IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

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IMJ Comic Book Review 2014 Ian Banner5 STAR RATING SYSTEM LOGO

MAGNETO #1Magneto #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Cory Petit
20 Pages, $3.99

I picked up Magneto #1 truly out of curiosity. See, Cullen Bunn will be writing Sinestro in a few months– so basically this Marvel villain comic can be seen as a sort of first draft for the DC book… And I wanted to get a taste of what the Sinestro series might read like. Thankfully, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed by this “sample”!

Writing bad guys is always a challenge. Many things work against you… The villain’s supporting cast is usually quite thin (if nonexistent). The main character, being evil, displays little if any redeeming qualities. To spice things up a notch, we’re often more used to seeing him/her getting their ass kicked by heroes.

There’s also three unusual challenges writers of a villain comic need to rise to: First, it’s important to restore the “street cred” of the book’s character, and to show how potent he/she is. It is also crucial for the villain to have motivations far deeper than the usual cardboard stereotypical bad stuff– they need to come off as “human” as possible to build empathy with a monthly readership. Thirdly, giving the villain some friends is a necessity– we need to see them experience emotions and interact socially like every other “good” guy.

For the most part, Bunn achieves all these tasks. He also succeeds in infusing much-needed life to this starting tale. Erik Lehnsherr is depicted thickly enough, and we get a good sense of what he’s been up to lately. We sure see how lethal he can be, and his motivations– though a tad banal– are definitely “out there”. He has no one in his life though, but that’s not a problem since he still makes connections– and quite thought-provokingly– through the disruptive mirror of fear. When people aren’t tremendously afraid of him, he is the one scared by the strangers he meets… Insecure about whether they’ve recognized him– wondering if they’ve called the police, the army or worse. There is quite an interesting relationship between Magneto and general society– they’re both afraid of each other– and it gives a vibe of uncertainty to the entire comic.

As for the plot, it’s slightly weird but surprisingly addictive. Magneto scouring the wild spaces of America in order to avenge murdered mutants and encountering killer robots hiding as humans? What’s not to like?! This is Kerouac’s On The Road mixed with Dexter and a pinch of Blade Runner! All in all, it’s one hell of an enjoyable premise– if not the most imaginative… But it’s far from the bland rehashed tales most comic creators get paid to spew at us.

Still, the following should be noted: This type of book could go extremely stale very quickly if not handled well and at a fast enough speed. Decompression isn’t an option when you’re juggling so many concepts and Bunn will need to bring his “A-Game” and persistently top his precedent effort with every new issue. If the pace stops or even stagnates, if new challenges and new ideas aren’t regularly thrown into the mix– this story will feel like a cheat. It’ll simply be the same old comic we’ve read a thousand times, always promising an interesting ride at the beginning (thanks to a few intriguing cliffhangers)… Just to come up short at the end.

As for Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s art, I can see why people might not like it but personally, I think it’s terrific. It looks a lot like Declan Shalvey’s work, an artist I have praised several times in the past. Walta has a clear, uncompromising indie vibe. His craft suits this book perfectly, since both the plot and the art are trying new, daring things. It also adds to the eerie, unsettled feel of the narrative. I’m always appreciative whenever a publisher pairs two creators in such a complimentary fashion… And I shouldn’t forget to mention Jordie Bellaire, who does an amazing, fantastic job. His colors pop but with pastel undertones that are really soothing to look at. They also help the storytelling quite a lot; the panels wouldn’t flow as effortlessly without them.

Magneto #1 is an unexpectedly interesting, bold entry point into the life of Marvel’s most villainous mutant. Its future direction is not as clear as it could be, but maybe that’s the appeal of the book’s subject– when written from a mature perspective, Magneto is always a wild card. – Simon J. O’Connor

4 Star Rating

Green Lantern #29Green Lantern #29
Shipping Out
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artists: Billy Tan, Martin Coccolo,
Rob Hunter, Walden Wong

Colorists: Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
20 pages, $2.99

“Abandon all hope?”

That’s the question appearing on the front cover of Green Lantern #29. The sad thing about it? It’s way more meta than it is supposed to be… As it’s only supposed to reference Blue Lantern Saint Walker’s loss of hope… But means so much more to me. The question also symbolizes my discontent with DC Comics– their (lack of) admirable creative decisions, letting the wrong people run the company, their editorial mandates, the grittiness they attempt to impose on every title and the way they treat creators (that aren’t named Scott Snyder). My list of complaints goes on and on. But this stuff’s all company related… And I’m not here to review the publisher.

To be completely fair (which is my mantra), the actual structure and contents of GL #29 are decent, if loaded with mediocrity. I guess they get the job done. My biggest issue with the story? The scope and scale of the narrative fails to deliver. This is a massive miscue, as I am not easily hoodwinked by bombast and flash anymore… And all I’m left with is an underwhelming slog. I never feel the glorious cosmic nature of this series, not once. (Even when I was loathing some of Geoff John’s later work on the book, it still had a giant feel.)

Short synopsis: The Green Lantern Corps have gone to war with much of the universe, since there is no faith in their system anymore. While surprisingly relevant to today’s world events, the entire ordeal feels extremely forced. Another question: Is it bad for me to want the Corps to lose their power over the universe? (Let’s face it– they haven’t exactly been the best protectors of many of the varied space sectors.)

Writer Robert Venditti does a good job of getting the reader from point A to point B and his dialogue is a step above average. The characters’ reactions– even to the absurd situations and events– at least feel appropriate. His humour is decent. (I had a couple of chuckles.) I would even be happy to sample more of Venditti ‘s work, to see if his obvious skills are better suited elsewhere. Hell… If it wasn’t for the superbly overblown plot, I might have even enjoyed GL #29.

As usual, the SIX person art team doesn’t fare as well as the singular writer. So many artists stirring the pot definitely created inconsistencies. There was one specific sequence that was noticeably different– Hal and Kilowog’s stature looked bulkier and Salaak’s proportions were way off. The same thing goes for the two colourists tapped for this issue. The colours fluctuated, causing a weird variance of light and dark tones between pages. Not a great outing for this artistic “team”– an easy solve if DC would just stick with hiring 1 penciler, 1 inker and 1 colourist per comic.

The minor scope of Green Lantern #29 just did me in completely. It played with my expectations and makes me hesitant to give the series a chance in the future. So to answer the cover question: It looks like I am abandoning all hope… At least, for DC Comics. After Azzarello and Chiang’s Wonder Woman run ends– it’ll probably take a miracle for me to look at any DC series for fun, entertaining material. – Nick Furi

1 Star Rating

Moon Knight #1Moon Knight #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 pages, $3.99

I’ll freely admit I was plenty scared going into this comic… Primarily because I’m used to being disappointed by mainstream hero books these days. That said, I was attempting to keep a brave front. After all, with the success (and I’m assuming decent-sized rights checks) of the Red films in the bank, once prolific comic book writer Warren Ellis hasn’t been around that much lately (umpteenth reprints of DC’s Planetary don’t count)… And I hoped Moon Knight would be plenty special– since Ellis has tons of creator-owned projects he’s willingly let languish (Fell, Ignition City, Desolation Jones), despite having tons of fans wishing for more, more, more.

In truth, it didn’t help that his last Marvel OGN, Avengers – Endless Wartime was a rather rank, phoned-in affair.

So– was Moon Knight #1 one of Ellis’ best comic books? Hardly. But it was also far from his worst– as he uses some of the best weapons in his arsenal of talented writer tricks to quickly engage comic fans (and bring any Moon Knight newbies) up to speed. And if you automatically think all Marvel comics are shit, you need to stop. Now. As the saying goes, even broken clocks are right twice a day… And Marvel’s mediocre titles are often better than many of DC Comic’s best books. (That’s how bad DC’s failed New 52 truly is… Whether you want to admit it or not.) When you think Ellis Moon Knight, you need to remember Brubaker’s Daredevil. There is a very real possibility this comic could be just as good… Which is sort of an insane statement to make, I know, since this is only the first issue.

The best thing about the comic? Ellis has jettisoned Frenchie– Marc Spector’s erstwhile French Chauffeur/Sidekick– who was more often than not just worthless Inspector Clouseau rip-off comic relief anyway. The second best thing about the comic? Ellis doesn’t go bananas exploring Spector’s insanity. (Many writers have gotten bogged down with Moon Knight’s mental issues in the past– using the character’s various personalities as an excuse to spout off on the hot button issues that always surround mental health). But like I just said, Ellis doesn’t walk too far into this obvious narrative-killing quagmire– which is sorta amazing, since the writer’s specialty is delineating characters with distinct, skewed world views. Nope. Ellis’ Spector isn’t stereotypically “crazy like a loon” as he is “overtly smart like a fox”. Think more Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock and less Sir Anthony Hopkins’ fava beans scene-chewing Hannibal Lecter. This Moon Knight is more superior detective than testosterone-addicted superhero.

So what– if anything– was bad? Nothing really. There were a few disappointing moments– like when I realized Spector was simply going to wear a white face mask and disco bright white suit throughout. (Bye bye, Green Arrow-style cowl and humongous flowing white cape.) The other problem was a little more pronounced– and could be nothing more than a simple personal preference. I wasn’t a big fan of Declan Shalvey’s art– specifically his seemingly endless need to draw the innumerable lines delineating the folds in MK’s mask and suit. Instead of making the Knight look dapper and functional, the ensemble often looks ill-fitting and unpressed… Which, I’m guessing, is the opposite of what Ellis was shooting for.

As far as first issues go, Moon Knight #1 was much more than adequate… And given Ellis’ propensity to “go big or go home”, I’m expecting much more in the immediate future. It would also be nice to see commitment phobe Ellis stick to a series for more than 5 or 6 issues too. We’ll see. – Ian MacMillan

3 Star Rating

Wolverine and the X-Men #1Wolverine and the X-Men #1
Tomorrow Never Learns
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
20 Pages, $3.99

Another day, another re-launch from Marvel.

This time around they’re re-launching a comic I am quite fond of: Wolverine and the X-Men. There’s a soft spot in my heart for the previous iteration, even if the later issues weren’t all that amazing. The beginning of that series was so good, it restored my faith that there was still some talent at Marvel– and some life left in the X-Men. So naturally I wanted to read and review the continuation of the adventures of Wolverine’s school, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.

I’ll freely admit I’m not familiar with the writer of this comic. I’ve never read a book written by Jason Latour. But since the previous version was just “cancelled” so Marvel could manufacture a new #1, I couldn’t help but compare this new series to the “old” one that came directly before it… And I felt this series had to possess the light-hearted, goofy quirkiness of the original comic if it were to succeed… And this comic did have some of that. There were a few quirky moments that made me smile– but there were also a few that didn’t do anything for me at all.

As much as this comic is about Wolverine, it’s also about the students. That’s another thing the previous series excelled at– showcasing the “fun” X-Men. Here we’re introduced to a slew of newish characters (some a lot more charming than others)… And yes, I am curious to see how these newer characters will continue to develop.

As I should have expected (but didn’t), this issue is entirely set-up and introduction. Latour does a fine job establishing the threat/bad guy on the first and last pages of this issue. He also does a fine job introducing us to the main characters: Wolverine, Storm, Fantomex, various students, etc. However, I’m afraid new readers will be left in the dark vis-a-vis  the more obscure characters. This oversight isn’t enough to derail the comic completely, but it’s enough to cause questions about who’s who and what’s what. For example, this issue addresses the connection between Fantomex and Evan (basically a kid version of Apocalypse).  If you’re not aware of what’s happened between them before, you’ll be confused. Even I was a little lost… And I read every issue of the previous series.

Mahmud Asrar’s art is perfect for this comic. It has a cartoony, yet realistic, feel to it. Every time I see Asrar’s name on a comic cover, I get excited. His art looks clean and is simply fun to look at. I just wish Israel Silva’s colors were up to snuff. The work isn’t awful, but it also didn’t give Asrar’s art the push it needed. The colors were often muddy and dark, which is something I do not like in my comic books. Muddy coloring dampens the vitality of any art and does a huge disservice to the pencilers and inkers.

If you’re a fan of the X-Men movies or cartoons looking for an entry point into the world of X-Men comics– I think you’re going to like this book… As it’s a decent introductory issue. (As a regular reader, I was just far too familiar with all the repetitive set-up a “new” first issue requires.) For me, the real test will come once the wheels start to roll and the story begins to unfold. If the narrative holds up, I think we’ ll have a solid X-Men comic here… As I do see potential.

Sadly, we all know that “if” can be a huge assumption. – Aaron Evans

3 Star Rating

Drumhellar #5Drumhellar #5
Writers: Riley Rossmo, Alex Link
Artist/Colorist: Riley Rossmo
Letterer: Kelly Tindall
22 pages, $3.50

Strange and wonderful– that’s how I would describe this comic in both its artistry and story. The series follows a man named Drum Hellar, a man who can communicate with beings from another plane of existence with the help of a tincture of salvia. In this issue, he’s recruited by a “Velociwrangler” (a velociraptor riding another dinosaur like a cowboy) to help herd a flock of ghost dinosaurs. As he’s trying to get this accomplished, Drum winds up contemplating the meaning of life alongside his friends: A ghost cat, a she-wolf, a waitress at a diner, his ex-girlfriend and a pretty blonde.

Surreal and significant, the story is rich with complexity– and something novel reveals itself each time I read it. Because this is my first encounter with the psychedelic detective, I’m left a bit confused about some things, but that’s okay… As my confusion doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I’m so intrigued I’m going to hunt down the previous four issues so I can read the whole thing.

DH5

The narrative alludes to something tragic that happened earlier and I want to see it for myself– especially because I quite enjoy Riley Rossmo’s art and color work. He’s a talented guy and a true artist. His drawings, paired with the colors and white lightning-bolt lines, are very much alive… Nearly vibrating off the page. The colors often add another dimension (pun intended) to connect the reader with the alternate plane of existence. There’s no better showcase of Rossmo’s talent than the two-page centerfold in which Drum hallucinates about the meaning (or lack thereof) of life.

This is an artistic and meaningful comic, something I do not encounter often enough. – Erin Escobar

4.5 Star Rating

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