.  But looking it over a few more times, I was also impressed that Ryan had the balls to try something like this.  The final image still kind of grosses me out, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Ryan packs a whole bunch of story into these five pages, and it's actually some pretty good stuff, as long as you can get past the more nauseating elements.  I really liked the first page, which provides an excellent introduction, especially when coupled with the reveal on page two.  And, of course, Danial J. Logan's art helps the whole story along.  While I may have preferred some things to be a bit less graphic, he does a fine job of fitting everything Ryan scripts for the story into these pages.

Verdict - Check It.  Grim Leaper is currently trying to do too much with too little space.  There's a smorgasbord of ideas here, but none of them have enough space to really shine.  However, I'm hoping that, as this is a limited series, Wiebe will manage to wrap these loose threads back into the main narrative as we move forward.  There was certainly a few hints that that might be the case.  Now we just need some concrete action around those possibilities.  Also: you should totally buy this to support Ryan K. Lindsay's story, because Ryan's a great guy!  (also also: because he writes pretty good comics!)

So there we have it.  Four different comics for you to consider.  Did you read through any of these books?  If so, what were your thoughts on them?  And how was the rest of the week's comics, in your view?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Mike Holmes said...

Hey Grant, just a heads up for your Adventure Time #5 review - I drew the story. Shelli and Braden took an issue off, and I filled in. Great site, BTW!

Thanks -

-Mike Holmes

Grant McLaughlin said...

My apologies, Mike! That should be all fixed up.

Thanks for pointing out my oversight, and thanks for the kind words!

Rocker69 said...

Grant, with all due respect to Mike over there, you mark Buy for Adventure Time and Miss for Daredevil?

I'm scratching my head. Can't follow your logic.

Grant McLaughlin said...

@Rocker - As I said in my review, Mark Waid's writing has been leaving me cold for a good while now, and considering that the series has been lacking much in the way of a driving force, I don't feel like it's worth following anymore. You're free to disagree, but that's my stance on it.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

As the premiere Hornhead of TWC, I have to agree that the latest issue of Daredevil wasn't spectacular. I liked some parts of it but I didn't love really anything.

I'm not close to dropping it but it has dropped off a little the last two issues.

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