IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 2.6.13!


Hit Girl #5

Hit-Girl #5
Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: John Romita Jr, Tom Palmer
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
25 pages, $4.99

Recently, a fellow parent (and an author of novels about girls) complained to me, “There aren’t enough portrayals of young women in comics that I can share with my daughters.” I remember this conversation specifically because I felt a little silly when I realized I hadn’t given much thought to the over-sexualization of women in comics while writing my latest comic script.

To be honest, my characters’ genders aren’t political, I suppose, because for me gender is just a part of life. I am totally fine being a rocking babe or a frumpy housewife, whatever the day may call for, but it doesn’t define me, and thusly, gender is just one of many characteristics the reader is presented with in my work. It is what it is. This is how writers operate: We write our emotional truth into everything by default. Only when we set out to do something obviously different (down is up, right is left) do we achieve a certain falsehood in our fiction that raises a red flag for the reader. When done well, the reader’s mind says “Ah, satire!”  When done poorly… Well, results vary widely.

Why so much me-me-me writing talk at the beginning of this review? Loads of reasons: 1) Hit-Girl might not be an over-sexualization of women, but my friend still isn’t going to share this series with his daughters, and 2) Hit-Girl doesn’t have that ring of truth mentioned in the first paragraph, but neither does it strike me as satirical.

Frankly, I don’t know what the fudge they’re going for in this book.

Hit-Girl is a young girl with a blood lust and moral compass in need of a little fine-tuning. Okay, sure… Except she doesn’t speak like a child and she doesn’t reason like a child. She sounds more like a childish man in his 20s, and thusly Hit-Girl becomes cartoonish, like a puppet. I don’t want to read about a little puppet for some writer’s id. I want this to be good. Hit-Girl is a child, and doesn’t act like one, so my “satire” button gets pressed, but then so many more elements get thrown into the story that I start going “MAD Magazine, you are not,” or “Okay, that part’s almost touching,” before wanting to choke myself with a spoon on the characterization of her ridiculously stupid mother. Is Hit-Girl #5 a fairy tale? A Muppet Show? A cheeky spoof on Asian stereotypes that manages to kick Christian Bale in the shins a couple of times?

I am told on the back cover this book is a 9/10 stars for its writing and illustration. The art is indeed lovely. I quite enjoy the aesthetic, and if the tone of the damned thing would stay consistent then I have no qualms enjoying a little girl on a murderous tear. I love that kind of thing. This story’s just not that. It’s about a man operating a puppet character– and by the end of the book it’s just sigh-worthy. There is no math I know of that can weigh the art highly enough to compensate for that. Still, I feel that comics are most obviously a visual medium, so kudos for that, and I won’t totally write the story off. It has potential, I’m just not crazy about how it’s handled… Feels careless to me.

I was surprised to find an editorial in the back of the comic, written by the creator, himself. He’s very busy making X-Men movies, and talks about television appearances– as well as his desire to get a haircut. I’m not saying he phoned in Hit-Girl, but if you were that busy, what would you do?

Beautiful, graphic violence. Will not be sharing this one with the kiddos.
– Red Tash

Capsule Reviews 2.5 Star Rating

Earth 2 #9Earth 2 #9
The Tower of Fate: Prologue –
The Man Who Was Scared
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott
Colorists: Pete Pantazis, Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
20 pages, $2.99

There is one reason I wanted to read this issue: Doctor Fate. From what I gathered, this is the start of a storyline that leads to Doctor Fate becoming an active hero in DC Comics Earth 2. So, when I see Khalid (the current chosen wearer of the Helm of Nabu) refusing to call upon the powers of Doctor Fate– I am a little miffed.

Please note that’s my only real complaint with this comic book.

I’ve heard this was a good series, but I stayed away because I already had lots of DC titles on my pull list… And I think we can all agree only a few of the “First Wave” DC New 52 books are worth reading anymore. So as I begin reading the 9th Issue of Earth 2, imagine my pleasant surprise when I see how many things are done right. I don’t know anything about what’s going on in the book or with the character– but the art, dialogue and atmospheric writing pull me into the story on Page One. Finally! Somebody at DC actually seems to care about new readers after a first issue is released!

And while the story is fairly basic and short, it still tells me more than most DC comics– since it doesn’t try to hide it’s a simple story. Everything is lean and clean– from the script to the lettering.

I did want a little more from the book… But considering all of DC’s Earth 1 comics can’t even get the simple things right– this issue is a step above most of the other mangy New 52 dogs. – W.D. Prescott

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Dia Del Los Muertos #1Dia De Los Muertos #1
Writers: Alex Link, Christopher E. Long, Dirk Manning
Artists: Riley Rossmo, Jean-Paul Csuka
Colorists: Nick Johnson, Riley Rossmo, Megan Wilson
Letterer: Kelly Tindall
36 pages, $4.99

“From October 31st to November 2nd is when the veil between the spirit world and our world is at its thinnest, and it’s easier for the dead to reach into this realm.”

Dia De Los Muertos #1 consists of three shorts revolving around the Mexican Holiday The Day of the Dead. All three stories feature the art of Riley Rossmo and, in the simplest of terms, are stories where the living encounter the ghosts of the dead. There are two reasons I chose to review this comic: 1) I have become quite the fan of Rossmo’s art style since Green Wake. (I do sorely miss the book and was hoping this would help me get over missing GW a bit), and 2) As I was putting together last week’s Rate the Covers!™ post, the cover for Dia De Los Muertos #1 made me want to read the comic. That’s the sole purpose of a comic book cover and it worked for me.

All of the stories have interesting (though not entirely original) concepts. The first, Dead, But Dreaming, was my least favorite and it made me wonder if I’d made a mistake picking up the book. It is very off-putting– not because of the content, but because of the manner in which it is told.

Dead, But Dreaming is about a young woman whose mother died while giving birth to her. For the last couple of years, she’s been disappearing on her birthday (which also happens to be Halloween.) Her grandmother says the young woman is crossing over into the Deadlands because her mother is calling to her. Again, it’s an interesting concept– but the storytelling is often far too vague. This lack of clarity brings a disappointing ending. There is absolutely no catharsis and I leave the narrative wondering what the last page means. If this is one of those endings that’s supposed to be open to interpretation, then beginning the issue with this tale does the book no favors. I’ve read enough comics to know when I don’t quite understand a story– and it’s usually not because I lack the ability to comprehend it… It’s just bad storytelling.

The second story, Reflections, is a lot more straightforward. A man wakes up in a hospital after being attacked in his home by some sort of “paranormal activity.” He then hires a “Paranormal Intuitive Life Coach” whose job is to “facilitate the harmonious coexistence of the living and the not so living.” There is a bit of a twist at the end (which I won’t ruin here), but it is a much more satisfying story than the first. Jean-Paul Csuka shared art duties with Rossmo here, and the mix of the two styles works well. Rossmo’s use of dark pastel coloring also does a great job of conveying mood and emotion from panel-to-panel.

The final short, Te Vas Angel Mio (You’re My Angel), is my favorite– by far. This story concerns lost love, loneliness and the act of moving on. It is quite emotional, very personal and real. It’s funny… The story I liked the best is also the one I don’t want to detail too much. I think it’s one of those tales better read without knowing very much about it. If I would compare Te Vas Angel Mio to anything– it would probably be De: Tales by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. It works on the same intimate level. I feel more creativity went into Te Vas Angel Mio than the other two stories– which is also why I thought it was easily the best story in the book.

Riley Rossmo varies his style a bit from story to story. The coloring compliments the art nicely and helps give each vignette a feeling of uniqueness and separatism.

If it wasn’t for the stumble at the beginning, Dia De Los Muertos #1 would be a remarkable first issue. It ended in the best possible way, which is quite important… And makes me hopeful there will be more of the same quality in future issues. This is also the type of book that could help get someone new interested in comics. With DC’s Vertigo imprint slowly going the way of the Dodo, I think it will be up to Image Comics to keep publishing not-so-traditional quality comics in an effort to keep the industry alive and vibrant. – Jose Melendez

Capsule Reviews 4 Star Rating

Garth Ennis' Red Team #1Garth Ennis Red Team #1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Craig Cermak
Colourist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Rob Steen
22 pages, $3.99

This is a new series from Dynamite Comics with the author’s name in the title… I guess so you won’t mix it up with all the other Red Team comics flooding the market. That snarky observation aside, it’s a testament to Garth Ennis’ selling power that he’s able to get his name up in lights– and he delivers a solid entertaining true crime story with Red Team #1.

If you like Ennis’ more serious Punisher stories, then I think you’ll probably appreciate this comic. This should also be very familiar ground for those who enjoy TV police procedurals. It is probably closest to The Shield in tone, but there are elements grabbed from cop shows as diverse as Homicide, Law and Order, NYPD Blue (and more.) Because the genre is so familiar, Ennis doesn’t need a lot of set-up and exposition– he just believes readers will slip right into the format.

Ennis can sometimes be a perplexing writer. He can deliver quality with earnest stories like his Battlefields series, but he can also deliver exploitative garbage like Crossed. Thankfully, Ennis plays Red Team straight down the line and brings the quality storytelling he’s so capable of when he puts his mind to it. There are no comedic decapitations or any other such nonsense… And when murders do occur– there are no explosions of gore. They just happen… And when they’re done, it’s on to the next scene.

The book starts off with the main character, Detective Eddie Mellinger, sitting in a dimly lit room speaking to an unseen interviewer. We can’t be sure exactly who Eddie’s talking to but he admits to conspiring with his Red Team comrades to murder a notorious drug dealer. How the conspiracy developed is told through a series of flashbacks– interspersed with Mellinger talking to the unseen interviewer. It’s a fairly standard storytelling device, reminiscent in some ways to how the old Columbo television series used to describe the crimes committed… Mixed with how Tony Soprano used to talk to his psychiatrist.

This is a plot heavy book. Consequently, it’s very light on characterisation. Even Eddie is barely fleshed out, while the other three Red Team members are cyphers. Presumably we’ll get to know more about all of them in future issues, but I can’t admit to sympathising or empathising with any of the characters in this first comic.

Craig Cermak’s art is solid and he tells the story clearly. This isn’t the type of book that calls for flashy layouts or eye-popping visuals… But I’d still like to see a bit more energy in the art and perhaps a little bit more detail in the backgrounds. I also think Cermak may be using photo-reference a bit too closely for some of the characters. The police chief looks a lot like the Roger Sterling character from Mad Men and one of the minor detective characters resembles a bald, bearded Walter White from Breaking Bad. These are not major criticisms though– and certainly not deal breakers… Just little things that will hopefully improve over time.

Adriano Lucas’ colours play an important role throughout the story, as he uses different palettes to differentiate the interview scenes (which use a lot of dark bluish-green tones) with the flashbacks (which feature more natural colours.) Overall, the colouring was a little too drab in places, making some of the scenes lack depth… But the muted colour work didn’t distract from the story– so perhaps I’m being a bit too picky.

This isn’t a comic you’ll walk away from and think, “Holy Crap! That was awesome!” But you might say, “That was good enough for me to come back next month to see what happens next.” That’s certainly how I felt. If this had been a $2.99 book, I might have given it an extra half-star… Since the $3.99 cover price is a bit much for what you get here.

I have a feeling this series will do better when released as a Trade. – Locusmortis


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8 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 2.6.13!

  1. Morlock50 says:

    Red Tash-
    Very insightful commentary on why Hit-Girl doesn’t work as a character. Miller doesn’t have a lot of fans here on this site (that includes me as well), but I don’t remember anybody making that specific point; that Hit Girl is a girl who doesn’t talk or act like a girl and yet is supposed to be a “realistic” character. The major theme of the Kick Ass series is that it’s “superheroes in the real world”, but Miller abandons that when it suits him.

    • Red Tash says:

      If it were presented to me as Hello Kitty is brought up as a psychopath, then I could accept that. I could enjoy that. I was let down. It had a lot of promise, just failed to deliver.

  2. J. says:

    Hey, Red. Great review.

    You’ll learn that Mark Millar is a hack and phones in EVERYTHING he writes if you check out some of his other comics. All the problems you have with his writing are the same problems I have with all of his other books. Be glad Millar didn’t decide to throw in a sexual assault for shock value in this issue. He does that more often than any other writer working in mainstream comics.

    The reason Hit-Girl sounds like a childish man is because that is pretty much what Mark Millar is.

    • Red Tash says:

      It’s baffling. I actually decided to read up a bit more on Millar after I read this comic and the bizarre editorial at the end. Once I started to sense there was a “Cult of Millar” out there that must actually care about said haircuts, then I wanted to know more. The very first article I found was about his rape-as-plot-device thing.

      Look, I have certain storytelling “things,” too. I don’t hold it against someone if he/she’s obsessed with something like that. After reading Hit-Girl, though, I don’t even want to know how he portrays it. There’s no trust there.

  3. ed2962 says:

    Earth 2…I’m still having fun with this comic.

    Red Team seems interesting.

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