Before The Claws Come Out
Writer: John Layman
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: Travis Lanham
28 Pages, $3.99
Not long ago, Venom829bane— an esteemed member of IMJ Nation™– asked about Catwoman #25 on the IMJ Open Thread. I jokingly told him I wasn’t expecting much from a Zero Year tie-in. But that was an easy answer, too cynical in spirit to bring anything meaningful to the table– so I explained myself further.
I noted that since the New 52 concept began, DC’s comic books have sorely lacked consistency– and I felt they needed a lot more than they are currently displaying. An absence of true backbone is currently crippling the mainstream books in this medium, and the only remedy to this situation is good storytelling by competent professionals. Virtually every DC title is scattered between a zillion different crossover “events”, making it a major struggle for creators to maintain interesting plots and complex characters. Catwoman, for instance, has suffered from the substandard work created by Judd Winick and Ann Nocenti— lacking any true direction. After 25 issues of nothing, it’s hard to build a good book on emptiness… Especially when the next issue of Catwoman is dedicated (yet again) to another crossover. For all those reasons, I wasn’t expecting much from Catwoman #25.
That’s also why I want to offer 2 approaches in this review: A systemic one and an individual one. When I look at this story using long-term, structural expectations– I could describe it as a boring letdown. Selina isn’t Catwoman yet, but manages to kick tycoons’ asses and steal some stuff. That’s neat, but not really satisfying. You could even predict that everyone will soon forget about this simple story, since it is little more than filler. Simply put, it’s a continuity-free effort that won’t come back to bite anyone in the ass. It’s also safe and bland… Two words which could easily characterize most of DC’s output for the last two years.
But if I forget about the industry as a whole… And I simply look at Catwoman #25 on its own… Then I can only be ludicrously praiseworthy. Layman spins a straightforward tale, but tells it in a very engrossing way… Sprinkling his script with lots of genuinely funny situations and great puns. You can’t help but have a huge grin at times. He also cleverly cuts his story into various bits– refusing to disclose everything at once. This storytelling technique makes for a good amount of organic surprises and creates a lasting momentum. Layman also nails Selina’s characterization perfectly: She has a selfish side, but never forgets to draw a clear line between good and evil. She knows when to show respect and love. She is strong and playful, while never being mean or needlessly violent.
Layman excels at introducing extremely original ideas into a somewhat simple narrative… And these moments (like the scene where Selina uses a whip) are great fan-service and shows Layman understands what makes the character tick. Everything is cool and fun and the comic is cleverly written with care and love. It’s not badly drawn either, and finally presents a strong female lead– without also casting her as a jerk.
I finally decided this is the kind of comic where the destination doesn’t matter– it’s all about the journey. And it is an enjoyable, respectful one… A true testimony to Layman’s talent. Thanks for the ride, kind sir. I’ll hitchhike some more next month! – Simon J. O’Connor
Black Science #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: Rus Wooton
29 pages, $2.99
I had a choice for which comic I would most like to review this week– Black Science or Saga. Unfortunately, I should have picked the latter… Not because Black Science is terrible, but because it was a let-down from what was promised in the solicitation. Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe this wasn’t a good introductory issue. Either way, I took a risk– and it did not pay off.
I love science fiction because it makes me think. A great sci-fi story will always ramble around in your mind long after you read it– weaving in and out of your consciousness. Politics, scientific possibilities and morality issues are just a few of the things that can resonate from an intriguing story.
And the first 6 pages of Black Science #1 were exactly what I was expecting from the revered creator of Fear Agent– well-paced and thought-provoking. But after that, the comic goes directly downhill. Danger and mystery still surround lead character Grant McKay… But his interior dialogue grows preachy. Even worse, Remender suddenly starts telling readers about McKay’s thought process– instead of letting the character’s actions speak for him. I’m fully aware Remender is trying to make us feel something for his main character, but towards the end I wasn’t having the intended reaction.
The upside within this odd jumble? The art is fantastic. Matteo Scalera and Dean White work exceptionally well together. There’s an electric flow to Scalera’s art– nothing feels stagnant and his use of expressions is near flawless. Even though it’s a little dark, White’s “painted” coloring looks great too– giving the art a unique texture. It also adds an extra fluidity to the line work.
I just wanted (and expected) a lot more from Rick Remender. If Black Science does get better, I’m thinking it will be one of the stories you will want to trade-wait. There wasn’t enough in this comic to allow readers to latch onto (and become immersed in) the mythology. And while I know every first issue won’t succeed at this, I look for it every time. I love comics for their ability to instantly create new, intriguing worlds. And why shouldn’t I be picky? I’m the one spending my hard-earned money on these funny books.
Be selective and try new things– and hopefully you’ll buy comics you’ll enjoy. With a couple of tweaks, Black Science #1 could have been that kind of book for me. – Nick Furi
Shoalin Cowboy #2
Writer/Artist: Geof Darrow
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Peter Doherty
33 Pages, $3.99
This comic may be one the most difficult I have ever chosen to review– and this may be the shortest comic book critique I’ve ever written. Why? Because your enjoyment of this comic really comes down to what you prefer to get out of a reading experience. Do you want a well-written story? Do you find comic art more important than the writing? Do you enjoy an evenly balanced mixture of the two? How you answered these questions will determine whether you love, loathe or are very ‘meh’ about this comic.
Shoalin Cowboy #2 is sequential art storytelling in its purest form. The first page is a singular splash page followed by 16 double-splash pages consisting of no words and two horizontal panels each.
The entirety of its 33 pages consists of the Shaolin Cowboy fighting off a zombie horde– and the fight doesn’t even end in this issue. The comic just stops abruptly at page 33… And normally I would have a problem with this sort of thing. The reason I don’t here? Because every single splash page is a work of art. Geof Darrow’s art is so finely detailed and there is so much to see in every square-inch of every page, it’s simply beautiful and awe-inspiring. (You know, pretty much like every other piece of art Darrow has ever produced.)
As soon as I finished the issue, I went back to the beginning and read it again. I then re-read it a third time… And the smile on my face would not go away for some time. Shaolin Cowboy is in a singular class all its own. I’m rarely at a loss for words when it comes to reviews but this is one time when the work just speaks for itself– and everything it says is pristine perfect. – Jose Melendez
Harley Quinn #0
Writers: Amanda Conner,
Letterer: John J. Hill
20 pages, $2.99
This “first” issue of Harley Quinn’s new series consists of a long discussion between Harley and her writing team, concerning which artist should draw the clown’s title for the foreseeable future. In order for Harley to pick her favorite cartoonist, each page of the book is penciled by a different person (for a grand total of seventeen artists). Hilarity ensues…
First of all, this whole set-up is kind of an old gag: The creature talking to its creator, complaining and wishing for modifications and improvements. Even so, this Promethean premise can play on many levels: It can be hilarious, thought-provoking or even present a religious or a social aspect. But Harley Quinn #0 only aims for humor. It works here, but barely. By the end, the whole thing is quite tiresome. Even with its tremendous highs, the story feels a little pointless.
But I’m all for giving credit where it’s due… And here’s the only reason Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti hold their own– because they go all in. There’s lots of very funny sexual innuendo and Harley breaks the fourth wall on almost every panel. The writers throw many comical– and daring– comments at the different artists too. “Does this guy never draw any backgrounds?” or “This artist could never keep a monthly schedule!” are just two examples. There are also some extremely bold remarks about DC’s (terrible) editorial management, Jim Lee’s “massive royalty payments”– even something about sexual harassment in DC’s offices. There’s even crude commentaries about comic fans, described as “social misfits” and people who enjoy “staring at [girls] like plates of bacon”.
Now that’s what I call audaciously committing!
But be warned: The humor is very comic book-centric. If you pick up this issue without prior knowledge of the medium or the industry, you really won’t grasp much. Huge private jokes abound. If you’ve never watched Batman: The Animated Series, don’t know what the Suicide Squad is or never heard of Tiny Titans… You’re going to have a hard time getting your money’s worth here. It’s damn witty at times, but it’s also slightly off-putting… As if comicdom is too busy navel-gazing to create anything new.
All in all, this issue was enjoyable, audacious fun… And I will definitely check out the title again next month. But if Conner and Palmiotti keep using the same self-referential humor, I won’t stick for long. It’s never easy to make people laugh– especially through a visual medium like comics. The humor needs to be more subtle if it wants to stay addictive. Otherwise, I’ll just watch a Seinfeld re-run. – Simon J. O’Connor
Harley Quinn #0
Writers: Amanda Conner,
Letterer: John J. Hill
20 pages, $2.99
Most of the time, readers know right away if they like or dislike a comic. But it took me awhile to decide if I actually thought this Harley Quinn #0 was a good book. In the end, I had to break everything down to one simple question: Did I have fun reading Harley Quinn #0? The simple answer is, “Yes.”
The long answer begins with me attempting to figure out what I had just finished reading. Arriving at the title page and seeing 19 different artists and 8 colourists, I thought I was in for a shock to the eyes… And not the good kind. But once I delved into a few more pages, I completely understood what was going on.
The main character constantly breaks the Fourth Wall in Harley Quinn #0. I know many readers don’t enjoy this, but I love it– when done correctly. Deadpool is a character well-known for directly engaging his readers, but this comic had more references to the book’s artists and writers than 10 to 15 Deadpool comics combined. If you can’t get behind characters breaking the fourth wall, this comic is definitely not for you… But it does work with the concept laid out here by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. These two didn’t just break the fourth wall, they blew it up with dynamite– and then ground each brick into dust.
This entire comic is one big chance for the writers and artists to have fun and take harmless jabs at each other. And there are some really great jokes too. Having so many artists is usually a terrible idea, but it works out okay with HQ #0. I say “okay” because I simply didn’t enjoy some of the art. A different penciler on every page wasn’t as jarring as I expected. It had to help I was reading on a tablet and I could only see one page at a time.
There was never really any question whether I liked this issue. The challenge was breaking the concepts down honestly– since there’s a lot of clunkiness to a story like this. The narrative sometimes didn’t flow well because of the changes in the art… And some of the ideas seemed forced. But if you take the concept at face value– and treat it as a one-off comedy– the book was loads of fun.
Comic fans usually want their books firmly grounded in reality, but every once in a while a story needs to be stupid, silly, outrageous and joyful. I hope the fun continues, with just a little more structure. If this happens, I promise to keep Harley Quinn on my pull list– as long as Connor and Palmiotti keep their promise and confine the fourth wall breaking to this issue. – Nick Furi
Itty Bitty Hellboy #4
Writers: Art Baltazar, Franco
Artist: Art Baltazar
24 pages, $2.99
A version of Hellboy written in kiddie/cartoony format? What’s not to love? Tons of vibrant colors just scream out to kids “Pick us up!” and my sons certainly did.
I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be when I brought the first one home, but I had a feeling it would be positive. And if they didn’t like it, I knew I would! I read another issue of IBH before this one, so I knew what to expect: One-off jokes along the lines of more traditional strip comics– with no ongoing storyline and nothing sophisticated or nuanced where you can’t miss an issue or you’re totally lost. These comics are just pure, silly fun.
Sure, there are some in-jokes from the original Hellboy storyline, but these comics are packing in two or three short storylines each, giving kids exactly what they want and expect from a comic book: Comedy.
My sons have not read any of the original Hellboy mini-series, but they’ve seen the movies. It’s enough to give them some idea who the characters are, but not enough for them to get all the jokes. In the end, that’s totally okay with the kids. They’re really loving it, and judging by the letters and fan art by other kids in the backs of these issues, mine aren’t the only ones.
I’m only shorting Itty Bitty Hellboy #4 one star because of the in-jokes. I think a strip ought to make as much sense as possible– without relying too much on previous reader knowledge… Especially when targeted so obviously for the all-ages readership. For example, there’s a joke in Issue #4 about Roger’s lack of pants that doesn’t make any sense to the casual reader until the punchline, and by then, it’s one of those “I guess you had to read something else to get this” moments.
If you are a Hellboy fan from way back and you love quirky pop culture redos, you might just give IBH a full Five Stars! – Red Tash
Teen Titans #25
A Good Defense
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Scott McDaniel, Tyler Kirkham, Art Thibert
Colorist: Travis Lanham
Letterer: Arif Prianto
20 pages, $2.99
I’d prefer if this review began and ended with those 3 letters– since that’s all this waste of paper deserves… But I guess I have a responsibility to tell you WHY this book is a pile of shite. (In case you might have an unfortunate brain spasm and actually buy it someday.)
The only way this comic could be any more 90s is if you put a chromium embossed die-cut lenticular hologram cover on the front…Which, given DC’s recent descent into madness, I’m fucking amazed they didn’t do. Naturally the book’s written by that fucking 90s hack Scott Lobdell (who pretty much fucking ruined the X-Men during the decade) and, as usual, it’s filled with oodles of superfluous dialogue. He even brings back thought bubbles, which I haven’t seen since about 1998.
The story is such a confusing mess I’m reluctant to even try a plot summary… And even if I made a foolhardy attempt, it probably wouldn’t make any sense. Suffice to say, if you purchased Teen Titans #25 and cut each page into its constituent individual panels– then mixed them up and put them back together in random bunches… You’d probably get a more coherent narrative than the one I read.
I knew I’d get around to this series sooner or later since I’m a big Titans fan (no, not the Tennessee variety)… And even though I’m a sensible chap, the lure eventually got too strong– even though I knew it was going to be horrible. This is definitely not the Titans of the 80s (when the story and art were great). No, this is DC’s New 52– so everything has to be EXTREME! Everyone grimaces so much in this story, it’s like they’re all suffering from a collective dose of constipation. Kid Flash in particular looks like he’s trying to squeeze out a particularly obstinate shit.
The art has breakdowns by Scott McDaniel, so he’s basically dictating the panel layouts (which are horrible). Tyler Kirkham contributes the pencils (which are atrocious) and Art Thibert finishes the whole debacle with his shitty inks. The character poses are no better: Robin seems to spend most of the issue standing around with his fists clenched so tight his knuckles are about to explode through his gloves. Then the horrid costume designs… Which, given DC’s artistic merry-go-round, are probably the fault of someone else… But given that I couldn’t be arsed finding out, I’ll just heap the blame on this troika of alleged artists.
Raven’s costume design struck me as egregiously terrible. Let me preface this by saying I do like sexy women and cheesecake– but not particularly in superhero comics… Where I prefer at least some logic in how women are attired, especially in relation to protecting them from the elements and enemies. When Raven was created by George Perez she looked like like a mysterious hero (left)… But she looks like this in the New 52 (right)!
What the fucking fuck is going on there? She must have phenomenally strong tit-tape to stop her boobs from flying out of her costume! And her cup size seems to have grown exponentially as well. Now you might say, “Well what about the New 52 Starfire?” but if you go back and look at George Perez’s version of the alien princess– her costume wasn’t anywhere near as skimpy as your addled childhood memories remember it.
In short, this is yet another horrible manky piece of shit New 52 comic. Now that I’ve finished this review, I’ll never have to look at Teen Titans #25 again… And hopefully neither will you. – Locusmortis
Uncanny Avengers #14
The Day Nor the Hour
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Steve McNiven,John Dell
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
22 pages, $3.99
Sometimes you can just tell when there isn’t a lot of passion or energy being poured into a comic. Uncanny Avengers #14 is a perfect example of one of those times.
Before this issue came out, there was a lot of hype screaming this story would change the Marvel Universe in a big way. If what happens here is long-term, then yes– this comic does change things substantially. But it probably won’t, because the two characters who die are going to be starring in upcoming movies. So yeah… Spoilers ahead!
This book is the definition of a comic created by committee. Nowhere did I feel a personal voice (or energy) from the creatives involved. The story and art were just kind of there, as if to only fulfill professional commitments and make money. The plot does advance and a story is told– but that’s it. There’s no flair, no heart or heat. The art no better. It’s mostly static, with occasional entertaining touches.
I’ve read some excellent Rick Remender comics where I can feel his voice and passion… And Uncanny Avengers #14 is just a hollow shell of what he’s capable of. His Fear Agent books are amazing– you can really immerse yourself in his unique take on science fiction comics and feel just how passionately he regards the genre. Here I don’t feel a thing.
To make matters worse, I’m left feeling even less after the apparent deaths of Rogue and Scarlet Witch… As both of their deaths play out as completely random and unnecessary. Maybe these events will have some meaning in the future, but today they just felt pointless. Too bad too… Since Rogue and Scarlet Witch are two of the only characters on this Avengers team I care about. (And let’s not forget they were the only two WOMEN in the group too.) Death for the sake of shock value is far past getting really old. At this rate, it would be far more interesting if Marvel didn’t kill off anybody.
There were a couple of good things amongst the bad. The recap page did sum everything up so I could have an idea of what was going on… And the placement of the pages where Scarlet Witch and Rogue die make their deaths momentary surprises. But that’s really all I can praise– and that’s below the bare minimum I expect from any comic book. Neither of these minor touches came close to removing the bad taste in my mouth caused by the bland storytelling and the meaningless deaths.
So… Anyone want to take bets on how soon either hero will be back?
– Aaron Evans
The Activity #15
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Colorists: Mitch Gerads, Andy W. Clift
Letterer: Jon Babcock
22 pages, $2.99
I have never been a huge fan of war comics, but I’d heard decent things about The Activity– so I thought I’d give it a chance. I don’t know if the majority of war books are like this… But I have no desire to pick up any previous or future issues of this comic.
I did like the interaction (written by Nathan Edmondson) between Luke and Leslie– two soldiers on a mission to blow up a satellite. There is clearly something going on between the two of them. But the other mission was boring. It had similar character interaction, but I didn’t like it as much. The narrative ping-ponged back and forth between the two missions– which was fine. This storytelling technique didn’t hinder the story flow… But something happened on Page 14 that caused me to question the contents of the prior 13 pages. Had I just read over a dozen pages of filler material?
Artist Mitch Gerads has a cool style that matches the tone of the book. He does a great job of creating environment and characters– particularly during a snowy scene. Gerads also understands when to lighten the colours to give the appearance of blowing snow and reduced visibility… And I could almost feel the heat in his sunny desert scenes. The contrast created between the two climates is extremely well done. However, his art isn’t my favourite. I can tell where Gerads succeeds– but it just isn’t for me.
Similarly I don’t think The Activity is meant for me either. The story isn’t bad, so please take that into account when you consider my rating. I’m sure the creative team produced something fans of the genre would like. (And individually, I think both Edmondson and Gerads have great skills.) If I were a fan of war comics, I’m sure my rating would be 1 to 2 stars higher. But this comic is not new reader friendly or geared towards fans new to the war genre– so my experience came up lacking. – Nick Furi
Afterlife With Archie #2
Dance of the Dead
Writer: Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Letterer: Jack Morelli
23 pages, $2.99
When I think of comics, I think of Archie Andrews. As a kid, it was one of the first comics I remember laying eyes on. Stolen away in the upper loft of the old aluminum barn on the back 40 of the family farm, I still remember the brightly colored pages of the first Archie comic I ever held in my hot little hands.
While I haven’t stayed up to date on the day-to-day interpersonal drama between Betty and Veronica, Riverdale High has always been a safe setting to check back into.
In Afterlife with Archie, little has changed— but everything has changed. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this comic… The zombie craze is so overdone! How could Archie possibly bring a new spin?
Well, the spin itself may not be new, but the action, color and pacing in this comic was a terrific new take on the old familiar gang. I can’t even tell you how happy I was to find my personal favorite, Jughead, starring as the living dead du jour. (Or should I say Ethel was the “du jour”?)
I liked every detail of this comic, from the prologue to the flashback storytelling style to the color palette. It was absolutely fantastic, far surpassing all my expectations, both as a little girl who loved Archie and the gang, and for the zombie-loving woman I have become. All the zombie lovers in my house agree: This is the comic mash-up to end all comic mash-ups. Don’t take my word for it– for $2.99 it’s worth picking up. – Red Tash
Afterlife With Archie #2
Dance of the Dead
Writer: Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Letterer: Jack Morelli
23 pages, $2.99
Archie Comic Publications finally got me to buy an Archie comic! That sentence alone should tell you how good this comic is. (I’m almost tempted to leave my review at that, but I won’t.) And you should run to your local comic shop to buy Issues #1 and 2 of this comic book– if you haven’t already.
The concept of Archie & Friends in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse is so absurd, awesome and funny… I couldn’t help but give it a try. Fortunately, it’s actually quite fun too. Most scenes are peppered with just the right amount of dark humor– which I am a big fan of. The scenes where the Riverdale kids simply don’t understand these shambling husks are zombies (and not their friends in costumes) is very humorous to me… Again because it all plays out in the Archie universe.
I don’t read Archie comics usually, so I feel many of the in-jokes are lost on me. There are also some characters I don’t know… But none of that really mattered or detracted from my enjoyment. It’s a fun read and I can’t wait to see what happens once the wheels really start to turn and we’re given everything you’d expect from a zombie story.
Francesco Francavilla’s art provides the must have factor. The work is so beautiful, it really adds the finishing touch to an already good story. Francavilla’s style strikes the perfect balance between fun and horror– matching the Archie world while somehow also looking like awesome horror comic art. His coloring is extremely complementary as well, making everything pop off the page. I truly hope Francavilla stays on this comic to the end.
Which leads me to my two minor concerns. #1: If this is a monthly and not a mini-series, how long can this concept last? I’m interested in seeing how the characters adapt to the zombie apocalypse, but I’m left wondering if some of the fun will dissipate once the horror dawns on them. And my 2nd concern? I don’t see how I can wait until 1/1/14 for the next issue! – Aaron Evans
Savage Wolverine #9
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99
We’ve got ourselves a strange case here, Watson!
Artist Jock is an IMJ Favorite™ for good reason. His Detective Comics run was more than stellar. From the very moment I discovered his existence, I knew I could never get enough of his stylish art. His crooked, angular faces and eerie landscapes always impress– and he excels in depicting strong and gruesome atmospheres. He can inject powerful statements with only a few penciled lines. Not only imaginative, his drawing is also profoundly emotional and moving.
If it weren’t for Jock, I would never have checked out this title after the baleful and puke-inducing thing that was Savage Wolverine #8. (That experience was like dipping my soul in the worst Hell pit imaginable.) And art-wise, the comic didn’t disappoint. Jock creates an entire planet in a few pages, making us experience the loneliness of survival and the difficult conditions an estranged Wolverine has to put up with. His penciling alone is worth the purchase of this issue– so it’s alright (I guess) if the writing can be best described as ‘light’.
The narrative is indeed very bare. Not much happens, and some aspects of it are very confusing. Many questions are left unanswered– or even completely ignored– which makes for a frustrating experience. Confusing details and plot holes don’t make for an enjoyable time. Sure, Jock uses nice writing tricks– such as a monologue you think is intended to come from Logan… Until you realize it was told to someone else the entire time. But the plotting is thin and the book suffers from it. I have no doubt the next issue will start to explain and decrypt things, but until then it sure reads like a weak story.
This is quite the half-baked cake. Stunning art meets non-existent narrative. Not so bad if you know in advance the story’s pacing will strengthen… But this first bite wasn’t anywhere near nutritive enough. – Simon J. O’Connor
Scooby-Doo Team-Up # 1
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Artist: Dario Brizuela
Colorist: Heroic Age
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
32 pages, $2.99
I realize that me reviewing a Scooby-Doo comic is rather like Mark Millar writing a My Little Pony story. A litany of “motherfucking bastards” and “shit eating cunts” comments doesn’t really fit with the subject matter does it? I will try to keep this review as “all ages” as possible (after this paragraph) and I’ll especially try to not think of DC editorial– which is usually enough to set me off on a manic rant these days.
In truth, the list of comics that came out this week is wretched– complete and utter drek from Marvel and DC– and not a great deal coming out from the indies either, aside from the sublime Rachel Rising. Scooby-Doo Team-Up #1 caught my eye in the Previews catalog, primarily because it features Batman and Robin. Given the entertainment value provided by Jeff Parker’s Batman ’66, I figured it’d be worth a shot… And indeed, it’s a welcome respite from the teeth-grindingly boring grimness of a regular Batman pamphlet.
Of course Scooby-Doo Team-Up is being marketed as a kids comic but there are enough in-jokes here for most adult fans of Scooby-Doo to enjoy too. I could see this being a perfect comic to read with one’s kids if they’re interested in comics or cartoons. There’s the obligatory “if it wasn’t for those meddling kids” line which I was waiting all issue for and the “Shaggy trying to unmask the real monster” moment. It hit on all the tropes that you expect to see in a Scooby-Doo story… And even better? That little bastard Scrappy-Doo is nowhere to be found. (A generation of 80s kids still haven’t forgiven Hanna-Barbera for introducing that little shit.)
The Batman and Robin appearing in this issue are definitely in the Adam West mould– although they are a little too straight-laced and polite… They could do with being a little campier and their humour being a bit punchier. Overall though, Sholly Fisch’s story was entertaining enough– even if a tiny bit more edginess wouldn’t go amiss. Scooby and the gang are clearly already friends with Batman and Robin and there’s none of that tension (and potential fighting) you used to get in books like Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One.
The art of Dario Brizuela is decent– it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a licensed kid’s book. The likenesses of the Scooby gang are absolutely spot on (and Daphne is as cute as ever)… Although I wasn’t overly impressed with his Batman. It didn’t seem to fit either the Bruce Timm type Dark Knight image or the wacky Batman ’66 image. Brizuela’s Batman was stolid and a little boring and the backgrounds were almost entirely absent– with many panels having large areas of solid color with nothing interesting going on. I know if I was a kid I’d like to have my attention a little more occupied. The colors by Heroic Age were so intensely bright they might accidentally burn your corneas out– with the background and foreground colours clashing a little too often. They did get Daphne’s hair right though, so that’s something.
All in all, Scooby-Doo Team-Up # 1 is a good, well-produced comic. From this evidence, I think DC could make their kids comics just a little more demanding. Not a bad try though. – Locusmortis
Green Arrow #24
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colourist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Rob Leigh
20 pages, $2.99
YAY! Villain’s Month is finally over and we can resume our regularly scheduled program.
I have been really lucky lately with my DC review choices– the last few weeks have seen good comic books. (Makes up for the string of terrible ones I endured when I started reviewing for IMJ.) Yes. Yes. Yes… Having some entertaining floppies come from the second major publisher is a nice change of pace. Thankfully, Green Arrow #24 keeps up the trend.
Then again, it’s sort of no surprise… Since writer Jeff Lemire produces some outstanding work. (I still count his Essex County as one of my favourites.) But having a writer not lose their ability to create outstanding stories within the confines of the Big Two is strange nowadays… And also makes me wonder why others seem to fall so quickly into mediocrity given the same hurdles. Comparatively, Lemire produces just as many books as other top talent… But his work– for the most part– has yet to suffer. Sure, he’s had a loser here and there (Frankenstein of S.H.A.D.E. anyone?)… But he usually produces more great comics than most of his contemporaries… Making his work as close to a sure bet as you can get with DC’s New 52.
Now that I’ve spent half my review sucking up to Mr. Lemire, I guess I should actually talk about this comic… Right?
I gave Green Arrow a chance when this creative team came on at Issue #17. The only reason I didn’t keep going with it? Budgetary constraints. So it’s wonderful to see the quality continue 7 issues later. The entire creative team works extremely well together.
A comic book writer must craft an interesting story to succeed. Their stories have to be well-paced, the characters have to vary, the villain has to seem menacing and there has to be something that keeps you coming back next month. Lemire does all of these things very well in Green Arrow #24… Though his efforts wouldn’t shine through as well without the extraordinary talent of artist Andrea Sorrentino and colorist Marcelo Maiolo.
For all the praise I give the writer, GA’s artistic team deserve just as many accolades. The first page hits readers with a very different choice of colour pallet… And the ensuing pages are riddled with varying colours to emphasize different moments. Greens, reds, blacks and whites are the major colours running throughout. (Obviously there are more, but these really stand out.) If it wasn’t for Maiolo’s colours, the line work from Sorrentino would not look as dynamic.
Yet Andrea’s layouts are incredible. There’s standard comic book format, but when he lets loose– the art becomes a completely different animal. He makes stellar choices that work incredibly well with the character and tone. And my absolute favourite thing from the artists? They never use the loathsome Photoshop blur. There are times when I’m sure someone would choose to use it, but instead they allow Maiolo’s colours to create a disorienting look and feel. Top notch!
Clearly, I enjoyed myself with Green Arrow #24. So, if you are still looking for a good book from DC, give this one a try. It is relatively new reader friendly and should hopefully make you think differently on how mainstream books should look and feel. – Nick Furi
Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Marco Rudy
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99
I’ve been reviewing comics for IMJ for over three months now, and I’ve never given a book a full Five Star rating… And I’m glad I didn’t. Because such a perfect rating should be saved for perfect books only. Well, here we go. I’ve finally found my first masterpiece to review. It is a pleasant thing to be laudatory about titles you love. God knows how easy it is to find the needed negativity when you want to talk about a Brian Michael Bendis or Geoff Johns turd. But it sure takes more time and care to praise a wonder.
Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1’s premise is to pit the 99 deadliest villains in the world against poor Peter Parker. And Matt Kindt sure doesn’t lose time getting things started. The first page immediately sets up the coherent scenery for this trial by fire… And things only pick up from there. This comic is a crazy, weird, mad experience. The ride is so perfectly crafted, it literally takes your breath away. It’s a physically tiresome story, because it immerses you completely into the feeling of insecurity and distress experienced by Spider-Man. Drugged, unsure of what’s really going on (Is it a dream? A nightmare?)… Peter is pounded on, broken down and played by invisible, frightening foes. You feel bad and sad for him, but you are also extremely impressed by the level of calm and ingenuity the Wall-Crawler is able to display. Heroism isn’t related to super-powers– it’s first and foremost a matter of ethics and personal qualities. You sure can see Spidey’s valour here– when faced with fearful odds, his positive attitude is still present.
This immersion into Peter’s disorientation and confusion is especially strong thanks to the art. The writing is stellar, but it’s only the beginning of the experience. Marco Rudy succeeds in sharing sensorial experiences and feelings of the flesh through paper! Thanks to crazily inventive layouts (some of them reminiscent of J.H. Williams III’s pioneering work) and the use of many art techniques (drawing, sketching, painting, etc.), we actively participate in Spider-Man’s suffocating and overwhelming angst. At times, imaginative and funny choices are also employed– such as objects being made of pixels and a video game theme with Tetris-inspired layouts!
I’m a big fan of stories with the main hero trapped in a maze– either a physical one or an intellectual one. (I’m talking about tales like Scott Snyder’s Batman #5 or Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated Vol 1 #12.) This is the same kind of story we’ve got here, with Spider-Man confined within his own mind and having to fight not only ninety-nine fiends– but his own humanity as well… All while his body is failing.
This is a masterpiece. Do yourself a solid and go check the wonderful art of Marco Rudy complimenting Matt Kindt’s inventive narrative. Life-changers like this comic– revolutionary books breaking the codes of the medium in a mere few pages– are what made me fall in love with comics in the first place. I’m glad I can still experience that special whiff of excitement and happiness when reading a smart, audacious four color smash. – Simon J. O’Connor
The Shadow Now #1
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Colton Worley
Colorist: Colton Worley
Letterer: Rob Steen
22 pages, $3.99
The Shadow Now #1 was the first comic I read this week and it set the bar pretty high for the rest of my choices. The story is nothing ground breaking, but it is still very entertaining. And I am new to the Shadow character, so even if some of his traits don’t seem fresh– I understand the character’s place in history. And while his demeanor and powers have been copied relentlessly, he is still every inch an interesting hero.
Since The Shadow doesn’t age, he takes on the civilian identity of Lamont Cranston III (making him the “original” Shadow’s great-grandson.) Hiding his true age creates an interesting dynamic between the members of the Shadow Network. Many in the group do not appreciate the “lost grandson” returning– attempting to make an immediate impact. Writer David Liss uses the premise to create a well-paced, compelling story that succeeds in bringing The Shadow into the present.
Nevertheless, I again find myself again giving a majority of my praise to the artist. There is one thing I don’t like about Colton Worley’s art– so let me get that out-of-the-way first: He appears to use a lot of photo reference. This causes his action sequences to be rather listless. They simply just feel too still for what should be occurring. But as weird as this sounds– the rest of Colton’s art is sooo good, I forget the lifeless action scenes… And enjoy the incredibly realistic art. If I didn’t know better, I would think they were stills from a great video game. But to top it all, Worley adds some breathtaking layouts to the realism– seriously giving master artist J.H. Williams a run for his money.
While this comic isn’t my pick of the week, it still has an incredibly strong story. The book was packed with plot too, so don’t be fussed by the $3.99 price tag– you get your money’s worth… Heck, it was worth every penny just to discover Colton Worley’s talent. – Nick Furi
Once Upon a Time… Chapter One
Writer: Ian Edginton
Artist: Francesco Trifogli
Colorist: Chris Peter
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
28 pages, $2.99
After its recent gutting, Vertigo seems to be on somewhat of a comeback at the moment with series like The Wake, Collider (or whatever it’s called this week), Trillium— and now Hinterkind forming a wave of new projects… And I’ve reviewed the number ones for all of them. This isn’t something I’d planned to do as DC is mightily pissing me off recently, but Vertigo seems to be resolutely steering its own path again and seems to be endeavouring to create a new identity for itself. The new projects seem to be taking a more high-concept sci-fi slant than the old character-led series from the Nineties.
At this juncture, I must promulgate a spoiler warning— in order for me to fully explain my opinion of Hinterkind #1. These explanations could spoil your reading of the comic, so if this is a book that you want to read– then please go ahead and do so and then come back to my review and see if you concur or disagree. Just don’t start cribbing that I ruined it for you– you have been warned. (Oh and Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, just in case you’ve never watched Empire Strikes Back.)
Hinterkind is set in Manhattan, some years after an as yet unspecified disaster has eliminated most of mankind. So far it sounds a bit like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (or for the illiterate, Will Smith’s I Am Legend). There are also elements of the British 70s TV series Survivor— where the humans still left on Earth try to forge a new, more pastoral lifestyle. In Hinterkind’s case, there is a settlement and farm in Central Park– where we find the central characters, teenager Angus and not-girlfriend Prosper hunting a Zebra amongst the ruined skyscrapers of midtown.
Hinterkind is written by British scribe Ian Edginton, who has penned numerous series for 2000AD and some stories for Marvel, DC and Image in the US. He has a tendency to write brilliant beginnings, but after the initial concept is established he runs out of steam and thereafter lets things meander into tedium. He usually manages to last more than one issue though but I’m afraid after being tremendously excited by most of Hinterkind #1, the ending deflated all of that.
After the initial excellent setup, Angus and Prosper set off to explore the outside world and have made it as far as the Queensboro Bridge when they are ambushed by a pride of what looked to be Ligers (a cross between a Tiger and Lion). They are inadvertently saved by this giant purple creature with 6 arms– who, after the 3rd reading, I grasped was a troll. The action then switches to Albany, New York– where a group of what seems to be (for want of a better term) The Fae (or Faeries) have wiped out a human settlement. Up to that point, all kinds of possibilities for the series had been blossoming in my mind. I could see this becoming one of Vertigo’s trademark long-running series but the sudden change from sci-fi setting to a fantasy milieu completely turned me against Hinterkind #1.
The art by Francesco Trifogli (who I confess is a new name to me) is generally excellent. The layouts do an excellent job of carrying the story forward and the pace throughout is nicely judged. The facial expressions could do with a little refining– some of them were a little too cartoonish and could do with toning down. But that’s a fairly minor quibble and I’m sure he’ll settle down when the series hits its stride. Where Trifogli really shines: When he pulls the camera back and allows you see the dystopian visage of a city almost deserted by humans. Vegetation has overgrown the streets and the iconic architectural masterpieces of a lost civilization have started to decay and break down. The coloring by Chris Peter is a notch above most of Vertigo’s output and is quite clearly superior to what you get in the New 52. (And the comic is only $2.99!)
Based on the first 22 pages of Hinterkind, I would have given it four– maybe even four and a half stars– but the last six pages completely ruined it and knocked at least 2 points off the rating. It started out fantastic… Until it jumped the shark with a mighty leap. I acknowledge this may be my own personal taste– and what I wanted the series to be may have colored my judgement. But a dystopian version of Fables just isn’t something which interests me at the moment. It may be something you might really love– and it is technically well put together… So don’t let my disappointment put you off trying this out. – Locusmortis
Once Upon a Time… Chapter One
Writer: Ian Edginton
Artist: Franceso Trifogli
Colorist: Cris Peter
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
28 Pages, $2.99
At first glance, Hinterkind #1 has a few good things going for it. The book’s original solicitation description got me interested… And this issue is oversized– clocking in at 28 pages of art, 2 pages on how the cover was created and ONLY one advertisement in the whole book. The issue also only cost $2.99– which, as far as price points go, hits the sweet spot.
The interior art by Franceco Trifolgi and colorist Cris Peter is quite nice. It does a good job of conveying the overall isolation of the main protagonists (who are among the last of the human beings left on the planet), is dynamic and fluid when the story calls for action and has some interesting (if not a just a bit generic) character designs in the last third of the comic.
As far as the not so good, well… I have a couple of small problems with this issue. One has to do with the writing and the other has to do with a kinda “been there, seen that” feeling which I can’t really fault the book for.
The character dialogue, interactions, revelations and story are just fine… But I don’t feel as if this is a solid enough introductory story to serve as a first issue. I learned more about the overall world the characters inhabit in the book’s solicitation and in the “afterword” by the author at the end of the story. That’s too late… Show me in the story! These two things actually revealed just who– or what– the characters toward the end of the issue are… Which is the interesting idea that intrigued me in the first place. Also, the semi-twist at the end is lost– since the reader is not fully aware of who is doing what to whom.
The other slight problem this title may face: It’s being released a year after NBC’s Revolution TV series– and after this past summer’s PlayStation 3 exclusive video game, The Last of Us. Hinterkind’s post apocalyptic city and landscape are almost completely overrun by flora– pretty much exactly like the two post apocalyptic projects mentioned above. Like I said, I won’t hold this “timing” against the book, but I do feel as if some readers may not see its futuristic depiction of our world as wholly original– which would kind of be a shame. (That said, neither Revolution nor The Last of Us worlds are all that original either.)
At the end of the day, Hinterkind does have enough going for it that I’ll give it a few issues to see where the series is headed. I hope it doesn’t wait too long to show its hand and explain some of the more important details (like, What happened to all the humans? How is it fairies, orcs, vampires and trolls have come to take over, etc). I want these points explained so the writer can get on with the story he wants to tell. Lately, too many books are starting off too slow, taking much too long to pick up steam. It would be nice if this series wasn’t one of them.
– Jose Melendez
Captain America – Living Legend #1
Writer/Co-Plotter: Andy Diggle
Artist/Co-Plotter: Adi Granov
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
22 pages, $3.99
Ah, finally! A good Captain America tale without Rick Remender’s bullshit in it! About time!
Living Legend #1 seems to have no other aim but to show a quintessential Steve Rogers. “Funny… It’s been a while since anyone’s called me that!” answers Cap after being called “weak”. That’s the kind of classic reply/dialogue this comic provides. The plot by Andy Diggle is a bit thin but consistent enough to get things rolling. There’s a mystery in space and a dreadful Russian is involved. Sure, it’s exciting and enticing– but we don’t get much apart from that. At least it sets an interesting context quickly enough for readers to want to come back next month. I deeply enjoy Diggle’s work– he is quite the gifted creator– but he falls short with the story pacing here. The rhythm is too slow and we only got the crumbs of this epic “legend” promised in the title.
The real star here is the art. Adi Granov’s wonderful work is a delight to look at, and more than that– it’s tremendously iconic. Every single panel is grand and lofty. It’s certainly photo-realistic and his drawing technique neatly fits the historical context of the tale– as we’re served mostly WWII imagery and a few highly detailed rockets from the 60s.
In the negative column, the iconic nature of the book makes the characterization feel quite shallow at times. The Russian enemy is very mean, the Nazis are insidious miscreants to the end, the scientists are over-confident before suffering a disastrous failure, etc. It’s almost funny to see how many clichés Diggle can cram into the mix, but it’s not too much trouble. Once again, this is about a “Living Legend”… So I don’t mind the legends and fables of old to look obvious.
Overall a good start, but things need to pick up quickly if Diggle and Granov want readers to stick to the end! – Simon J. O’Connor