Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Dark Horse Catch Up

Greetings fellow comic lovers! After an unnaturally long hiatus, we at The Weekly Crisis are back at this comic reviewing gig. This column will focus as a catch up for some of the amazing things Dark Horse is currently giving us lucky readers, and next week will be starting our weekly Dark Horse Round Up. But enough talk, hit the jump to read about some Dark Horse magic!

The reviews are graded according to the following scale:

Must Read. -- Do not miss this hot piece of comic action!

Buy It. -- For memories sake.
Check It. -- This is a toss up. Up to you really.
Byrne It. (skim it on the rack). -- Look at it but don't leave with it.
Avoid It. -- Steer clear.

The Star Wars (Miniseries, 8 Issues)
Written by Jonathan Rinzler
Art by Mike Mayhew
Colors by Rain Beredo

CeeJay: Based on the original rough draft screenplay by George Lucas, The Star Wars is a hugely entertaining sprawling epic of a book that reads brand new and familiar all at once. I’m a pretty moderate fan of Star Wars as a franchise so the conceit of this miniseries put it at the top of my must read list and it did not disappoint. Most of the things that people love about about SW are here but as captivating, primitive prototypes of what eventually went into the films.

Rinzler does a fair job adapting Lucas’ original vision of the galaxy far, far away in a narrative sense (even though its very easy to tell why a lot of it didn’t make it into the final version of the film) but the real star is Mayhew’s interior work. Strikingly different but familiar enough not to alienate, the art is a wonder to behold.

As a comic fan, it was nice to see some really quality art come out of such a purely commercial venture but the casual SW fan in me was pretty enthralled by the  proceedings. The character designs are fantastic and though the action may not exactly be kinetic on the page, it whole package is exciting enough to keep reader interested even as the story goes a bit flat in the last couple of issues.

Verdict - BUY IT

Captain Midnight (ongoing)
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Various (including Fernando Dagnino and Eduardo Francisco)
Colors by Various (including Ego and Javier Mena)

CeeJay: I’m trying to think about what the publisher was actually thinking. It’s not that you couldn’t make a worthwhile reboot of Captain Midnight – it’s totally possible. This simply isn’t it. This new series takes Midnight (who was actually a pretty popular comic strip and radio serial hero when he wasn’t hocking Ovaltine with Little Orphan Annie) and transplants him from his war-torn 1940s world to the new millennium - which has obviously been done before but a better book could’ve come back from it.

Aside from just plainly and ineffectively ripping off Captain America (complete with an angry black bureaucrat and attractive young descendant of the original love interest), the interiors leave a lot to be desired. The constant inconsistency of art between issues and short in-issue stories is jarring and unpleasant. Williamson’s plot and dialogue are also a slog to get through. To put it plainly, this reboot is a hot mess.

They could’ve easily just created a compelling, new narrative around his adventures and supporting characters still set during WWII. But instead, they just delivered this uninterestingly unoriginal magazine with no real redeeming factors – in my opinion. It’s a shame because I was really looking forward to this one. The idea of bringing back one of the original superheroes fascinated me, but instead of an exciting new take, it just ended up reading like Ovaltine tastes – cool concept, but leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Verdict - AVOID IT

Mind MGMT (Ongoing)
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Matt Kindt
Colors by Matt Kindt

CeeJay: I met Matt Kindt about two months ago and I’d never actually heard of his work. I was, however, given a copy of his Solomon Grundy Villains Month tie-in and and I enjoyed it enough to track him down and sign it. That’s how I stumbled upon Mind MGMT. And boy, am I in love with this book. It’s a brilliantly realized mystery and a equally suspenseful thriller that’s almost impossible to put down.

MGMT follows Meru, an investigative author, and her attempt to learn more about the secret government-sanctioned psychic collective “Mind Management.” Kindt hooks you in with his spiraling, rabbit-hole of a mystery filled with interesting powers and government intrigue. Each issue also include short stories and black and white splashes that envelope the read further into Kidnt’s richly built mythology.

MGMT’s interiors are almost childlike in their simplicity and I mean that in the most complementary way possible. When recommending the series to a friend, I described it as “a Golden Book on acid.” I can’t recommend this one enough. I tend to follow characters and series more than creators with very few exceptions and Kindt’s officially made it on to that list.

Verdict - MUST READ

Ghost (Ongoing)
Written by Kelly Sue Donnick & Chris Sebella
Art by Ryan Sook
Colors by David McCaig
Words by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

CeeJay: I’ve been a fan of Kelly Sue Donnick ever since I picked up the first issue of her fun, earnest take on Carol Danvers in the revamped Captain Marvel title and here she continually impresses me with her dialogue. Donnick has a grasp on conversation and banter that is sorely lacking in titles of this kind and the tone – though wonky at times - was well-handled and mostly consistent.

Ghost follows Eliza, a former journalist who discovers that the mayor of Chicago was a dimension-hopping demon hellbent on crossing over his demon pals and placing them in positions of power all over the city. This new volume is a fairly welcoming jumping on point (I didn’t even realize that it wasn’t the actual first issue) and the cast and action kept me pretty invested through out.

The interiors were fine, even though Sook’s characters look like they belong on FX’s Archer. There was nothing supremely special about the art which serviced the story pretty well but didn’t wow me. It’s worth a look – especially if you’ve been wanting to try out a new(er) female hero like I have.    

Verdict - CHECK IT

Pariah (Ongoing)
Written by Aron Warner Philip Gelatt
Art by Brett Weldele
Colors by Brett Weldele
Words by Brett Weldele

CeeJay: Pariah follows four members of generation of genetically altered, super-intelligent young adults who have been framed for an explosion meant to draw ire to their community and label them terrorist. Warner and Gellat have crafted the best kind of sci-fi world, in my opinion, one thematically and allegorically similar to our own. The first four issues introduce four characters; all different and with densely crafted personalities and backstories (all of which expand the ever growing mythology).

I found Pariah to be a very swift read. Brett Weldele’s art is moody and effecting with great use of the many shades of grey. The plot is compelling and sucks you in from the very beginning with its rich world-building. There’s so much to love about this book and it’s only four issues in.

This, along with Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT, represents some of the best original work that I’ve seen come out o the industry in quite sometime and I am hooked. You can pick up the trade paperback and get caught up in about a night. I highly recommend doing so!

Verdict - MUST READ

Tomb Raider (Ongoing)
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Nicolás Daniel Selma
Colors by Michael Atiyeh
Words by Michael Heisler

Nevin: When Crystal Dynamics rebooted Lara Croft with their 2013 Tomb Raider, the game gave the character a much needed jolt. The start of the game introduced a new kind of Lara. She wasn’t a hardened adventurer yet. Hell, she could barely be called an adventurer, but by the end of the game, after massacring enough people to give a coffin maker enough work for years, she was a hardened survivor much closer to the Lara we all know and love. Sadly, it seems like the comic just wants to retread almost all parts of the 2013 game.

The comic kicks off with Lara going through some extreme survivor’s guilt and PTSD. Almost every one of her friends died on the island of Yamatai at the hands of a crazed cult called the Solarii, and she’s finding that understandably hard to get over. A distressed phone call from fellow survivor Jonah gets the central plot rolling. Turns out the survivors took some cursed artifacts from Yamatai, and worshippers of the Sun Queen (pretty much the Solarii) want them back so the world can be enslaved. What follows gives anyone who played the game an extreme case of déjà vu.

This retread wouldn’t seem so bad if the comic didn’t confusingly smash any kind of character development that happened during the video game. Lara had become a killing machine who at one point almost literally was bathed in the blood of her enemies, yet now she acts timid and even regretful for killing someone? I just can’t buy that. I expected something new and exciting when I heard that Gail Simone was the writer, but this isn’t either. Not everything here is bad though. The art of Nicolás Daniel Selma is a great example of cartoony style. Thick black lines mixed with solid colors and sparse shading creates a very clean look. Juxtapose the light color choices with the panel layout on a white background, and you get what can best be described as simple and clean.

Oddly enough, this seems like a comic that would be enjoyed best by someone who has not played the video game. Having past knowledge of the video game just makes you wonder why Lara is being such a pansy. Seeing as how this comic is supposed to be an ongoing canon sequel to the game, I do have hope that it will improve, but it hasn’t gotten there yet.

Verdict - CHECK IT

The Witcher (Miniseries, 5 Issues)
Written by Paul Tobin
Art by Joe Queiro
Colors by Carlos Badilla
Words by Nate Piekos

Nevin: Paul Tobin approaches The Witcher a lot like how the video game approaches its players. There is a learning curve. Either you know things about this universe or you don’t because the book won’t take time to explain it. This comic is for the fans of the Witcher. Familiarity with the source material is highly recommended. It’s not completely unapproachable, but don’t be looking for much exposition to explain things like what a witcher actually is.

That being said, Tobin nails the feel of the Witcher universe from the tragic characters who inhabit it to the sarcastic wit of Geralt. The story follows Geralt and a friendly hunter named Jakob as they try to pass through the Black Forest only to get chased into an eerie mansion in middle of the forest. With no way to escape, the adventurers decide to explore the mysteries within the mansion with no idea of the horrors waiting around every corner.

The art of The Witcher gives a somber presence to everything, which is exactly how a story in this world should feel. The linework of Joe Querio is gritty. It creates a haunting atmosphere for each page that is complemented by Carlos Badilla’s dark color palette. Dark shades of purples and blues make each panel look ominous, like something horrible could happen at any moment.

While this book is largely for fans of the Witcher, I think newcomers could find much to enjoy here. If you’re looking for a dark, tragic fantasy tale with monsters and mystery, The Witcher has you covered. (Seriously though, if you’re a Witcher fan, you should be reading this.)

Verdict - MUST READ

The White Suits (Miniseries, 4 Issues)
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Tony Cypress
Colors by Tony Cypress
Words by Frank J. Barbiere

Nevin: The White Suits follows a man with retrograde amnesia as he tries to piece his past together. He only remembers pieces, but these pieces all seem to revolve around mysterious figures in white suits. His fractured mind allows him remember that he used to be one of them, and they are the key to his past. The gang war that the white suits are creating won’t stop him from finding the answers he wants.

Frank J. Barbiere weaves a tail of intrigue that leaves the reader constantly yearning for answers, but the story isn’t the main attraction here. That would be Toby Cypress and his insane art. Believe me when I say, you’ve never seen anything like it. Each page looks like an action movie on acid. Kinetic lines and the stark contrast of the red, white, and black color palette give an absurd amount of energy to each page. To say Cypress’ style is unique would be an understatement.

The book does contain some faults. In a tale like this, I understand the need to hold answers close to the chest until the final chapter, but it is almost like nothing has been answered. With one issue left, that makes the first three issues feel like a big leap of faith for some kind of pay off in the end. On the art side of things, the crazy style sometimes lends itself to major confusion. Don’t be surprised if you can’t figure out who is shooting who from panel to panel. But ultimately, you’d have to be crazy not to give this comic a try. It truly is one-of-a-kind.

Verdict - BUY IT

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Eric van Schaik said...

Hi, nice to see you back with this column. What happened? You guys got girlfriends?
I hope you do a column about Image very soon.
Pariah looks very interesting. Will check the trade.

Nevin P. Jones said...

Haha, thanks! We're hoping to establish a weekly Dark Horse column and see how it goes from there. We are not opposed to getting the Image Round Up back up,

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