Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Dark Horse Round Up 6/25/14

This week of the Dark Horse Round Up features more stellar MIND MGMT, a one-shot of The Goon by the stellar Eric Powell, the return of Dream Thief, and more. Hit the jump to read more!

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.

Pariah #5
Written by Aron Warner and Philip Gellat
Art by Brett Weldele
Colors by Brett Weldele
Words by Brett Weldele

CeeJay: The saga of the Vitros continues with the fifth chapter of Pariah, which illustrates the younger Vitros’ disillusionment with Lila’s seemingly unfocused leadership. The interiors are a bit lacking in this issues. The style I found unique in those first few chapters is still there – there’s just nothing really being done with it. That, however, can possibly be blamed on the events that take place in the issue (or rather the lack thereof).

The issue itself deals primarily with the interpersonal politics between a few of our principle characters (namely Lila, Maudsley and Hyde) and the ripple effect it has on the rest of the Vitros’ morale. This is actually the whole issue which is disappointing but not bad in any real way. It sort of just slows down momentum.

Monthly singles either leave you wanting much more or really bored when it comes to titles like this, which isn’t terrible but it’s kind of like reading a really exciting, dramatically resonant novel a chapter a month and this month everyone’s just traveling and bantering. This leads me to believe that Pariah, although a fantastic magazine overall, will end up as a better reading experience in trade.

Verdict - Check It

Ghost #4
Written by Chris Sebela
Art by Jan Duursema & Dan Parsons
Colors by Dan Jackson
Words by Richard Starkings/ComicCraft

CeeJay: Ghost is a perfect example of a book with a lot of potential that just gets lost in a bunch of inconsistencies, which is mostly due to the frequently changing creative teams. This fifth issues serves as a jumping on point as much as the first issue. That’s nice and all for new readers but the white-knucklers who’ve stuck through the past (really short) arc are already acquainted with Elisa and her backstory.

The issue does (very) briefly introduce two new potential antagonists who’s actions were way more interesting that recapping Elisa’s desire to avenger her murder and the poorly written relationship-establishing banter. One seems to be a ghost stalker and the other is a male Elvira-esc TV horror host who’s devoted fans are lining up to get slaughtered on local access television. I just wish there was more of that.

The art is pretty mundane but serviceable. Duursema’s work is just crisp enough not to see unnaturally sleek but still leaves a lot to be desired. I recognize her legacy and respect her long career but there’s nothing kinetic about the art. It doesn’t pop. 
Verdict - Byrne It

Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Matt Kindt
Colors by Matt Kindt

CeeJay:  I’m keeping this one brief because to talk about it too much would lead to spoilers. But so much is happening. The interiors are still pretty trippy which makes the confrontation/action scenes more visually intense. People are dropping left and right as Kindt’s delves deeper and deeper into the world and inner workings of Mind Management.

Also, one shouldn’t forget to go back – yes, even to previous issues – and follow the many breadcrumb trails that Kindt’s left in the margins of the pages. No one is safe and clues very hard to come by in the actual story because it moves so fast. It’s still really good – probably the best, if not the most interesting title in DH’s stable.

Verdict - Must Read

Tomb Raider #5
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Nicol├ís Daniel Selma
Colors by Michael Atiyeh
Words by Michael Heisler

Nevin: Dark Horse’s new Tomb Raider comic has been an exercise in frustration. It’s mostly functioned as a retread that completely unraveled any kind of characterization that happened during the most recent game. I loved the game, so I really wanted to love Gail Simone’s take on Lara. Sadly, the comic has had Lara mostly running, whining, and being utterly useless… that is until this issue.

Issue #5 has done a complete turnaround. Lara has returned to the island of Yamatai to rescue Sam from the Solarii worshippers, and she leaves a trail of carnage in her wake. Her approach to everything is different. She’s calm, deadly, and certain as opposed to the bumbling fool we followed in the first four issues. Selma’s art is as clean and crisp as ever, and this issue is his best. He gets to draw Lara doing actual adventuring, something that has been oddly absent from a title named after raiding tombs.

Even with the issue being a step up in terms of quality, the plot is still stupid. The issue reveals the Solarii worshippers’ intentions to resurrect a familiar face from the game, but the whole cult-ception angle (this cult worships the Solarii who worshipped Himiko) just doesn’t make sense. Let’s hope this retread of a story can finish soon, so Lara can begin the search for her father, which she planned to do at the end of the game.

Verdict - Check It

The Goon: One for the Road
Written by Eric Powell
Art by Eric Powell
Colors by Dave Stewart

Nevin: I’ve never read any of The Goon, but after reading One for the Road, it’s now on my list. Everything is weird, funny, and over-the-top in a way in a way that reminds me of a darker Bone.

One for the Road follows The Goon and Franky as they help a sailor look for one of his friends. What follows is a genre-hopping pub crawl that makes this one-shot hard to classify. It borrows elements from westerns, horror, humor, war, and more. The genre scenes are clearly influenced by comic history that a much more seasoned comic book veteran than myself will recognize, but that only adds layers to what’s here. Even someone who misses most of the references will still enjoy the comedic timing and story.

Powell’s art is beautiful and on point throughout. His characters are expressive and his style is distinct with the exception of the last bar they visit. The comic starts by stating it is dedicated to Jack Davis, an American cartoonist and one of the founding members of MAD, and Powell pays homage to him in the last bar by having celebrity cameos with oversized heads in Davis’ style. It’s an entertaining moment (even if it feels extremely random) and sets up the hilarious end to the comic in the last bar. If you don’t laugh at a “man-eating Aryan gorilla,” then you have no soul.

Having never read any of The Goon, I still found plenty to enjoy out of this one-shot. The humor and art are on point throughout, and there are many layers to every bar The Goon and Franky visit. Fans of Powell and newcomers are sure to find something to enjoy here.

Verdict - Must Read

Dream Thief: Escape #1
Written by Jai Nitz
Art by Greg Smallwood
Colors by Greg Smallwood
Words by Greg Smallwood

Nevin: Jay Nitz and Greg Smallwood’s 2013 smash hit has returned in great form! To those of you who don’t know, Dream Thief is the story of John Lincoln, a man who has the unfortunate ability to be possessed by vengeful ghosts when he falls asleep. He wakes up next to dead bodies, and he must piece together how he got there and how to solve his new predicament. It’s a crazy concept with perfect execution in both the story and art. The 2013 miniseries kicked all kinds of ass, and Escape is off to a good start.

The story picks up showing us a glimpse of Lincoln in the future then flashes back to the present where he is possessed by a ghost again. After leaving an afternoon snack for an alligator, Lincoln picks up where he left off with trying to visit his father’s ghost who is currently possessing a convicted felon. This issue is light on the action and intrigue of previous issues, but gives some snippets of information that shed light on the whole dream thief thing and tribal mask. Smallwood’s art is still fantastic. He uses dark colors with simple lines that drive a strong contrast to the white background and gutters. It works well and each panel feels unique. I also love the layout of the panels, for instance when a character is looking through binoculars, the next panel is a circular shape like binoculars. It’s a small touch, but it makes the layouts unique.

If there was a big problem with the first Dream Thief, it was the fact that it didn’t answer much about Lincoln’s possession problem. Escape is looking to fix that. While not as heavy on the action and intrigue as the previous series, this issue is starting us off in the right direction with some tiny answers to keep us satisfied.

Verdict - Must Read

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