IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

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Green Arrow #25Green Arrow #25
The Prodigal
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino, Denys Cowan
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo,
Matt Hollingsworth

Letterer: Rob Leigh
28 Pages, $3.99

Long time no see, well-written comic! Where have you been all this time?

Green Arrow #25 is one of the numerous November comics sacrificed on the altar of Batman’s Zero Year-– DC’s latest “event”… Where the publisher keeps forcing its comics to integrate foreign plots from other titles in an attempt to coerce more money from its customers. It’s just another unnatural, wrong-headed stunt– which mostly breeds awful and despicable stories for the duration of the dedicated “crossover” month.

Despite all odds and everything it had going against it, Green Arrow #25 is quite the wonder. And let me be clear: Turning a dumb marketing gimmick into a masterfully kinetic and fun read like GA #25 is definitive testimony to Jeff Lemire’s talent. His writing is nothing short of amazing, thanks to an experienced mastery rarely seen in current comics. Showing a lot of respect and care for continuity, Lemire provides a smart and astute rendition of Oliver Queen’s first night as the green vigilante. Nothing seems convoluted or stupid, which is no small feat!

Scripting a story where almost all DC’s heroes don their respective cowls for the very first time (during the same night!) could quickly have gotten complicated and forgetful of continuity. But Lemire doesn’t stop at recounting Green Arrow’s first adventure– he also manages to wittily reinvent forsaken characters such as Killer Moth! I really didn’t see that coming, and it was quite a nice surprise to see this old villain getting some action again. The really awesome thing about his reintroduction– Lemire succeeds in depicting Moth as a valid threat (which he normally isn’t), while preserving the essential core of the character. By the end, Killer Moth not being as lame as he used to be doesn’t prevent him from being the butt of the joke. This is a wonderful example of an imaginative and smart reinvention.

As a side-note, I am slightly annoyed with the way this title is taking advantage of Arrow’s TV popularity. DC Executives (I suspect they’re the ones responsible for this) decided to integrate specific characters from the show (Moira Queen, Diggle) into the funny book. This is unnecessary and might force plotlines already resolved on the TV program back into the comic. I’m not certain any kind of good synergy can be found from this (doesn’t DC already publish an Arrow comic?) and I would hate to read GA and feel like I “watched” the story already! But from what I’ve seen so far, it would be fair to guess Lemire will not allow this– and will continue to create ways to turn things around in new and surprising ways.

The art by Andrea Sorrentino is simply stunning. Everything is perfect, with just the right amount of an indie vibe– from the redesign of Killer Moth to the very cool-looking splash pages. Batman’s first appearance in the book is awe-aspiring and eerily beautiful. It makes me feel like I’m looking at the fearful Dark Knight for the first time. Bruce is at his most gripping here– a truly scary beast of the night, able to freeze the cowardly and superstitious criminals with a terrifying glance. Sorrentino’s dashing and bold layouts are an appreciated cherry on this tasty cake!

The Lemire/Sorrentino team is an effective, smart and imaginative one. I can’t wait to see where these two are going to take Oliver next… Assuming DC’s Co-Publisher Dan Didio doesn’t gut the creative team after all this positive press. – Simon J. O’Connor

4.5 Star Rating

Suicide Risk #7Suicide Risk #7
Nightmare Scenario Part 2 of 4
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Elena Casagrande
Colorist: Andrew Elder
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
22 pages, $3.99

When I began collecting comics, Mike Carey was one of the first creators I took note of. He was in the early phases of his X-Men Legacy run then– which was probably one of the last times I truly enjoyed an X-Men book. Since those days, I’ve been slowly catching up on Carey’s amazing Unwritten comic via trade paperback. Like X-Men Legacy, Carey’s current Vertigo series is a massive ensemble story– and an outstanding one at that. Stories with huge casts are extremely difficult to pull off, with all the characters clamoring for their own unique personalities… But Carey excels at these types of comics– exceeding my expectations once again with Suicide Risk.

Carey injects a tremendous amount of life into Suicide Risk #7. The majority of my pleasure comes from the way his characters interact with each other– all displaying different temperaments, allegiances and perceptions. As a new reader, I could instantly feel the difference between Suicide Risk and other comics with large casts. There’s a helpful familiarity here too… And even though it isn’t Carey’s most original idea, he makes it all extremely compelling.

I was amazed how much story takes place between the 22 pages of Suicide Risk #7: There are defining character moments cleverly mixed in with brisk plot development. This pamphlet doesn’t hold anything back– and isn’t afraid to keep the story moving. None of the dreaded decompression on display here! Plenty happens, lots of questions are raised and there is a good cliff hanger– questioning the actions/intentions of the main character.

I enjoyed Elena Casagrande’s art too. It’s very clean, simple and breathtaking. There is only a single two page sequence in the entire comic– but it’s not one of those nasty double-page splashes. (Remember artists, it’s about quality– not what you can sell to a comic art dealer for more money.) The colours from Andrew Elder are dark in spots, but also accurately represent the locations and dayparts called for in the script. (I found most of the pages to be bright and lively.) The difference between this color work and the work found in many mainstream comics? Elder isn’t overtly trying to be grim and gritty just because that’s the trend in current comics. If a scene calls for a darker hue, then Elder supplies one. If a scene calls for bright, we get bright. How refreshing to see a colourist free from oppressive editorial mandates– using his/her colors as tools to accentuate and propel the story’s purpose.

Reading Suicide Risk #7 made me realize I should’ve been paying a lot more attention to Mike Carey the last few years. His comic book sense is, arguably, one of the best in the industry. Thankfully, he also seems to deliberately surround himself with amazing talent– giving his stories an “unfair” advantage when compared to most comic crap. But I’m not complaining– Suicide Risk has instantly become one of my new favourites! – Nick Furi

4 Star Rating

Amazing X-Men #1Amazing X-Men #1
The Quest for Nightcrawler – Part 1 of 5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
23-26 pages, $3.99

Marvel’s been hyping Amazing X-Men #1 as Nightcrawler’s return from the grave– which is fine by me. You’d think I’d be head over heels in love with this new book: Kurt Wagner is one of my favorite X-Men, I’m a huge fan of Ed McGuinness’ art and I’ve enjoyed reading most of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men series.

So did I fall in love? Yes and no.

Since I thought this comic was supposed to focus on Nightcrawler’s comeback, imagine how shocked I was to find the story’s most interesting parts focused on Wolverine and his X-Students– characters Aaron has written for two years. And even though I wanted more Nightcrawler, I did find it interesting to see Firestar brought into the mix. She’s an obscure member of the X-Family, so I’m expecting her inclusion here to give her a chance to develop and get more exposure. (Hopefully she won’t be sharing too many of her Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends jokes with Iceman.)

Here’s my biggest concern with the comic: Where does it go after this five-part (sometimes Nightcrawler centric) story arc? Will it become just another X-Men monthly? If so, we’ve already got more X-Men comics than I care count. And if the series’ sole purpose is to reclaim Nightcrawler, then shouldn’t this book be labeled a mini-series? (Your guess is as good as mine.) Maybe it really is a limited series and Marvel wants to see if enough Zombies will buy into the title– making it easy to turn the comic into a continuing series.

Besides all these questions, the decompression in this story is ridiculous. The first half of Issue #1 details Nightcrawler’s adventures in the other world. While important, these scenes drag. Why couldn’t Marvel just print one giant-sized one-shot telling this story– instead of jerking us around for 5 issues at $4.00 a pop?

That’s a rhetorical question… We all know the days of economical one-shots are mostly dead and buried– which is exactly the fate that should befall these decompressed cash grabs. Adding further insult, the comic’s first page contains recycled Nightcrawler art (from previous stories) with some new dialogue– and the next two pages are little more than a double-page splash “filled” with creator credits and one dialogue box. I’m not saying all this is entirely Jason Aaron’s fault. For all I know, Marvel told the writer to stretch the story out for a future Trade Paperback… Or maybe Aaron really does need all 5 issues to tell the story? If so, I’m nowhere near convinced.

The one silver lining in this decompressed mess? Ed McGuinness’ art. It’s always a treat to look at, no matter what he draws. His style hits me as the perfect balance of cartoony realism. It also helps that Dexter Vines (on inks) and Marte Gracia (on colors) both do a great job enhancing Ed’s pencils– making his art even more dynamic.

Fun character interactions in the latter half of the comic, some amazing art, plus Nightcrawler coming back… Overall, not a bad comic– I just wish the story were severely tightened. If you love McGuinness’ art, Nightcrawler and enjoy Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, I’d give this book a shot… At least for the first 5 issues.
– Aaron Evans

3 Star Rating

Alex + Ada #1Alex + Ada #1
Writers: Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Artist/Colorist: Jonathan Luna
Letterer: Jonathan Luna
22 Pages, $2.99

First issues are more important than ever in the comic book industry. With sales only seeing a slight uptick in 2013 (after years of stagnation or readership declines), every #1 comic is a chance to grab someone new and bring their attention and money into an industry that sorely needs more fans.

You would never understand the importance of a first issue if you only looked at Marvel and DC. A majority of their first issues are filled with impenetrable muck– catering to the already established customers they already milk on a weekly basis. If you want something truly new, it’s increasingly apparent you should stay away from corporate comics. Instead, you should check out publishers and creators with proven track records for consistently bringing something new to the table.

Alex + Ada #1 from Jonathan Luna and Image Comics is exactly what I look for in a proper first issue. Character development, believable interactions, world building and real dialogue are all important things I’ve come to expect from a Luna Brothers comic– and I’m not disappointed here. Luna and co-writer Sarah Vaughn do a great job of giving readers a look into to the daily life of the series’ main protagonist, Alex.

Following Alex through his ENTIRE daily routine (waking up, preparing for work, working, returning home and then going to sleep) gives you a real sense of how boring and mundane his life has become. Alex has friends and family who love him– but he’s fixated on a relationship which ended 7 months ago… So much so, he’s quite depressed and completely oblivious to a potential new relationship with an old friend. It’s an understatement to say Alex is in a funk.

Jonathan Luna’s subtle art is as perfect as ever. He creates an interesting near-future backdrop too, while keeping items like clothing and furniture contemporary. Luna also continues to excel at drawing his characters’ different emotions. You can instantly tell just how miserable Alex is just by looking at a wordless panel featuring the character. When Alex attends his birthday party, you can feel the strain of his fake smile. This is simply a fine combination of writing and art– with a story that’s easy to relate to.

Alex + Ada #1 is an intentional slow burn– a hallmark of most Luna Brothers work. I very much appreciate the deliberate pace, since the more I understand the characters the more I will potentially enjoy the comic. (It really is that simple.) Significant character development is a concept the Big Two no longer understand or flat-out don’t care about anymore. But Luna still gets it… And he’s created yet another series I will await eagerly each month. – Jose Melendez

4 Star Rating

Drumhellar # 1Drumhellar # 1
Writer: Riley Rossmo, Alex Link
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Riley Rossmo, Karl Fan
Letterer: Kelly Tindall
20 pages, $3.50

“What in the fuck did I just read?” That’s probably the response you’ll have after perusing this comic. (It’s certainly how I felt.) That’s not a bad thing though… There’s nothing wrong with having the shit confused out of you every so often– and especially not when it’s Riley Rossmo’s latest work. If you’ve been following my Previews Hits & Misses™ columns for a while, you know I’m a Rossmo fan. One of the things the artist doesn’t do is follow convention or the orthodox way of doing things.

Drumhellar– or rather Drum Hellar– is the subject of the title. He seems to take quite a lot of mind-altering drugs, investigates paranormal activity and evidently has quite a fucked up life. The series is set in South Dakota– and having seen the guys from the A Comic Book Look– that might give you some idea how odd things can get there, right? I mean, the guys have probably never stood in a bathrobe on a golf course, gotten hit by lightning or seen a peacock rise from under the ground and lay a golden glowing egg which helps them pop into another dimension but… Well, you get the drift.

It’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t in this comic (indeed if any of it is real at all). You might even wonder if it’s all just the fevered dreams of a lunatic, but it’s fun nevertheless. Drumhellar has a kind of Twin Peaks Meets Hellblazer vibe, except without the sturm und drang and angst (funny how the Germans have so many words for anger and stress) of murders and the like. There is some romance… But when you have the title character come out with a line like, “You’d think a woman who dated a bisexual werewolf would at least have an open mind” you know this isn’t going to be a conventional relationship.

It helps that Drum is a likeable chap who has the curiosity of John Constantine but doesn’t have the inner demons plaguing him… Although he does have a purple (possibly imaginary) creature that lives in his back pack and talks to him (which, coincidentally, no-one else can hear.) Reading the indicia of this first issue, it seems Drum is Riley Rossmo’s sole creation… But he also has Alex Link named as co-plotter and scripter. Perhaps Rossmo didn’t feel ready to write solo (yet) or perhaps he just prefers the collaborative process. Whatever the case, I’m glad to see him continue his diverse output without having to exist under the corporate yoke.

As you’d expect from Rossmo, the art doesn’t disappoint. It isn’t as spectacular as his work on Debris or as edgy and experimental as his art on Bedlam, but it is very satisfying and fluid. When you finish a comic and you realise your eyes haven’t stumbled over an incongruous panel layout or a lack of clarity in the storytelling– then you know you’re in the hands of an able and accomplished artist.

The main reason I knocked a star off my rating? While enjoyable, Drumhellar #1 doesn’t reach the heights of Rossmo’s best work– and the final page cliffhanger was a bit of a let down. (The threat to Drum wasn’t really established and it was a bit of a WTF? moment.) In any case, I’ll be sticking with this to see where the weirdness goes. If you like Vertigo titles, I reckon this will be right up your street. – Locusmortis

4 Star Rating

Code Monkey Save World #1Code Monkey Save World #1
Kickstarter Edition
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Colorist: Jessica Kholinne
Letterer: Simon Bowland
22 pages, $2.99

Full disclosure: I helped bring this comic to life. Didn’t write it, didn’t draw it, but I was one of the 8452 supporters on Kickstarter that cheerfully handed over nearly 10x the amount of money Jonathan Coulton (JoCo) and Greg Pak requested to bring this four issue comic series to life.

You’re reading this review on a website, so I’m not going to bore you with details of who JoCo is or how much I love him or how angry I got when Glee ripped off his arrangement of Baby Got Back or how happy I was to hear he has donated proceeds of his version of the same song (for which he paid full royalties to Sir Mix-A-Lot for the use of said song’s lyrics)… Really, I’m not. I’m not going to go there. (I’m just going to stop.)

Suffice it to say, I fully expected to love this comic. It starts with a cute little IT monkey and promises to be a mish-mash of all JoCo’s greatest hits (Code Monkey obviously being the biggest, and thusly, the title character).

Here’s the synopsis they posted to Comixology for the Kickstarter edition:

A put-upon coding monkey teams up with a seething, lovelorn super-villain to fight robots, office worker zombies, and maybe even each other as they struggle to impress the amazing women for whom they fruitlessly long. Based on the songs of internet superstar musician Jonathan Coulton.

Is he an internet superstar? I don’t know. A star among geeks, possibly. I certainly adore him, but I think superstar might be stretching it. You tell me. Have you heard of him?

As far as comics go, Issue #1 is okay. It’s pretty good, but if you’re not a fan of the music I don’t think you will really be on the edge of your seat waiting for #2. I had a non-JoCo comic fan look at it and he just said “It’s cute.” It is cute. Definitely cute. And like many first issues, there’s a lot of world-building and scene-setting to establish quickly. I just think issue one took on too much, too soon. The in-jokes are fantastic, but the story is just barely finding its feet when it changes planets. Slow down, Greg Pak. In Issue #2 I hope you’ll let us look around for a moment before you fly us away from Chiron-Beta-Prime.

If I had the opportunity to only review the Kickstarter, I’d give that Five Stars. I’ve never seen a project with so many stretch goals reached, and perks that benefactors want. Good times. However, if you’re curious about Code Monkey, buy some of JoCo’s music first.  You’ll miss too many in-jokes without it.

I liked it, the art is nice, the colors are vibrant and the lettering is competent. The writing is fine. I’ll be privy to all the editions of this comic (and my ad will be in the back of the trade cover edition), so I will definitely follow the story through to the end. Here’s hoping it jumps up another star before it’s done.
– Red Tash

3.5 Star Rating

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6 Responses to IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

  1. Locusmortis says:

    Too many negative reviews, you guys are just a pack of fucking haters!!!1!

    😉

  2. Red Tash says:

    This week it’s haters? I thought this week we were panderers. Damn it, I screwed it up again.

  3. Pingback: A Boy and His Robot: Alex + Ada #1

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