Saturday, December 21, 2013

Comics Round-Up: Week of December 18


The Comic Round Up column aims to get some words down on comics published for the week. This weeks reviews are handled by the Mall Santas Anonymous. There's just too many great books coming out from Valiant, BOOM!, Monkeybrain, IDW, and Dark Horse that don't get enough attention. We hope to rectify this issue and inform you on what it is you should be reading and what makes it to the tops of our buy piles.


This week we are reviewing Buzzkill #4, Locke and Key: Alpha #2, and Watson & Holmes: A Study In Black. Don't let the crying toddlers worry you. This is an exception to stranger danger and completely normal.


Buzzkill #4 (of 4)
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Geoff Shaw

Gord Cummings: This mini deserves more buzz (see what I did there?) than it got. Creators are trying some cool things with the whole "substance for power" premise. It's a concept used of course by Captain America who only really needed one hit and the Sentry who's addiction to a serum was a black cloud over his heroics. People outside of the big two have played with this and gone directly to real substances for power such as in Max Bemis' Polarity (antipsychotics) and now here in Buzzkill where the protagonist seems to require a bit of the hooch to kick ass. Against his dad. Very symbolic. 

Sure, daddy issues have also been explored in comics before but not with such ferocity and high stakes. Where alcoholism dictates action and power, the protagonist tries to remain sober while saving the world from his father "Buzzkill" and maintaining a love interest. Engaging stuff. This is a superhero story that is grounded firmly in a common reality of emotion and universally shitty family dynamics. I just read this crazy article from Rolling Stone about the Inman twins this morning and it went perfectly with this comic (go read it). This comic is basically "what if Patterson Inman Jr. had super powers and had to save the world from his dad".

Here is the review for the fourth issue, but Cates has left it open for further stories as it's unclear if things really did tie up in the end. Also too, if you or someone you know has been through a 12 step program, healing is ongoing just as this series should and could be. If you haven't read this, you need to pick it up. I haven't heard if there is to be a collected trade from the Dark house of the Horse but there ought to be. 

Geoff Shaw has a modern style that is tied together with some excellent toning and colours. Sharp and gritty, he's drawn a villain who I quickly grew to despise. He has a mullet and it isn't ironic! I couldn't imagine this comic drawn in any other fashion than what's presented here. I look forward to what Geoff Shaw and Donny Cates has in store for comics in the next few years. More please?

Verdict: Must Read


Locke and Key: Alpha #2
Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Mike Newhouse-Bailey: Locke and Key came to its stunning conclusion this week and Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez do not disappoint.  It is bittersweet to see the end of Locke and Key, but I am happy with the closure that this issue brought.  Fans of the series will very pleased with how Hill tied up the loose ends.  I will attempt to avoid any major spoilers, but be warned that there may be minor spoilers below.

We open with panels that harken back to the first issue.  Tyler once again is mourning the loss of a loved one and everyone is struggling in their attempts to make sense of their loss.  Beyond the Locke family, the community of Lovecraft is once again facing a tragedy from an incident in the drowning cave.  Tyler, beard and all, has clearly matured and grown from the incidents that have taken place throughout his journey.  He seems ready to be the father figure in the family and ensures that all of the loose ends are tied up and allows the family to move on from this ordeal.  The two moments that really hit home for me involved Erin Voss and a conversation between Tyler and his deceased father.  I am going to truly miss this series.

IDW packs this $7.99 title with some nice extras, including photos of Joe and Gabriel visiting the inspiration for Lovecraft.  You see actual photos of the drowning cave and other landmarks that fans will recognize.  Seeing photographs of this world give me hope that we will one day see Locke and Key on the big screen. 

Gabriel Rodriguez has been a blessing to this series. His background in architecture was a perfect fit for Keyhouse, and his ability to portray emotion allowed the reader to better empathize with the characters in this book.  From interviews it is apparent that Hill had some lofty demands of Rodriguez, but it is clear that he was up for the task.  I look forward to seeing his work in other comics.

Verdict: Must Read


Watson & Holmes: A Study In Black
Written by Karl Bollers
Art by Rick Leonardi and Larry Stroman 

Gord Cummings: Basically this is a caper involving Sherlock Holmes and Watson. In modern day New York. And the detective and his sidekick are black. That's really all you need to know going into this trade collection. The 140 odd pages show how the two meet and then we follow them into a trail which leads to dark places in people who should and sometimes are good. 

The mystery presented here is pretty rich, although not without its faults. Fortunately these faults are likely the same kind of thing you'd find in most Holmes mysteries. One example of this is that sometimes the evidence and clues come off as a little too convenient. Also too, the motives of the two protagonists are not always clear and we aren't given any background on Watson until well into the second issue and it's into the third chapter that we get the background of Holmes. Even then, the reader may say that those motives aren't enough for them to enter into hails of bullets and threats to thier loved ones. 

For the most part, the art is fairly good, but I am often left feeling like it could have been better (with one exception which I'll mention in two shakes) had the artist done this or that. The art could have come off as noir in its presence, but unfortunately it felt like there was a sheet giving it a matte feel where too many of the details were visible. Some deep blacks would have been great and added to the drama of the book. There were however some moments of fantastic art such as the scene on the bridge or whenever the art took on some more sharper lines in the characters while they contemplated their clues. The highlight of the art is definitely the backgrounds which is the sign of a good artist. The buildings were detailed but consistent with the style of the rest of the book. 

Larry Stroman makes an appearance in the epilogue. This guy is probably one of the most under rated artists in comics. His contributions to the world of X-Men is understated where he and Peter David crafted some very unique mutants who are still around today. I also have a fondness for Tribe, which was an early Image series that broke from the publisher on to its own thing. Stroman's art here in Watson & Holmes is most welcome and hits all the right notes. He captures the hustle and bustle of a busy New York street like no other can. And he also draws big bottoms. Leonardi probably is blushing having his art next to Stroman's, but he does alright on his own. 

In all, for this trade, it's a good value because the story is dense enough to keep you interested and engaged. Also too, Stroman's art is a treat well worth the price of admission.

Verdict: Check It. 


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