Fairy Quest #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist/Letterer: Leonardo Olea
24 pages, $3.99
Fairy tales are big these days… And some people may be experiencing FTF (Fairy Tale Fatigue™) for good reason. Most fairytale based comics really don’t do much more than move the tales into the real world or make the situations more realistic. So after all that, I’m as shocked as you that I’m recommending everyone check out this book!
Really great comics always come down to the details… And every aspect of Fairy Quest #1 is finely detailed. The story might seem a little familiar, since all the fairytale characters live in central location that has the word “fable” in it. But in this story, they also all live under the totalitarian Grimm– and must stick strictly to the parameters of their stories… Or else risk having their minds erased of all free thought and will.
Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf have done the unthinkable and become friends… And I’m already feeling allusions to other great stories, like George Orwell’s 1984. Even though there’s an underground group that gathers to support each other in hating their shared existence– no one has ever dared to go “off script” like Red and Wolf do. The dialogue in this story is phenomenal. Paul Jenkins makes every character feel different and fleshed out with their first speech balloons. The relationship of Red and Wolf is deep and complex, something you don’t see pulled off in one issue of any comic very often.
Humberto Ramos‘ art fully complements Jenkins script. On the surface, the art has a great cartoon-like style, something that makes this comic feel like it could easily work as an animated story. But as I said before, it’s all in the little details. The panels right after Red and Wolf finish their tale for the day, we see Red running after the Hunters carrying Wolf. There are signs this action actually took place in her clothing: Her hood’s slightly shifted and her socks have fallen down. It is so easy for artists to draw characters just like they did in the last panel… So adding these minor details help tell the story– and help readers believe the action took place, not assume it did.
Leonardo Olea’s coloring is well executed, but most of all– his lettering work excels. He makes great choices for word/letter placement and the fonts he uses actually add to the storytelling. A scene at the beginning– where a mother is tucking in her son and starting a bedtime story– benefits greatly from Olea’s lettering. He expertly helps pull the reader in to the comic and start connecting with the characters.
Separately, all these accomplishments may seem like small things. But when you add them together, you get an experience that few comics are currently pulling off. – W.D. Prescott
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Colorist/Letterer: Alex Maleev
28 pages, $3.95
It’s been almost 2 years since the last issue of Scarlet, so I was a bit worried I’d be lost here. I remember the series’ first 2 issues fairly well, since they were (by a large margin) the best comics Brian Michael Bendis has written since becoming a “Big Time” Marvel employee. (I should further clarify: I liked the first issue more than the second, because somewhere inside– Scarlet #2 started reading like a “normal” Bendis comic.) The series began with a bang and ended– not so much with a whimper– but a death rattle. It really devolved into a disappointing experience.
So I wasn’t expecting much from Scarlet #6– but I was (at least) hoping the comic would help refresh my memory on what happened during those last admittedly awful issues. Unfortunately, the recap page at the beginning at the comic didn’t help. After two years between issues, you would think somebody would’ve called for a more info-heavy recap. Maybe they thought they didn’t need it. To my surprise, the more I got into the comic– the more it reminded me about past events. It’s almost as if Bendis wrote a comic that was new reader friendly. I know… Crazy, right?
I kinda enjoyed the issue because of the extra care given. The story moves forward and even introduces a new character, Isis– explaining her background in a few flashbacks. The flashbacks represent Alex Maleev’s best art in the comic… And I sincerely wish he’d put as much effort into the rest of it. There is also quite a good monologue delivered by Scarlet at the beginning. The dialogue throughout is not the overly-quippy sort that Bendis usually writes– and at times finds a very good rhythm.
After reading Scarlet #6 (plus the first few All New X-Men comics), I’m convinced Bendis leaving his various Avengers comics is the best thing that could have happened to his career. It feels as if he is trying again– actually putting some effort into his writing. It’s almost as if Bendis grew so damn complacent during his 7 year stint on Avengers, he really didn’t care anymore.
Scarlet #6 is better than the last two issues and helps right the series. If Bendis can keep himself from regressing into old habits, Scarlet could be a comic worth keeping up with. As long as he continues to put in the effort and keeps himself from burning out– things should be fine. But a quick look at the huge number of comics he’s writing in the coming months is a cause for worry… And all of his books could ultimately suffer for it.
For the first time in while, I am keeping an open mind concerning Bendis’ work. I’m ready for Scarlet to disappoint me again– but it would be a nice change if it didn’t. – Jose Melendez
Multiple Warheads #4
Creator: Brandon Graham
40 pages, $2.99
Multiple Warheads is the new series from writer/artist/genius Brandon Graham. This is also the last issue of four… And while I think each comic can be enjoyed for their own merits, I also think MW #4 is better enjoyed as part of a whole… So it’s worthwhile to look at the series in its entirety.
As much as I love this comic, it’s so unconventional it’s rather hard to explain what it’s about… And why you should immediately go out and buy it– now. The main characters are Sexica (a former organ-smuggler), her boyfriend Nikoli and his sentient car Lenin– which they use to journey across Russia in some unspecific far-future period. (Incidentally, Nikoli becomes a werewolf after Sexica grafts a wolf penis onto his body.) The other central character is Nura– an assassin who is on a parallel (but unrelated) journey to track down a decapitated clone that regrew its own head.
The plot (such as it is) doesn’t really matter to this story though, it’s the side-journeys and the adventures they have while on the trip that matter. Think of Multiple Warheads more as a sci-fi travelogue than anything else.
I’ve tried to think of how to best describe Graham’s writing style. Here’s the best I can do: Imagine if you put Terry Gilliam, Jack Kirby and Moebius in a room and fed them massive amounts of acid… Multiple Warheads is what might result. There are different sci-fi concepts flung into every few pages, combined with verbal and visual puns– plus witty wordplay dotted throughout… Making it a satisfying read.
The art on this series is flat-out gorgeous. Brandon Graham is, without doubt, the best artist in American Comics today. Almost every page is a visual feast going from spreads with dozens of panels to single image double-page spreads that are hyper-detailed. Once you’re done following the main characters around the page you can let your eyes wander to the little visual jokes and puns spread around the backgrounds of the pictures. The only book coming close in style would be Moebius’s Airtight Garage. In terms of artistic styles, Graham would be closest to Moebius– with some elements of Sergio Aragones, Adam Warren and Roger Dean thrown in.
The colours are done in a nice flat style which serves to enhance the art… Unlike a lot of the colouring on DC and Marvel comics– which can sometimes dominate or obscure the line work. Not only is Graham one of the best artists and colourists around, but he’s an excellent letterer also. In many places, his lettering is an integral part of the art.
If Monty Python created a comic book, Multiple Warheads might be the result. This is not a “standard” comic though– it couldn’t be more different from the other book I reviewed this week, Garth Ennis’ Red Team. If you like books with lots of plot and complicated story, then this might not be for you. But if you like incredibly well-drawn adventure and sci-fi insanity (with lots of humour), then you couldn’t find a better comic.
After giving Five Stars to Emily and the Strangers #1 last week, I didn’t think I’d be giving out another high rating so quickly… But a book as insanely good as this thoroughly deserves a similar accolade. It would be a major disservice to Brandon Graham and Image Comics to give it anything less. – Locusmortis
The Fearless Defenders #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorist: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $2.99
The first page of this comic is probably the only good page in the entire book. The only pages better than Page One are the Cover and an advertisement for Paul Cornell’s Wolverine title coming out next month. With DC doing just about everything wrong when it come to their female-centric comics, Marvel had a true chance to one-up their rivals with Fearless Defenders #1. But that didn’t happen.
If it’s possible to be worse than DC, yet not quite as useless and offensive as Avatar, I think Marvel accomplished it with this book.
Immediately after that first page (where we are introduced to Valkyrie) writer Cullen Bunn throws his Defenders into a bad comic book knockoff of Foxy Brown— courtesy of Misty “Dat Ass” Knight. (I’ll get to my nickname in a minute.) For most of the comic, the aforementioned movie knockoff is all we get. There isn’t really anything of import happening. If you’ve ever watched an Indiana Jones movie, this comic is a watered-down version of the mini adventures that start each Indy film.
When Valkyrie finally arrives in full force in the last 1/3 of the comic, she speaks like a really bad Ren Fair actor… Which is doubly bad/sad since she’s an Asgardian/Viking. I almost wish Fearless Defenders was meant to be a satire of a buddy cop movie, but even that would be me giving the creators too much credit. And of course, with all these women around, we gotta have that mandatory lesbian kiss.
They might as well have called this comic Marvel Girls in Prison. With a title like that, I bet they could’ve snagged Frank Cho for the art… Which would’ve been light years better than Will Sliney’s efforts in this issue. Remember how I gave Misty Knight that horrible nickname above? That’s because Sliney draws Knight primarily in poses accentuating a posterior Beyonce would be proud to possess. These are some of the most ridiculous poses an artist could draw outside a Swimsuit or Lingerie Special for Aspen or Zenescope. And you can all but tell Sliney is using photo references for these poses– because every other panel featuring any character looks sloppy and horrible. There is even a panel where Misty is running from a missile launcher and her body is moving in twenty directions. If you can’t draw action, you can’t draw superhero comics.
I would love to get a woman’s perspective on this comic at some point. That would be the only reason I could recommend any reader bothering with this book. This doubly upsets me, since next issue promises a Moonstar appearance– one of my favorite X-Men women. But after this debacle, I can only hope next issue’s computer files will mysteriously be deleted from every machine before they get to the printer– so Fearless Defenders #2 will never see the light of day.
– W.D. Prescott
Caligula Heart of Rome #3
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: German Nobile
Letterer: Jaymes Reed
22 pages, $3.99
So, my kid studied Rome for a couple of months this year. He’s in the second grade and I teach him myself. We touched on Nero, but never really dug into the seedy history of the Roman emperors.
I’ve seen the awful movie Caligula, which bears a much worse reputation than it deserves– being 97% boring and 2% confusing, leaving only 1% titillation. (If I recall correctly.) I knew this comic involved demons, and I thought that sounded like a unique premise, so I felt reasonably prepared to review it.
Circumstances being what they were, however, I sat in the van while Tim ran into the comic book store to pick it up. The staff tried to warn him off of it. “Does your wife know what she’s getting into?” Believe me, I really am not going to be bragging to people that I bought anything to read that touches on the reputation of Caligula! But, truly, what were the good comic book dealers so very upset about?
Sure, there’s a little blood in Caligula. There’s some demonic sex. There’s a kinky foot-washing scene and the hint of incest (or pseudo-incest). The truth is, this book is pretty well-done. The premise that a demon has begun a rise to power through the ranks of Roman politics is fascinating. The art is beautiful. The emotions are palpable and the writing flows. Not once did I break from my suspension of disbelief. This may not be “for me” but I didn’t want to stop reading.
Frankly, I was a little let down that it wasn’t more “out there” than all that. Still, looking at the comic as a whole, it seems evenly paced and I think I’d like to read the overall story and enjoy the arc. It might be weird, it might be gross… But Demons + Romans, people! What would you expect… A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?
Lock up your wives and lock up your kiddos, alright. I’m not likely to get the image of Laurentius boffing a fleshy waterbed out of my mind for a while, but don’t let that put you off. This is good writing and fabulous art. I want to see what happens next. – Red Tash