Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 05/15/13

One and all, your weekly dose of Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews is here!  There were plenty of quality books out this week, but we're setting our sights on a select few.  This time around, we're looking at Conan the Barbarian #16, Dream Thief #1, and High Crimes #3.  To find out what these books were like, simply hit that jump!

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #16
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Davide Gianfelice

It took me a while to get used to the continuous rotating artists, but since they've settled into the current pattern of using one artist per three-issue arc, I've really been enjoying Brain Wood's Conan the Barbarian.  Wood's name is seemingly everywhere at the moment, but Conan is, for my money, his best ongoing work at the moment.  The love story between Conan and Bêlit has been fantastic, and his writing is so pulpy that it feels like it's coming fresh off his typewriter for the latest issue of Weird Tales.

Things have been happening fast and furious in Wood's stories.  Conan and Bêlit have been tested and tried at seemingly every turn, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.  The pace has made for some excellent reading, but there hasn't been much time for the characters to really pause and take stock of everything they've done.

Enter this issue.

After a particularly brutal lovers' quarrel that involved an extended siege in Shem, Conan and Bêlit find themselves in the pleasure houses of Ianthe, quenching their thirsts and libidos.  Of course, drinking and sex can only take a story so far, so Wood quickly introduces the Yellow Lotus, a potent drug that can cause shared hallucinations.  What follows is a fascinating issue that is rife with metaphor and symbolism.

It's quite an ingenious set-up, as Conan and Bêlit's drug-fuelled journey into their subconscious becomes a brilliant character study of our Cimmerian protagonist, as Wood delves into his many conflicting feelings that have only been hinted at in passing thus far.  By literalizing his mental struggles, Wood manages to write one of the most action-packed psychoanalyses I've ever encountered.

This is excellent news for David Gianfelice, as he takes the golden opportunity to lay down some absolutely gorgeous pages.  He retreads many of the settings and images we've seen in past issues while also exploring new locales, dancing with ease between the beautiful dreams that Conan and Bêlit yearn for and the awful nightmares that dog their heels - often providing both in the same panel.  Unsurprisingly, Dave Stewart continues to weave his magic, providing dazzling colours to perfectly match the high and low moods of every scene.  Dreams have always had a strange nonsense logic to them, and Wood's script and Gianfelice's art nail those strange connections through and through.

Verdict - Buy It.  Conan the Barbarian #16 is a great comic by Brian Wood and David Gianfelice.  Their prior experience working together is evident, as they both bring their A-game here, making for perhaps the strongest opener to any Conan arc this series has yet had, which is saying quite a lot considering the talents we've seen before.  The Nightmare in the Shallows looks like it's going to be a good one.

DREAM THIEF #1
Written by Jai Nitz
Art by Greg Smallwood

"What would you do if you woke up in a strange room and didn't know where you were, or what you'd done the night before to get there?"

It's a question that I imagine many of us have had to confront at least once or twice, and it's the one that opens issue #1 of Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood's new series, Dream Thief.  I hope for your sake that your answer isn't anywhere near as complicated as John Lincoln's.  The book's protagonist, he is something of a slacker, seemingly preferring drinking and getting high to getting a job or dealing with his problems.  Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for the reader), his problems get bigger and bigger as the book progresses.

The first thing that struck me about this book is that Smallwood's art has a lot in common with the work of Sean Phillips.  It's possible that I'm biased due to John's similarities to the lead of the second volume of Criminal, not to mention the seedier elements of the book itself, but I say this in the most complimentary manner possible.  Smallwood is a talented artist who capably captures moments both big and small with a style that is intentionally rough.  This is a beautiful book, whether it comes to character design, backgrounds, or layouts, and Smallwood is to thank for all of that.  I also need to take a moment to compliment him on the awesome design for the mask that you see on the book's cover.  It looks wicked cool and it only got better as the book went on.

The book's concept is still a little murky, but that is a conscious choice by Nitz, whose script provides just enough hints and clues to give the reader an idea of what's going on without actually providing any answers as to the why of anything.  The pacing he throws down here is excellent, as the book slowly builds to that initial question over and over again, with the stakes raised each and every time.  Along the way, we get to know John a little better, and while he is a bit of a schmuck, he is a pretty likable guy and a good point of view character for this little narrative.  Again, just what that narrative is all about is still a little up in the air, but the similarities to Criminal aren't only due to the art.  There's a dark and seedy element at play here, and it looks like the blood spilled in this issue is only the beginning.

Nitz's writing does get a little too self-involved at times, particularly during an extended conversation about Mad Max and Australian cinema that goes on just long enough to be distracting, but for the most part he keeps his eye on the prize, focusing on the elements of the story that matter.  Hopefully this is but a one-off event, as he generally does a good job here.

Verdict - Check It.  There's a lot to like in this book.  Although there's a few eccentricities that distract from the overall reading experience, on the whole Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood have done themselves proud, putting together one bang up opener that keeps the reader wanting more.  It's always nice to see new stories, and this one looks to be going places.

HIGH CRIMES #3
Written by Christopher Sebela
Art by Ibrahim Moustafa

I was really impressed with Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa's High Crimes #1.  It showed a lot of potential, seeing how it a wicked concept, sharp writing, and killer art.  And while I wasn't initially sold on the conspiracy theory elements brought in with the discovery of Sullivan Mars' body and the entry of the Strange Agents, I was willing to stick around to see how it would shake out.  Thankfully so, as issue #2 proved to me that this wrinkle was actually an inspired choice, enabling Sebela and Moustafa's world to reach far more interesting heights than it could have achieved with only the high altitude grave robbing.  The Strange Agents are an extreme plot element, and it succeeds because it pushes the characters we met in that first issue to their limits.

We saw that with Haskell and Tenzing last issue, and we see that with Zan this time around, as the Agents set their sights on her.  The series has been building Zan up as the lead character, and that earlier work pays off here, as she gets plenty of chances to strut her stuff here.  She's been messed up since the moment we met her, chewed up and spit back out by the world long ago, and while this issue keeps throwing problems her way, it also brilliantly illustrates her ability to soldier on.  It's abundantly clear that Zan rarely makes the best decisions, but one of her redeeming qualities is that she always makes the best of what she has.

That's what this issue is all about, as Zan is all over the place in her flight from the Strange Agents.  Doing whatever she can to stay one step ahead, she moves from prey to predator to friend to lover.  These shifting roles spotlight Zan's many sides and provide the narrative with scenes of most every variety.  High Crimes #3 is dense as hell.  The issue is 15 pages, but compared to a regular comic, there is enough content here to fill twice that space.  This is a fast-moving, rock solid issue.

A big part of this success must be ascribed to Moustafa, who once again pulls out all the stops.  His layouts continue to blow me away as he packs in more panels than you can shake a stick at.  His artwork is getting better with every issue, as this is the best work he's done yet.  Each panel is incredibly detailed, each receiving equal amounts of attention, regardless of whether it's the focus of the page or a small insert.  There are no splashes here, but everything feels important.  What more, his layouts lead the eye in a natural and engaging manner, an excellent partner to the book's strong storytelling.

The only exception to that would be some quick temporal leaps in the book's first few pages.  These jumps could have been a bit more clear, as these jumps between past and present are a little ambiguous, and it actually took me a few read throughs to catch the proper chronology.  It's nothing major, but it is a little frustrating to know that the sequence could have been improved with a slight change to the colour palette to signify the shift, such as that used later on in the issue itself.

Verdict - Buy It.  That being said, this is still an excellent comic by a great creative team.  I've been enjoying each issue of Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa's High Crimes, but it really feels like they have found their stride here.  Confident storytelling is tied with wonderful art, I cannot wait to see what comes next, and as always, the 99 cent price tag is mighty hard to beat.


Related Posts


5 comments:

oakleyses said...

louboutin shoes, coach outlet, tiffany and co, tory burch outlet, louboutin outlet, prada handbags, air max, louboutin, kate spade handbags, michael kors outlet, christian louboutin, tiffany and co, longchamp handbags, gucci outlet, nike shoes, nike free, air max, burberry outlet, michael kors outlet online sale, prada outlet, oakley sunglasses, coach outlet store online, longchamp outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, coach factory outlet, michael kors outlet, jordan shoes, longchamp handbags, oakley sunglasses cheap, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, kate spade outlet, rolex watches, michael kors outlet, polo ralph lauren, burberry outlet, chanel handbags, ray ban sunglasses

oakleyses said...

hollister, ray ban pas cher, north face, true religion jeans, sac hermes, hollister, michael kors, polo lacoste, polo ralph lauren, north face, coach purses, converse pas cher, louboutin, true religion outlet, sac guess, lululemon outlet online, true religion outlet, sac longchamp pas cher, oakley pas cher, air max, new balance pas cher, timberland, sac burberry, air max pas cher, nike free pas cher, nike air force, ray ban sunglasses, ralph lauren, air jordan, vanessa bruno, nike blazer, hogan outlet, true religion jeans, mulberry, nike tn, michael kors uk, michael kors pas cher, vans pas cher, longchamp, nike roshe run pas cher

oakleyses said...

hollister, ray ban pas cher, north face, true religion jeans, sac hermes, hollister, michael kors, polo lacoste, polo ralph lauren, north face, coach purses, converse pas cher, louboutin, true religion outlet, sac guess, lululemon outlet online, true religion outlet, sac longchamp pas cher, oakley pas cher, air max, new balance pas cher, timberland, sac burberry, air max pas cher, nike free pas cher, nike air force, ray ban sunglasses, ralph lauren, air jordan, vanessa bruno, nike blazer, hogan outlet, true religion jeans, mulberry, nike tn, michael kors uk, michael kors pas cher, vans pas cher, longchamp, nike roshe run pas cher

oakleyses said...

lululemon outlet, insanity workout, asics running shoes, giuseppe zanotti, nike air max, birkin bag, nike free, p90x, hollister, nike trainers, instyler, longchamp, abercrombie and fitch, babyliss pro, north face jackets, mont blanc, ghd, jimmy choo outlet, beats by dre, mac cosmetics, air max, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, vans shoes, nike huaraches, valentino shoes, bottega veneta, mcm handbags, wedding dresses, abercrombie and fitch, chi flat iron, soccer jerseys, new balance shoes, nfl jerseys, nike roshe run, celine handbags, nike roshe, herve leger, reebok outlet, soccer shoes

oakleyses said...

swarovski, ralph lauren, hollister, air max, juicy couture, toms shoes, vans, timberland boots, hollister clothing store, oakley, pandora charms, juicy couture outlet, wedding dresses, links of london, pandora charms, karen millen, louboutin, gucci, air max, converse, thomas sabo, supra shoes, swarovski crystal, pandora jewelry, montre homme, baseball bats, marc jacobs, ray ban, coach outlet store online, converse shoes, iphone 6 cases, abercrombie, sac lancel, rolex watches

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.