Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Image Round Up - January 23, 2013

The Image Round Up column is a new addition to The Weekly Crisis and it aims to get some words down on every single Image Comics book published for the week. These reviews are handled by Liam Jose, Hansel Moreno, William Tournas, and Mike Hunau and they'll be dropping non-spoilery reviews the day before the books are available so you can best make up your mind on what to buy tomorrow. We offer this service because Image has been putting out some amazing content lately and it will be nice to shine a light on every single title they produce. This week our intrepid team looks at Bedlam #3, Hell Yeah #6, Chew #31, Prophet #33, Revival #6, Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #3, and Witchblade #163. We'd love to hear your thoughts on these books in the comments once you've read them, or you can ask our Round Up Crew any questions.

Bedlam #3

Story by: Nick Spencer
Art by: Riley Rossmo
Colors by: Jean-Paul Csuka
Letters by: Kelly Tindall 
Cover by: Frazer Irving

Mike Hunau: After what feels like a roller coaster ride that has been Issue 1 and 2 of this series, BEDLAM finally has me hooked back in again more completely with this latest installment.  The disappointing fall off after what felt like an incredible first half of issue 1, has come to a halt.
The opening flashback sequence with the rehabilitation of Madder Red was beautifully disastrous.  Simple coloring by Jean-Paul Csuka makes great use of the color red, making the story telling in these pages super enjoyable for me.  Following a more linear style, this issue really helps the series start to make sense as well as give an idea of where we're going.  Exploring more of the brilliant but terrifying mind of Filmore Press, we see an interesting turn of events as the retired serial killer brings his unique set of skills to the police in a very intriguing way that spins this book in a new direction. The art by Riley Rossmo is unique and continues it's amazing but simple color schemes, but still has that similar look on each character which can make it a bit confusing.  The dialogue by Nick Spencer can be a bit long and the scenes are still too drawn out more than they need to be.  At times I found myself done with scenes and ready to move on, only to read through more back and forth which killed my interest in continuing.

In the end this is a solid issue and a great step in the right direction.  If you were like me and excited at Bedlam's presence out the gate, this is a redemption filled step in the right direction for the series because it gives a direct concept the readers can finally grasp on to.  Madder Red is blending the sides of good and bad.  And it feels like mayhem is on the horizon. 
Verdict - Buy It.

Hell Yeah #6

Story by: Joe Keatinge
Art by: Andre Szymanowicz (pencils) & Fabio Redivo (inks)
Colors by: Jason Lewis
Letters by: Ed Brisson
Cover by: Ricken

Hansel Moreno: I have been eagerly awaiting the return of Hell Yeah for quite some time. A hiatus can hurt any comic, so I hope loyal readers and new readers pick up this issue as it works as both a summary and a jumping on point all in one neatly written package. Hell Yeah is a story that focuses around Ben Day, a first generation punk kid in a post-super hero altered reality.

I really want each of you to experience this issue of Hell Yeah for yourself (please run out and buy it), but just as a tease of what is to come you can expect some mind bending time streams and kick-ass katana wielding! As mentioned before, the installment catches you up on most of the events of the previous 5 issues and does so through Ben's perspective. You can really feel and see the weight of it all bear down on him. These feelings expressed by Ben actually made the hiatus a little more understandable and I like to pretend some of the montage sequences happened in real time and we are now just catching up with how this world is doing. Hey - that's just how I enjoy this fictional universe.

The art work has improved greatly. Tighter lines, better narrative and the panel to panel transitions are a smooth as silk. Better still this book is wall to wall comic! Aside from the main story line, Mail Yeah! and the Tiger Lawyer back-up this issue includes the first installment (out of three) of the story Burn Down the Cornfield. At a $3.50 cover price this is a bargain.
Verdict - Buy It.

Chew #31

Story & Letters by: John Layman
Art & Cover by: Rob Guillory 
Color Assist: Taylor Wells

William Tournas: After a month delay in between issues, CHEW is back with issue #31 and the second half of the planned 60 issue run. Given the unexpected death of a fan favourite character and plot twists in the previous issue, one wouldn’t be mistaken that Layman and Guillory were giving us all time to gather ourselves together.

Issue #31 starts off immediately following the previous issue's events, and has our lead character Tony Chu do what he does best to get over his loss: work crazy cases and kick butt.

Bad Apples” is a 5 part story arc filled with crazy ideas and plot twists that link to various past storylines, showing that every character Layman & Guillory introduce has a part to play in their overall scheme of things.

As with all issues, this one is filled with gags which Layman and Guillory have snuck in that will have you going back in case you’ve missed something (comment below on one you noticed). CHEW #31 is also a great jumping on point for new readers and I highly recommend you tell your friends about it.
Verdict - Buy It.

Prophet #33

Story by: Brandon Graham with Giannis Milonogiannis & Simon Roy
Art by: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colors by: Joseph Bergin III
Letters by: Ed Brisson
Cover by: Fil Barlow

Liam Jose: About a third of the way through this issue, I had to stop reading and run through my whole day to figure out if I had somehow forgotten that I was drunk or high. Reading Prophet is like being in an altered state. It can elate and it can terrify, and although it doesn't make logical sense all the time, it feels utterly real and you are right there.

Prophet is a revival of an old Rob Liefeld property from the '90s, yet it feels about as un-Liefeld-y as something could be. You could call this a fever-dream Conan-in-space, only you'd be simplifying it quite a bit, so please don't say that, Theoretical Internet Person. Prophet is sci-fi journey that borrows tropes from sword and sorcery. It feels like what would happen if Jorodowsky went back in time and pretended to be Robert E. Howard, and had a series of wacky hijinx in his body. Silly Jorodowsky - you're not from the past!

Brandon Graham, who wrote the tremendous King City, continues his hot streak on this title.

This issue has Old Man Prophet and his buddies venturing through space and visiting conscious super structures and enduring psychic attacks. But it's really the lived-in feel of the world that is the hook, and the effortless way Graham and artist Giannis Milonogiannis render it with such beauty, style and awe. Everything feels authentically alien, but manages to be so compelling through the imagination on display. This stuff is moving, poignant and very, very cool. The hippest thing going right now, in fact.

The balance of tones this achieves is masterful - how many sophisticated, philosophical comic books have you read recently that have a poop joke that is hilarious and doesn't feel detrimental to the characters or plot? This thing is gorgeous.

Everyone should be reading this. This comic is more beautiful than puppies crying beneath a double rainbow.

Verdict - Must Read.

Revival #6

Story by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Mike Norton
Colors by: Mark Englert 
Letters by: CRANK!
Cover by: Jenny Frison

Hansel Moreno: Revival keeps a simmering pace - I like this comic, but it is too much of a slow burn for me. This issue comes to a halt compared to the action of last issue. I'm kind of split on it. I like the idea, love the art and the characters but it needs just a little more action. Revival, dubbed a "Farm-
noir" by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton deals with the sudden resurrection of several citizens in a rural community in Wisconsin.

This issue the focus is split between Dana the "Dead Detective", we pop in for a quick look at her son, swing around to see her sister Em, and May Toa is still in the loop. There are a few surprises as well spread through out the cuts, all while Dana investigates the Revival incident and the tension around the quarantine zone builds up. That's quite a lot going on for one issue! Mike Norton is doing a solid job and this comic isn't in the "Danger Zone" of my pull list, but I would like to see a little more focus on individual cast members. I can't 100% recommend a purchase based on the pacing, but the art team is swinging for the fences. Action takes a back seat in what continues to be a character piece full of mystery. I hope this books picks up its pace, as I fear lack of interest from readers will reflect in the sales. As much as the slow action bothers me I would hate to lose the opportunity to get to the bottom of it all. Despite my complaints I want to make it clear: I stand behind Revival as one of the best drawn and written books Image or any other company is publishing. So grab a chair, dig in, and, if you love Revival, tell a friend.
Verdict - Check It.

Witchblade #163

Story by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Diego Bernard (pencils), Fred Benes & Alisson Rodrigues (inks)
Colors by: Arif Prianto & Beny Maulana
Letters by: Troy Peteri
Cover by: John Tyler Christopher 
Variant Cover by: Diego Bernard, Fred Benes & Arif Prianto

Liam Jose: I've never read Witchblade. The title always conjured up a subpar Abbott & Costello sketch. ("So, did you check out Witchblade?" "Which blade?" "Yeah, Witchblade." "The butcher's knife?" etc). Based on the grotesque skimpy costume of its lead, I'd always assumed it was a masturbation guide with action sequences. But then, I realised it's one of the longest-running comic series starring a female protagonists, and that makes me sad. The Witchblade is a mystical weapon that bonds with a human for some reason, and its current bearer is Sara, a former-cop, current P.I. (who I know is tough because of her Rob Liefeld-jaw).

Writer Tim Seeley makes this issue easy to jump into and to follow the plot. So, Sara's boyfriend has been framed for murder by rival gangs for some reason, and Sara tries to clear his name. Unfortunately, the dialogue is almost uniformly painful, and kept ripping me right out of the issue. Diego Bernard's art, while serviceable, is a bit stiff and was often confusing in terms of the action beats and flow. The issue held little tension, and the story felt padded at 22 pages.
That's what doesn't work - what DOES work is that half-way through the issue a man with an afro is killed by a giant stingray in a warehouse. Don't ask me for context. Then the stingray turns into a half-stingray, half-grizzly bear. ("Sting-bear"? "Grizzly-ray"? You are welcome, currently unnamed indie rock band). And then - oh my god, it's a lion-elephant, then an ape-cockroach. It's pretty much the best thing I've ever seen. This monster is joyous, silly and awesome. More of that imagination, please.
I was impressed by the restraint in the issue by not objectifying the lead as I had assumed Witchblade was wont to do, and figured I must be wrong about this comic, but DON'T WORRY - Sara's shirt is torn in battle, and then another character is characterised by having breasts bigger than her head, because: boobs. Besides some imaginative flourishes, this is one to leave on the shelf.
Verdict - Byrne It.

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #3

Story & Letters by: Brandon Seifert
Art & Cover by: Lukas Ketner
Colors by: Andy Troy

Liam Jose: So, I've never read Witch Doctor, either ("Which doctor?" *Fart noise*), and was worried that jumping in at the half-way point of a miniseries would be a terrible idea, but Brandon Seifert uses a nifty device in the opening page - the protagonist recording a video will - to get across everything I need to know about him and his supporting cast, while also setting up the stakes of the issue in an organic, gripping and clever way.
Now - that is how you make comics. Dr. Morrow, the Witch Doctor, is a doctor of the occult and medicine, who is treating a "sick world". I can dig it. He's kinda Dr. Strange, but a whole lot funnier. Most of this issue is essentially a stand-off, and is the point where Dr. Morrow's (holy Satan  I love that name) enemies tilt the scales and get the better of the hilariously arrogant doctor. Everything goes from funny to dire, and there's some delightful pseudo-science banter thrown in there - gotta love some good techno-babble. The dialogue is crisp and just a joy to read, with near every line being endlessly quotable. If anything, the issue felt slight, like the story was stretched to accommodate the page count. But, luckily artist Lukas Ketner is more than up to the task. Everything this guy draws is gorgeous, with his John Severin-esque renderings having the perfect balance of atmosphere, horror, humour and action. Not an easy feat, but he pulls it off with aplomb. Seifert and Ketner make this comic a kidney stone of fun to pass, and the whole thing just has this wonderfully playful tone that makes me want to read everything else they've done. While a bit fluffy, this is a seriously cool comic.
Verdict - Buy It.

What did you think of this week's Image comics? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ryan K Lindsay said...

For those wondering, the official TWC Verdict guide is:

Must Read.
Buy It.
Check It.
Byrne It. - which means maybe skim it on the racks.
Avoid It.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Also, It Girl & The Atomics was not available at time of posting, sorry :(

Eric van Schaik said...

I'm getting the Omnivorse Editions of Chew and liked the first Hell Yeah TPB.
I'm thinking about giving the puppy crying comic (really?) a chance.

Hansel Moreno said...

What book is that Eric?

Eric van Schaik said...


Hansel Moreno said...

Oh man, that one is one of my favorites.

Liam José said...

Eric - I'd absolutely recommend Prophet - it's definitely one of the best books going at the moment.

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