Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Dark Horse Round Up 7/16/14

From the world of the The Witcher to The Mysteries of Unland, this week's Dark Horse Round Up is full of wonderful comic goodness. We've got six reviews for you, so sit back and read on after the jump!

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.

Brain Boy: The Men from G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #3
Story by Fred Van Lente
Art by Freddie Williams II
Colors by Jeremy Colwell
Words by Nate Piekos

Nevin: Expect to be slightly confused at the start of this issue. The last issue ended with what seemed like a nuke going off as Price made it to the compound where Arkady was hiding, and this issue opens with Price and the group of red neck, apocalypse lovers shooting zombies. It’s a jarring transition until you begin to realize what’s going on. The twist is incredibly clever and the accompanying art is great for the most part.

I say for the most part because some of the art just doesn’t mesh. While the art accompanying the weird scenario this issue is wonderful, the people are beginning to seem off. Some characters have unnatural facial expressions and the rough art in Williams’ lines make characters look droopy. Williams’ art works best when it’s used for action scenes or the telekinetic powers. This also goes for Colwell’s coloring, which can be oversaturated at times.

Issue 3 leaves just enough intrigue and a powerful ending to keep me excited for the next issue. Even with some weird art moments, the blend of Bond-esque action with superpowers is a fun ride that I’m willing to keep on board.

Verdict – Check It

Star Wars Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir #3
Story by Jeremy Barlow
Art by Juan Frigeri
Colors by Wes Dzioba
Words by Michael Heisler

Nevin: Disney royally screwed the tauntaun (or pooch) when they cancelled Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and this four issue story arc is proof of that. After Maul captured Dooku and Grievous last issue, the Jedi are hot on his trail led by Mace Windu and Obi-wan Kenobi. But the best parts of this issue are the conversations between Dooku, Maul, Sidious, and Mother Talzan. We get a huge character revelation regarding Maul and great moments in everyone’s threatening words. It’s obvious that Barlow has a good understanding of these characters.

The art of Fregeri takes a step up this issue. Even though the last issue had more action, the scenes in this issue are drawn in a more dynamic manner, such as Grievous crunching a mandalorian skull under his foot. The art also gets to flex during a 4 vs 2 lightsaber battle that sadly ends too quickly and leaves you wanting more.

Next issue is the end of this story arc, and it still seems like there are too many loose ends to tie up. But that’s what happens when a show gets cancelled mid-production. Not everything can be nicely tied off. We just have to be content with what we can get, and I hope the end of this arc is as satisfying as the rest of it has been.

Verdict – Must Read

Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #2
Story by Kim Newman and Maura McHugh
Art by Tyler Crook
Colors by Dave Stewart
Words by Clem Robins

Nevin: The last issue ended with a jarring attack on Grey that ended any doubt of there being something off about Hallam. This issue focuses much more on Grey playing the detective while also trying to appear as a fascinated tourist. It rides the exposition train a little, but that cannot be helped in a detective mystery when you have to introduce suspects, explain motivations, and drop enough tidbits of info to keep the mystery at a slow burn.

The art by Crook is still that wonderful kind of gothic creepy that is only improved by Stewart’s muted color scheme. Subtle things like expressions and actions of factory workers go a long way to build a feeling of unease throughout the tour of Poole’s factory, and the visit to an eel museum shows extensive work to create displays that flesh out the world. Crook also gets to show us his skills at gore once again, and the result is delightfully disturbing.

If there is any problem with this issue, it would be that the reader is given more information than Grey. Detective stories work best when we receive info along with the protagonist, so we piece together things at the same pace. It gives revelations more impact. For instance, the “HOLY SH*T” moment in the end of this issue would have been more powerful if we hadn’t already seen a similar scene earlier. Witchfinder is still proving to be an impressive detective mystery, but I hope the revelations are better placed in the rest of the story.

Verdict – Buy It

The Witcher #5
Story by Paul Tobin
Art by Joe Querio
Colors by Carlos Badilla
Words by Nate Piekos

Nevin: “House of Glass” has been a comic for fans of The Witcher from the beginning, and this issue solidifies that. Last issue ended with Geralt heading to the fourth floor, and now we get smashed with dark revelations about the past between Jakob and Marta. It’s a story of heart break and monsters that the world of The Witcher executes so well.

Querio’s art and Badilla’s colors do a fantastic job of emphasizing the emotions and haunting feeling in this issue. The use of shadows grants the art a gothic touch that fits the depressing and unsettling story. The art for the backstory of Jakob and Marta is particularly strong at conveying the emotions between the two of them in expressions and actions.

It’s hard to talk too much about this issue without getting too spoilery since most of it is big revelations. What I can say is that Tobin nails this story. This is the kind of story you’d find in one of the Witcher games or books. From the jarring neutrality of Geralt and the disturbing actions of the inhabitants of this world, The Witcher #5 is a worthy addition to Witcher lore.

Verdict – Must Read

Eye of Newt (Issue #2)
Written by Michael Hague
Art by Michael Hague
Colors by Michael Hague
Words by Nate Piekos

CeeJay: Michael Hague’s Eye of Newt is a weird book. There’s noting intrinsically bad about it and there’s nothing wrong with an untraditional model for your title, but damn this is dense. The story continues as Newt (who’s actual identity is revealed early on in this issue which paints the preceding and subsequent events in a new light) heads into the Netherworld without the guidance of his master, an ancient wizard. There he meets and is threatened by a female counterpart taking part in the same initiation process.

Just like the last issue, Hague’s writing is laden with Lewis-y/Tolkein-y phrases and wordplay and if you like that sort of thing, this is the book for you. Me? I’m not the target audience. And it ain’t for lack of trying; I’m trying to tell you.

The real star here is still the art. It’s almost like an ancient tapestry and it’s the books biggest pull. Hague uses shadow to great effect and makes his world colorful without being cartoony. Anyone into ancient European mythology should really give this a try. The art is dark to offset the fantastical elements of the plot and it’s filled with cool creatures and thing.

Verdict - Check It

A Second Chance at Sarah (TPB)
Written by Neil Druckmann
Art by Joysuke Wong
Colors by Joysuke Wong
Words by Michael Thomas

CeeJay: Well, that was cute. That’s a weird thing to say about a title with stalkery, baby-hating bad-luck demons but it’s pretty appropriate here. Druckmann’s Second Chance at Sarah is a brisk, nice read. It’s a Lifetime movie of a supernatural comic that just really cute. Our protagonist makes a deal with a demon his wife made a deal with to go back in time and stop her from making said deal to save their future infant son.

The story is really simplistic and the characterizations are too but the characters are pretty likeable. None of the beats feel old or overdone because they happen so fast that it’s hard to notice. At 72 pages, the whole arc is a breeze. The protagonist has a clear motivation and relatable method of going about reaching his goal and the protagonist is sinister and single-minded in his mission. That villain, however, is the only weak point. I like a vague villain, but not so vague that he’s not scary or believable as a threat.

The art is above average and more than serviceable for the story. It’s lush and heavily influenced by manga but not beholden to that aesthetic. The colors are light and dreamy – it actually felt like more of a web-comic because there’s a distinct lack of solid inking. But that’s neither here nor there. Sarah is a fun, light, throwaway read with no huge aspirations but plenty of charm. It’s worth a look – just a look – because of the talent involved.

Note: This TPB comes out on Aug. 20th. We're trying to pepper in more TPB reviews in our weekly reviews.

Verdict - Check It

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