Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Dark Horse Round Up 7/9/2014

This week's Dark Horse Round Up combines some releases from last week and this week. We have the conclusion of Frank J. Barbiere's blood soaked The White Suits, more Brian Wood Star Wars, and a look at the first volume of The Strain just ahead of the TV show's premiere on Sunday. Hit the jump for 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.

The White Suits
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Tony Cypress
Colors by Tony Cypress
Words by Frank J. Barbiere

Nevin: After nearly three months, the final piece of The White Suits lands. Barbiere and Cypress have weaved a tale of bloodshed and intrigue for the past three issues without really giving us much plot to go on. That leaves this last issue to bring out all the pay off, and while it certainly explains everything, it ultimately ends up suffering.

The final issue takes place on a plane. Agent Anderson and Prizrak have been captured by the remaining White Suits, and the few remaining members of the deadly group finally have everything they need to exact their revenge. Revenge for what? Well the whole issue is spent explaining that. At least 80% of the final issue is exposition. The White Suits leader ends up Bond-villaining all over the place. The revelations about the group’s purpose and formation are interesting, but Prizrak is left being kind of a lame character. I can’t really get into without being spoilery, but his backstory just wasn’t worth it.

Tony Cypress, who has been the main reason to buy this series from the beginning, even seems to take a hit in quality this issue. All the previous issues have given him the chance to create hectic shoot outs full of energy and creativity, but this issue confines his art to a plane fistfight and words, words, words. He still manages to do some fantastic layout work, but his artwork doesn’t work as well with an issue full of people talking.

The White Suits is an example of a fantastic journey with a humdrum ending. Even dialog from some of the characters matched my thoughts. “That’s it?! Your grand plan?! You’re just going to…” or “I thought I had a purpose. Turns out I’m just…” I’m just as let down as the characters in the story. Ultimately, you should read this last issue so everything makes sense, but realize that this ending is just average.

Verdict - Check It

Ghost #6
Written by Chris Sebela
Art by Jan Duursema & Dan Parsons
Colors by Dan Jackson
Words by Richard Starkings/ComicCraft

CeeJay: I may have spoken too soon last time. Ghost#6 is a pretty spooky issue which is pretty much all I've wanted since I started reading the series. Continuing from #5, we find Elisa deep in the recesses of a dingy television studio being monologued too by new villain Von Ghastly. His story is disturbing an grisly and the most effecting aspect of this title so far.

The interiors are dark but their shaded well and it fits thematically. And the did I mention that the book is gorier than it has any right to be? Well, it is but I love it. And gore in a superhero comic is, I guess, one of the benefits of venturing outside of Big Two territory. Von Ghastly is a visually striking villain who is talkative but never boring. He's Rule 63 Elvira and "The Princess and the Frog"'s Dr. Facilier with a bag of tricks up his sleeve that allows him to touch and harm Elisa while other human characters can only do so with her permission.

The issues downfall is, once again, the shoehorning of Elisa's mysterious backstory. It's very seldom handled well and detracts from more interesting narrative and visual things that could and should be happening more. It's even evident in the interiors. When Von Ghastly isn't there the whole issue becomes dull (in art style, color and narrative engagement). That's unfortunate because the series has a lot of potential.   

Verdict - Byrne It

Star Wars #19
Story by Brian Wood
Art by Carlos D’Anda
Colors by Gabe Eltaeb
Words by Michael Heisler

Nevin: Brian Wood’s fantastic Star Wars series continues! After the betrayal of the rebel alliance and close calls of the last story arc, this one seems to want to pump the brakes a little. There’s still the fun galactic espionage and space fights that Wood has made a staple of this run, but it’s sprinkled with some slower character moments. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual high stakes.

This issue deals with an undercover, rebel alliance agent named Seren Song sending out a distress becon for rendezvous with the alliance. Seren happens to be a childhood friend of Leia, so Leia enlists the help of Luke, Han, and Chewie to help bring her home. What should be an easy pick up becomes much more complicated when IG-88 blasts in to ruin the reunion. This is one of the few issues that has the whole gang hanging out on the Millenium Falcon with A New Hope feel to the proceedings. It was nice to have the interaction between the main staples of the Star Wars universe back again.

While the other artists who have been onboard for the series have all done a wonderful job, I prefer Carlos D’Anda’s art any day of the week. The man has a distinct style, impressive characterization, and I love the way he draws a space dogfight. The Falcon looks gorgeous and Han has a golden smirk. If every issue could have D’Anda on art and Gabe Eltaeb there with his bright color work, I’d be a happy man.

While this is a comparatively slow issue for Star Wars, the character moments function well, we get to see IG-88, and it introduces someone who I hope will be a new running character and who will help give more backstory with Leia. Any fan of the series so far will want to pick it up. If you love Star Wars, you should be reading this comic.

Verdict – Buy It

The Strain Volume 1 HC (TPB)
Written by David Lapham (based on the novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan)
Art by Mike Huddleston
Colors by Dan Jackson
Words by Clem Robins

CeeJay: Let’s be honest: I only picked up The Strain: Book One because of the upcoming FX television adaptation coming next week. At this point, I – like the world at large – am pretty over vampires. The only thing people seem to be able to do with them nowadays is let them do everyone and not even in a funny Joss Whedon or compellingly dramatic Ann Rice sort of way. So, imagine my surprise when Strain turned out to be a ridiculously enthralling piece of work. The story follows CDC task force head Ephraim Goodweather on the run from the law and trying to stop a vampire outbreak in New York City.

The series takes major steps to 1) reinvent vampire physiology and 2) make them scary again. And it does so pretty successfully. Lapham’s script captures one of the novel’s major themes, isolation, and keeps things moving at a refreshingly brisk pace. Vampires are usually shown in some sort of underground war and usually stay in the shadows, but Strain makes them a part of real world issues – one that involves the government and corporate skullduggery.

Huddleston’s interiors are dark and moody, using grays and cool blues and purples to give the world an ever-present feeling of endless night. Even the daytime scenes make excellent use of shadow to illustrate a sense of melancholy and dread. It’s an all around great title and makes me even more excited about the FX TV show; a definite must read.  

Verdict - Must Read

Nevin: For another review of the first volume of The Strain, be sure to check out my review from when the series first concluded. We here at The Weekly Crisis are looking forward to the premiere. Be sure to check it out this Sunday July 13 at 10 PM on FX.

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