Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/11/12

While San Diego Comic-Con rolls on, we're moving back to some of our regular programming for the  Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!  This week I'll be talking about Meredith Gran's entry into the Adventure Time universe, Marceline Scream Queens #1, the latest Chew insanity that is Secret Agent Poyo #1, and the latest issue of Ken Garing's wonderful Planetoid!  So hit the jump to check it all out!

Written by Meredith Gran
Art by Meredith Gran
Colours by Lisa Moore
Backup Story by Jen Wang

Considering how much fun I'm constantly having with Ryan North and company's Adventure Time comic book adaptation, I was pretty excited when BOOM! announced that they'd be doing a spinoff book titled Marceline Scream Queens, following the two most prominent female characters of the Adventure Time universe, Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum, and their experiences with having a band (or whatever).  I was even more excited when I discovered that BOOM! had decided to hire yet another web comic creator that I follow, one Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie fame.  But with all that excitement comes quite a bit of expectations, begging the question of how the book stacked up against them.

Marceline Scream Queens definitely has a lot of the Adventure Time sensibilities that you'd recognize from the show or North's comic book iteration, but at the same time, it feels like a very different experience.  A big part of that is due to the book shifting the focus from the series' traditional protagonists, Finn and Jake, and moving it over to Marceline and Princess Bubblegum.  The end result is a book that would definitely be familiar to Adventure Time fans, but with a somewhat different tone about it.  It's still lighthearted and silly, but it achieves these things in a different manner under Gran's stewardship.

While there isn't a lot of time focused on the secondary characters, Gran does a good job of providing just enough information on Marceline's bandmates to create some interest in who they are (including a ghost drummer named Bongo and a mysterious keyboardist known only as Guy).  And while Finn and Jake are not the focus of the issue, the scenes they're involved in are solid ones, involving antics that only they could provide.  Gran seems to be doing a good job of balancing the voice of the show and her own personal writing style to create something that is true to both.

Another big difference is that Gran's Adventure Time characters are a bit more off-model than you'd see in the main Adventure Time book, as Gran also infuses the art with her personal style.  It's a nice way to visual distinguish this story as something distinct from the usual Adventure Time fare, and Gran's art also happens to be pretty great, so that's nice too.  Lisa Moore's colours are a great addition to Gran's art, as they really make the panels pop out, especially the concert scenes.

I'm always kind of excited to read comics that focus on subjects that don't necessarily have an obvious translation to the comic book medium, so I was quite interested to see how Gran would tackle the scenes of Marceline's band playing (and really any other scenes involving sound and musicality).  I found Gran's approach to be quite cool, as she forewent any type of onomatopoeia or sound effects and focused the art of pages with music on the action of jamming, leaving the pages totally silent.  It ends up being a very effective choice that was greatly enhanced by Moore's excellent colours, resulting in the book providing some convincing visuals to imply the transcendent listening experience that is the Scream Queens' set.  It was a really neat way of approaching that challenge and it actually makes me kind of excited to see how that will be used in future issues.

Like the main Adventure Time comic book, there is a backup story in this issue called Resurrection Song.  Written and drawn by Jen Wang, the story didn't really do all that much for me.  The art is pretty nice, but the writing felt like it was missing a key ingredient to make the story feel more meaningful.  As it stands, a bunch of things happen in sequence, but it doesn't really matter or feel all that important.  However, with next issue's backup being provided by Faith Erin Hicks, I have high hopes for future backups.

Verdict - Check It.  This comic isn't quite as laugh out loud funny as other iterations of Adventure Time might be, but Meredith Gran puts quite a lot of heart into her story.  The characters look like they'll be learning some lessons over the course of these six issues, with some witticisms and silliness thrown in along the way for good measure.  I'll be interested to see how it all plays out.

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

How does one properly describe Chew: Secret Agent Poyo?  Starring the rossterly manifestation of hate and aggression that is Poyo, this comic book is absolutely ridiculous.  The first six pages are split between a scene of a crack team of doctors trying to resurrect Poyo (after his death in Chew #18) and an extended fight scene where Poyo handily defeats all of the demonic denizens of Hell (a scene that ends with Satan using a healthy dose of expletives to describe how amazing Poyo is).

It's all way over the top, completely ridiculous, and near nonsensical.  And it all works.  John Layman and Rob Guillory embrace the madness that is their rooster that has been proven able to kill pretty much everything and they run with it.  And they keep running, refusing to stop for pesky things like logic or common sense.  And thank goodness for that, because the end result is the Poyo tale that the world didn't even realize it so desperately needed.

Layman and Guillory's signature humour is on full display here, with tongue planted so firmly in cheek that it's gotta hurt.  England is besieged by a potential plague of barnyard animals raining from the sky and Poyo's presence is the only solution.  What follows is a lightning fast paced story that is possibly more ridiculous than that prologue (if that's even possible).  There's international collaboration, (brief) romance, and violence.  Lots and lots of violence.

In a sense, the issue is something of an extended joke that two grown men could write an entire comic centred solely around a sociopathic rooster, and it's a definite success.  Everyone in the comic is so earnest in their belief in or fear of Poyo that it's hard not to get swept up in the flow of things, even when the dialogue is action-movie cheesy to the point of excess. In its own strange way, it all makes some sort of sick sense.

Guillory's art is always excellent, but the sheer absurdity of Secret Agent Poyo lets him punch things up a notch or two.  His pages are vibrant as hell, jumping from moment to moment with ease, which is good news because there's a ton of great moments throughout this issue.  Personal favourites include "The Viltrumite Interstellar Mustache Wars" and Agent Barnes' gunhat (the latter of which you can find in Ken's Moments of the Week), to name but a few.  Guillory kills this book almost as hard as Poyo kills all of his enemies (which is pretty darn hard).

Verdict - Buy It.  Secret Agent Poyo is ridiculous, (somehwat), mindless fun, and it makes no apologies for that.  Nor should it, as John Layman and Rob Guillory deliver a great issue starring a fan-favourite Chew character without ever feeling like they're pandering to the masses.  To put it another way, it's a comic with a luchador mask wearing rooster. What else could you possibly want?

Written by Ken Garing
Art by Ken Garing

As you may have gathered from my review of the first issue, Planetoid is quickly becoming one of my favourite titles on stands right now.  I was enamoured with the world exploration and grand sense of scale that was on display throughout that first issue and so I was quite intrigued to see how things would evolve for Silas (and the book as a whole) as he moved towards civilization (or what passes for it on the planetoid).  I'm happy to report that Ken Garing provides another excellent issue that does a great job of maintaining the exciting parts of the inaugural issue while moving towards the next chapter of the story he's set out to tell.

That shift is signaled from the opening pages, which begins in a similar fashion to the style of the last issue, showing off the sheer size and scale of the world, before quickly shifting into a more up close and personal encounter between some human survivors and the rather violent and harsh robots that inhabit the planetoid.  The scene is only three pages long but acts as a good indication of how the book's focus will be shifting.

From there, we shift back to Mendel leading Silas to the Slab, where most of the surviving beings seem to congregate.  The interaction between the two feels a bit more natural than it did last issue, as Silas shows a bit more humanity than he did last issue, and Mendel comes off as a fuller character.  I appreciated that Garing's characterizations seemed a little stronger in this issue, especially when it came to the two characters gracing the cover of this book.

Before Silas meets Onica and Ebo, Garing is kind enough to offer us ten pages of Silas exploring the Slab.  This portion of the book was easily my favourite, as Garing really gives it his all to show Silas struggling to figure out how the Slab works and how to survive on it.  The pages are almost all without dialogue, but it's crystal clear what's going on.  Garing has a terrific feel for how a comic book page should be laid out, and he provides the reader with a number of powerful scenes that are both beautiful to look at and meaningful for the overall story.

However, Silas' isolation can only last so long, and soon enough he finds himself in the company of the aforementioned Onica and Ebo.  Garing does a good job of using these characters to push the story forward, physically moving Silas along while also giving further background details on the planetoid he now finds himself stuck on.  While there is a good amount of exposition here, I found that Garing did a better job integrating it into the story and dialogue this time around without coming off as overbearing or too info-heavy.    Linking it to Onica and Ebo's backstory was a good way to make it feel connected to the ongoing narrative.

To cap the issue off, Garing links things back to the issues opening scene in a way that quickly and radically changes Silas' relationship with Onica and Ebo, as well as the wider population of the planetoid.  It's an interesting decision that leaves the book on an exciting note of wondering what impact these changes will have.

Verdict - Buy It.  I'm still really digging this book.  Ken Garing is offering the comic book world a type of science fiction that few others seem interesting in creating at the moment, but more importantly, Garing is doing a fabulous job of telling his story.  With his gorgeous art and uncanny ability to create stunning vistas, I'm only getting more excited for this book.

That's me for the week. How did you enjoy your haul? Anything that you found to be particularly exciting or satisfying? Let me know in the comments below!

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Anonymous said...

Adventure time comics have been good so far and this new deserves a look but needs to win me over next issue for it to stay on my pull list.

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