Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $2.99
In last week’s IMJ Capsule Reviews™ column, Ian let readers know some of the guidelines that we, as critics, consider when we review comics… The most important of which is to give our opinion on whether you should– or should not– buy the comic under review. So, should you buy Daredevil #25?
This comic is so good, I sat in front of a blank computer screen for the last hour struggling to coalesce the various strands of thought shouting how superb this comic book is. Daredevil #25 works on so many levels, it has rather short-circuited my critical faculties and turned me into a raving fanboy. I feel like I’m about 12-years-old again and realising why superhero comics are so fucking cool.
The credits page gives equal billing to Mark Waid and Chris Samnee as “Storytellers”. There’s no attempt to separate writing and art credits… And having read the story multiple times now, Daredevil #25 feels like two completely in-tune creators operating together on a higher level of quality.
The plot is so simple, it barely needs explanation: Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) is drawn into an ambush by a new and mysterious opponent named “Ikari” (who has almost the same power set as our hero) and they fight an issue-long battle across the rooftops of New York. This story follows the same mantra I gave to Waid’s other Marvel writing assignment, Indestructible Hulk. In my review of that series, I wrote that Waid knows how to “Keep it simple, write good dialogue and keep the action rolling.” He makes writing comics look so devilishly simple, you wonder why so many of the so-called top talents at the Big Two (Marvel & DC) can’t come anywhere near his level of consistent high quality. But therein lies the issue– no amount of flattery and PR from corporate flunky editors can substitute for talent and craft, both of which Waid has in abundance.
I can’t separate artist Chris Samnee from Waid when it comes to talking about the talent, craft and quality on display in Daredevil #25. I first encountered Samnee on a DC creator-owned series called The Mighty four or five years ago, and he’s progressed into a very skillful storyteller in an amazingly short time. When I look at his work, I can see elements of Jack Kirby there– not so much in the linework or posing, but in the camera angles and panel progressions. Your eyes move easily from panel to panel, creating that “movie in your mind” effect the King was so good at. There are also echoes of Will Eisner, Gene Colan (and yes, even Frank Miller), but Samnee puts his own indefinable stamp on Daredevil as well. He’s no clone– he’s a distillation of decades of the best of American comic book storytelling.
Waid and Samnee’s efforts are not let down by the colouring of Javier Rodriguez, who manages to illuminate the gloom of night-time New York in a very nuanced way. Joe Caramagna’s letters are just right for this story too– understated yet attractive and effective.
If I haven’t already managed to convince you just how good Daredevil #25 is, then I’m not sure I can. This is the current gold standard of superhero comic books– defining what a 5 star book should be. If you are buying another Marvel comic instead of Daredevil, then you’re missing out on something special. – Locusmortis
DC Universe Presents #19
Beowulf in Living History
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Javier Pina
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
20 pages, $2.99
There was much speculation with the publication of DC Universe Presents #19… Which character was going to return to the New 52? The comic’s solicitation stated, “In this final issue, what time displaced hero has arrived on our world– and is the destruction he brings the herald to a great disaster?” Many (including myself) thought this meant Booster Gold was finally returning after his disappearance at the end of JLI, potentially setting up an “event” story line. (Trinity War?) I had high hopes, since Booster is my favourite DC Universe character. So after reading the comic, you can imagine how disappointed I was to discover the “time displaced hero” was not Booster Gold… It was Beowulf. (I did not see that one coming.)
DC’s New 52 Beowulf is from a post-apocalyptic future where the world has reverted back to ancient ways. Even though Beowulf is the protagonist in one of the first heroic poems known to exist, I have never had any interest in the character. I’ll admit this futuristic rendition has me slightly intrigued, but I don’t really care what happens to him. Future Beowulf just makes me want to read a good story rooted in the early 8th Century.
Plot details are short: Professor Gwendolyn Pierce is attempting to date a globe-shaped artifact when two creatures emerge from the sphere. The rest of the story features Beowulf chasing down some creature called a Púca– while also trying to return back to the future.
With DC Universe #19 being the last issue in the series, I did assume the story would end with a cliff hanger… Leading fans to expect a new comic based on Beowulf in DC’s next wave of New 52 books. The phrase “The End?” appears in the last caption box, so I guess my thinking was correct. But if the writing is the same in any new Beowulf book, I will not buy it.
Here’s one of the first things my marketing professor told me about developing ads: Show, don’t tell. Writer Tony Bedard should have taken the same class. There were multiple occasions when his script was telling and showing. The worst example of this: A scene where the Púca tries to convince Beowulf to join forces and “…rule the age of heroes!” Beowulf responds by raising his sword and exclaiming, “I am no hero…” The first panel on the next page then shows Beowulf cleaving through the Púca while also finishing his sentence, “… and you are dead!” Wow! I never would’ve thought the Púca could survive being cut in half… So I’m really glad Bedard had Beowulf confirm the monster’s condition with some stale dialogue. (In case you couldn’t tell, that last bit was sarcasm.)
My next complaint may be me nitpicking, but it was still distracting. The Púca is a shape shifter– and in the last panel of a page, it makes itself appear as Superman. Turning the page, I’m hit with an advertisement for C2E2— where Superman is the featured character promoting the con. It took a second, but I quickly realized this was an ad– and not part of the actual story in DC Universe Presents #19. There had to be a better placement for the ad in this particular book. This mistake lies squarely on Editorial (and possibly the ad sellers as well– if they guaranteed C2E2 a certain page placement in every DC Comic.)
Javier Pina and Jason Wright’s art is little more than serviceable. I can’t find anything that makes the book look sloppy, but there isn’t anything to rave about either. Okay, here’s a few things: There’s some decent looking splash pages, and the art is consistent. The best art comes during a scene where Beowulf is explaining his past– these two pages are very well done. It’s fascinating to see other artists channel their inner J.H. Williams III by attempting to create new and unique layouts. (It’s difficult for anyone to live up to Williams’ artistic prowess, but I always appreciate it when any artist makes the effort.)
DC Universe Presents #19 was mediocre at best– with the terrible exposition and dialogue bringing the quality down. To add to my rating, the comic did make me a little more interested in the ancient world of the original Beowulf… But I’m not buying into DC’s futuristic rendition of the character– it’s the older time period I’m interested in. – Nick Furi
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Micro Series – Villains #1 (of 4)
Writer: Joshua Williams
Artist: Mike Henderson
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Shawn Lee
24 pages, $3.99
I’ve always been a big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics… I collected them as a kid and even purchased the roleplaying game. (I still have it.) But collecting the comics wasn’t always easy, as I constantly found myself defending the series to people who only knew about TMNT from watching the movies and TV shows.
Here’s how most of my Turtle conversations typically went:
“Are you reading a TMNT comic?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”
“Dude, those comics are for kids.”
“No, the comics are pretty serious.”
“Serious? It’s a comic book with talking turtles.”
“Yeah, but they are also trained ninja.”
“Well, when you say it like that, it sounds very mature!”
My debating skills were not the best back then, but I’m sticking to my basic point: The TMNT comic book series, despite starring anthropomorphic turtle ninjas, played it mostly straight back in the early days. I know Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the comic as a parody, but– for whatever reason– they maintained a serious tone for the book… And the rest is history. Unfortunately, the book became a victim of its own success– ending up commercialized in various movies and animated TV series… And those projects really were for kids. The Mutant Turtles fell off my radar fast after that… I wanted serious comics from the Turtles– not some cheesy lunch box heroes.
When I saw the old Turtles’ villain Krang featured in his own one-shot book, I found myself intrigued by a TMNT comic for the first time in years. I always liked Krang as a villain in the comic. Visually, he was interesting to look at– with his little meatball body riding around in various robot shells… And he was a mean little bastard to top it all off. My only concern for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villains #1 was: Would this comic feature old school, serious TMNT… Or ultra commercial, kid-stuff TMNT?
With that question firmly in my mind, I was a little nervous to see “Nickelodeon” listed at the bottom of the credits on the first page. Thankfully my fears where unfounded– as writer Joshua Williamson keeps the proceedings dark and gritty from the start. The story begins at a moment of crisis for Krang, as a bit of self-doubt creeps into his mind– causing him to reflect on his beginnings. Krang’s rise from spoiled royalty to ruthless leader (while trying to survive on the prison planet Morbus) was a fairly fun tale.
The story moves along at a good clip. Because of this, there are times when things feel a bit rushed. But remember, this is a one-off comic story (other villains will appear in subsequent issues), so there’s a lot of ground to cover in just 24 pages. The book is truly at its best when Krang pulls out his Rambo impression on Morbus… Even though there was also a huge potential for things to get really silly. Krang is, after all, a barely mobile meatball. But Joshua Williamson writes every scene in the book completely straight. When you see Krang fighting off a giant lizard twice his size with a sharpened stick– you’re rooting for Krang, not laughing at him.
The art by Mike Henderson fits the mood of the story in a sketchy, rough style– reminding me of the old Eastman/Laird days. Henderson draws Krang in a way that makes him look formidable… Even when he skitters around on his little legs, stabbing people with a stick.
How much you enjoy this book will depend on how deeply you know the TMNT. The Turtles are nowhere to be found in this comic… So unless you’re a fan of Krang, you might find yourself coming away a little disappointed. But for anyone who has been with TMNT from the beginning, seeing how this little sphere of evil finally gets his groove on (and metamorphosizes into the evil bastard we all know and love) will prove enjoyable. – Mark O’Brien
Hell on Earth War Part 5
Writer: Peter David
Artists: Leonard Kirk, Jay Leisten
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 Pages, $2.99
X-Factor should be way more popular than it actually is. My LCS doesn’t even buy it for the shelf– it only orders the comic for the 1 or 2 people who buy it from their pull lists. The owner told me that if he buys the comic for the shelf, copies sit there because no one will give it a chance. Maybe it’s because X-Factor is one of the last Marvel titles still sporting high numbering? Or maybe because it features lesser-known characters? Either way, my LCS didn’t have a copy of X-Factor #254, so I bought it digitally.
Here’s something I didn’t know about digital: There are no advertisements interrupting the narrative flow. (This alone could be a good enough reason for many fans to pay the same price for digital as they do for the printed versions of comics.) No ads– like all creator owned titles– is one of the major benefits of digital books… You know, if you don’t mind reading your comics on a screen.
The last time I checked out X-Factor, Guido (Strong Guy) had come back from the dead and didn’t have soul. Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) had also just “died” and was in a different timeline trying to find his way back to his body. Rahne Sinclair (Werewolf) decided she needed to go retrieve her son. X-Factor #254 details the resulting repercussions of all of those plot threads coming together.
I’ve always enjoyed X-Factor and Issue #254 is no different. I like that it’s basically one giant Soap Opera. I used to watch some Soaps (not something I would normally casually admit, but we’re all about the honesty here at IMJ) and the way people go from loving each other to hating and backstabbing the same people all over again is a huge attraction… Once you watch one episode, you’re hooked. X-Factor #254 may not have that much back and forth in this particular issue, but you are seeing the consequences of working/living within a very dysfunctional group… And like the Soaps, once you read one X-Factor comic– you want to keep reading.
The conflict within the team (as they try to determine the best course of action for the greater good) results in a big fight. There’s a huge difference between this altercation and the ones that occur in such “event” series as AvX or Marvel’s Civil War (which are also sagas where “heroes” fight each other). The dust-up within X-Factor is much more about interpersonal conflicts that have been building over time– rather than sales gimmicks, or some sort of incongruous character ideals created out of thin air and suddenly force-fed to fans to service some crossover event plot… And long-time writer Peter David is great at laying the proper ground work for the struggles between the X-Factor members.
The art by Leonard Kirk and Jay Leisten is very clean (even if their work does suffer a bit when dealing with the character faces in smaller panel long distance shots.) In any case, the two go to great lengths not to over complicate the story. Matt Milla’s colours suit the artists’ styles well. The way Kirk lays out the current plot also reminds me of some 90s X-Factor comics. This is nowhere as terrible as it sounds– it’s actually a compliment. If the focus is on two characters, the backgrounds are very simple… And when Shatterstar teleports, they arrive in a portal in the shape of an “X”– that’s classic!
X-Factor #254 is as good as it is because the creators are all on the same page. (Pun intended.) They create simple, yet engaging stories. They’re also not attempting to make every plot so complicated that you need to reread previous issues before the next comic comes out. Don’t take that as my thinking they talk down to their audience– these creators tell good, fun tales. In truth, the twice-a-month shipping schedule is the only reason I don’t currently buy this book. (And as long as Marvel insists on pumping them out like this, I will continue to not buy it.) However, if you like a bi-weekly schedule and want a great X-book– then you’ve found what you’re looking for in X-Factor. – Nick Furi
He-Man and the Masters
of the Universe #1
Writer: Keith Giffen
Artist: Pop Mahn
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Colorist: Kathryn Layno
20 pages, $2.99
I HAVE THE POWER!!!
Right, now that I’ve got that outbreak of childish nostalgia out of the way, is this comic any good? Ah, well, um, yeah, er…. I’ll get back to you about that later, Ok?
When I was a kid, I watched He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on TV and I’m guessing many of you in your 30s (or thereabouts) would have done so as well. Even though it wasn’t very good, I still have some residual affection for the show– which is why I went into this comic enthusiastically hoping to rekindle some of those old memories. Unfortunately, the further I got into the story– the more those positive feelings progressively waned… Until they were thoroughly drained.
Beyond the names of the characters, very little in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 was as I remembered it. It wasn’t just the characters appearances that were different… I got the feeling I was missing some knowledge of previous events too. It was if the writer expected me to know what had happened to these characters before, and wasn’t about to bother to clue me in. After I’d finished reading the comic, I checked online– and apparently there was a previous miniseries based on a 2002 animation TV series, which was a re-imagining of the original cartoon.
That probably pissed me off more than anything. Not only do I fucking hate re-imaginings but if you’re going to do it, please fucking let me know what the hell is going on. All the writer (or the editor) had to do was put up an introduction page saying “in the previous He-Man miniseries blah blah blah such-and-such happened etc, etc”, which would at least have given me an idea of what was going on and why things were different from how I remembered them.
Now, you might argue I should have been aware of all this before getting He-Man #1, but let me ask you a question: Who is the most likely market for this comic, the viewers of the 2002 cartoon or the thirtysomethings who originally watched the show in the 80s? (That’s more of a rhetorical question, since a quick look inside virtually any comic shop will give you the average median age of most current comic book fans.)
Now let’s get back to whether this comic is any good. If I divest myself of the nostalgic expectations I had, it’s an “OK” read. It’s nothing special but it’s not terrible either. Keith Giffen delivers a serviceable script which gets the story from points A to B, throwing in a twist ending. It’s all pretty routine stuff and nowhere near as imaginative as I’ve come to expect from him. Pop Mahn’s art has changed a LOT since his days drawing Peter David’s Spy Boy for Dark Horse. His current style reminds me of how Top Cow comics looked circa 2002– generic and lacking in personality. In spite of that criticism, Mahn does tell the story well enough– there are no real flaws in the actual storytelling.
Fundamentally these reviews are about whether we connected with a comic and liked it, not whether we think it will be successful. To that end, I can unequivocally tell you I won’t be back for the second issue of He-Man. The comic didn’t disgust me or fill me with rage, but it also didn’t cause me to jump for joy like a giddy schoolboy. If you liked He-Man’s 2002 re-imagining, then you might (stress on the word “might”) like this… But if you’re a 30+ fan with the brain of a 10-year-old, then you probably won’t. – Locusmortis
Witchblade Day of the Outlaws #1 (One Shot)
Writer: Josha Hale Fialkov
Artists: Nelson Blake II, Dave McGaig
Letterer: Troy Peteri
28 pages, $3.99
Witchblade was one of those comics that came out back in the days when I had to stop collecting during my time in the Army. So the title was never on my radar when I when began reading comics again… Even watching the short-lived TV series did nothing to spark my interest in picking up the book. So when I was looking for a few good comics to review this week, I saw this one-shot book out there and thought “What the Hell… Maybe it’s time I finally gave Witchblade a chance.”
All I can say is, I really, really hope this isn’t an example of what Witchblade is truly about, because this could be one of the worst comics I’ve read in years. This book was so bad, it actually made me angry… And I don’t get angry very often about anything, especially comic books.
Ok, it will be impossible for me to discuss my issues with this Witchblade one shot without going into detail about the plot. So if you are really set on reading this book, stop reading now— as I am about to go heavily into spoiler territory.
I’m not really sure what kind of story Joshua Hale Fialkov was aiming for here. On the surface, it appears to be about hatred and racism clouding the judgment of common people in the face of actual evil. I’m really just guessing, because none of the characters in the story do or say anything racist. The narrative also suffers because no one in this tale is the least bit likeable.
The main protagonist is Enola– a Witchblade bearer who also happens to be the Sheriff of a small town in the old West. You don’t learn anything about her during the course of the comic– other than she’s a complete asshole. (There’s no other way to phrase that last comment, she simply isn’t a very pleasant person.) Now, I don’t require my protagonists to play nice. For all I care, they can be downright evil… But you must (at the very least) give me a good reason for their behavior. Sheriff Enola goes from being the town’s trusted protector to a mass murderer– simply because she gets fired from her job. I know there has to be more to the story (especially when considering the townspeople and their negative attitudes towards Enola) but we never get to see any of it… So her actions at the end of the comic seem petty, despicable and totally unjustified.
Let me just cover the plot real quick…
Enola is taking a bath when she is attacked by a local thug. Being naked (calm down, fanboys), she can’t get to any of her normal weapons– so she’s forced to use her Witchblade. Unfortunately for Enola, the town priest shows up and gets freaked out by the whole bio-mechanical blades poking out of the body thing. The priest tells the other townsfolk about what he saw and they all decide that Enola’s services as sheriff are no longer required.
Enola then calls them all a bunch of fucking dickheads and rides off into the sunset. Shortly after she leaves, a group of super-evil villains show up, with plans to do some rapin’ and pillaging. The priest then runs away to find Enola, and she rushes back to save the town.
Except she doesn’t save the town…
And that’s where my real problem with this story lies. At the end of Fialkov’s tale, Enola decides the town is full of hateful, evil people– and proceeds to ride off into the night… Leaving most of the evildoers to continue on with what they were doing. (The aforementioned raping is one of the main items on their agenda, it would appear.)
I was pissed at the ending because I never felt the townspeople deserved the fate Enola let befall them. Sure they ran her out, but they did have a pretty good reason– the Witchblade! When the priest saw her using it, what exactly was his reaction supposed to be? When confronted, Enola doesn’t attempt to explain anything– she just tries to lie and say it never happened. The townies didn’t try to kill her or hurt her. Hell, they didn’t even offer much of a fuss when she stole a horse as she left. So she leaves the entire town to be pillaged because she was fired? Enola was Sheriff for years– and there wasn’t even one person in the whole place she thought worth saving?
This is one of those rare comics that I ended up hating– not because the writing or art was bad, but the ending was so terrible it ruined the entire experience for me. – Mark O’Brien
Cyber Force #4
Writer: Marc Silvestri
Artists: Khoi Pham, Sal Regla
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Troy Peteri
20 pages, FREE
Were you as shocked as I was to discover Cyber Force #4 was free? I must have been living under a rock… Since I didn’t know the newly re-launched Top Cow comic exists courtesy of Kickstarter. The big difference between this project and all similar Kickstarter programs? Creator Marc Silvestri pledged if the fund-raising goal was met, Top Cow would give away the series’ first 5 issues for free– and not just to people who funded the project, but everyone! I’m really interested in reading all these rebranded, refocused Image “originals”– and offering Cyber Force for free is a great way for me to check out the book with no downside to my wallet.
Unfortunately, despite costing me nothing (but my time to read it)– I still have two major issues with Cyber Force #4. And there’s one page— occurring in a diner– which causes all my problems. Here’s the first interchange on the page:
Random Man #1: “Well?”
Random Man #2: “Are you kidding? Dude, if dick tasted like this bacon, I’d be gay tomorrow!”
This joke is as tasteless as it is tactless. I know it’s meant to be funny– and I often think people overreact to crude statements made in jest, but 1) the shock value is not needed, and 2) it is a terrible transition into a new scene. To be clear: I am a supporter of LGBT rights… And feel fortunate to live in a country (Canada) where I have the option to marry whoever I want– male or female. The thing is… This isn’t the case in most of the USA, where a majority of this comic’s readers are likely to reside. Maybe I am reading too much into this unfortunate exchange between two goofy comic book characters, but it did strike a negative chord deep in my brain.
The next thing to wail away on is this little ditty– that also appeared on the same page:
While the other exchange was supposedly intended (I guess) as a joke, this dialog is nothing but overly extreme and 100% misogynistic. I understand the man’s words are meant to show how vile he is, but the cumulative effect is definitely too much. There’s nothing humorous about derogatory sexual preference “jokes” and I absolutely HATE when the threat of rape is casually tossed around.
It took me a bit to realize the waitress is NOT speaking to an actual uniformed officer– but the damage to the book was already done. The offensive “cop” is using a device called a “blinder,” disguising his true appearance from normal folk. So while it isn’t actually a real policeman saying these things, the word choices are still shockingly offensive– and do nothing to propel the story or add any real dramatic effect. Could Silvestri not think of better way to prove this guy is a dick, other than threatening an innocent person with mass killings and rape? (It turns out the cop is really the villainous Major Dolorossa, who has been sent to capture/kill the group of Stryker, Stryker’s daughter, Ripclaw and Ares.)
So yeah, all of my problems with Cyber Force #4 exist on one page. If it wasn’t for this unfortunate series of panels, I’d characterize the comic as damn awesome… As there are a ton of other interesting things happening in the book. I really enjoyed the other plot elements and inventive tech Silvestri takes advantage of– blinders, cybernetics, some sort of massive conspiracy manipulating specific events. All in all, the book seems to possess lots of potential.
I’m hoping the offensive dialogue is just an extremely poor choice of words from Silvestri– and a one-off occurrence. Given that hope, I’m willing to give the book another chance. (Primarily because the Major doesn’t follow-through on his threats… If he had, I’d have zero interest in Cyber Force– free or not– despite my praise above.) Because the next book and previous 3 issues are free as well, I will go back and see if the Major’s anti-gay and misogynistic sentiments are reoccurring trends. If they are… I’m out.
I have mixed feelings for Cyber Force #4, making it hard to rate. On one hand, it has cool concepts, and there are many interweaving plot threads creating a dynamic story. And even though I feel as if I’m beating a dead horse here– I think the negatives completely overshadow the positives. It disappoints me to think Cyber Force #4 could have been great if it wasn’t for this one page. If only I hadn’t read that page… – Nick Furi