IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

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Curse #3Curse #3
Writers: Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel
Artists: Riley Rossmo, Colin Lorimer
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Jim Campbell
22 pages, $3.99

I picked up Curse #3 primarily because of Riley Rossmo. I had to– especially after the wonderful impression he left me with two weeks ago with Drumhellar #5. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve come to appreciate his art in such a short time. His style specifically shines during this comic’s flashback sequences. Rossmo’s cover is also beautifully done, capturing the two major conflicts that drive the narrative: The internal struggle between Anton’s human and werewolf sides, and the personal conflict between Anton and Laney Griffin– a man whose wife was murdered by the werewolf.

Poor Anton is cursed to be a werewolf… And according to the flashback, he’s attempted to end his (and the beast’s) life… But in the present day, he seems almost resigned to his savage ways… Or at least given in to its hunger. I pity Anton, but I do not like him… Since he often revels in his bestial side.

That noted, I love a story where the conflicts are not just skin deep, where the layers continue to unravel to reveal truths that you never see coming. That’s what happens here: A significant truth about Anton the werewolf is revealed, and a few dimensions of conflict are added between Anton and Laney. I happily got a lot out of this one comic.

The characters also carry the kind of weight and dimension I crave. Anton’s been tormented with his curse since (at least) 1968, and he clearly never intended to end up like this. Laney’s motivations are also revealed: He’s not just imprisoning Anton in his cellar because he killed his wife. The man’s also got a son suffering from leukemia– who’s condition can somehow be helped by this incredibly dangerous werewolf.

Writers Micheal Moreci and Tim Daniel are both extremely talented storytellers. Their story– paired with Rossmo and Colin Lorimer’s exceptionally emotive art– make for a wonderfully fun, engrossing read. There’s an awesome lyric composition to the dialogue, action, and art in Curse #3 that makes it feel more like I’m watching a film… Rather than flipping pages in a comic book. It’s that good. – Erin Escobar

4.5 Star Rating

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1
New Rules Part One
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Richard Starkings,
Jimmy Betancourt

22 pages, $3.50

Buffy is back! It doesn’t seem that long since the comic’s Season 9 ended, but I’m not complaining. If the rest of Season 10 matches this beginning, we’re in for a treat. I know I could easily be accused of jumping the gun by making such a declaration, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1 reminded me just how good comics can be. It’s no coincidence that I felt the same way whenever I read Dark Horse’s companion title, Angel and Faith too– since the same creative team is now working their magic on Buffy.

Whoever hired Christos Gage to write Buffyverse comics is a freakin’ genius! (At this point, Gage could write a Buffy Cookbook and I’d read it.) And if Angel and Faith showcased how perfectly Gage understood those spin-off characters… Then this first issue of Buffy Season 10 shows just how well he understands the core characters even better. Left and right, Gage nails how every character acts and sounds. He even takes the time to write a letter (reprinted in the back of every Dark Horse comic for the month), explaining how he’s approaching this core Buffy title. Unlike most PR “puff” pieces, Gage’s missive is well-worth reading, and instills great hope in this comic book fan.

Enjoying Angel & Faith like I have, I’ve no clue why I was nervous or worried about BTVS Season 10. I guess it’s because these characters mean so much to me… And I’ve been less than underwhelmed with Dark Horses most recent Buffy efforts. Since there was such a huge creative divide between Buffy and the Angel and Faith comics, I was also worried Gage would be more restricted when writing Buffy comics. (Not so far-fetched, if you think about it– Marvel & DC often meddle much more with the books featuring their “top” characters than they do the ones starring their “second tier” heroes.)

But I’ve got great news! If this issue is any indication, we’ve got nothing to worry about. Period.

Season 10 #1 immediately addresses a couple of the big problems I had with Season 9. The Scooby Gang is back together and kicking supernatural butt. Thank. God. It’s been far too long since they’ve all been together, and it’s wonderful to see them fighting the same fight again. Amazingly, Gage has also fixed another problem: I was really annoyed with how Xander was portrayed towards the end of Season 9. I understood how his actions advanced the story, but I truly disliked his characterization.

Seems I’m not the only one. Like any great writer of serialized storytelling, Gage confronts Xander’s situation head on… And the way Gage has Xander dealing with the repercussions of his actions is very interesting. Fans of the show will squeal in delight when you see who he has a conversation with too! (I refuse to spoil it, but you’ll instantly know who I’m talking about if you read the comic.)

In-between righting some previous narrative inadequacies, Gage fires on all cylinders. The jokes are there. The touching moments are there. The pop culture references are there. It felt like I was watching a great episode of the show– which is the highest compliment I can give a comic based on a fantastic television series.

Will readers who’ve never watched the show or read a Buffy comic enjoy this book? Yes and possibly no. It’s a straight-forward story that anyone can get into, but not knowing what happened in previous seasons (of the comic and the TV series) will cause some confusion– but not so much to make the comic unenjoyable or unreadable.

I praised Rebekah Isaacs art since the moment I first saw it… And I’m not going to stop now. Isaacs style is perfect for this comic. It captures the likenesses of the actors very well, but still manages to look like great sequential art. She excels at perfectly depicting their emotions too (see the last two pages of this comic for an example). The action scenes are dynamic and flow very nicely. Dan Jackson’s colors also compliment her art in fine fashion.

Whenever I read a great comic for IMJ, I always warn our editor Ian that I may have just written a love letter instead of a review. But when I come across something as amazing as Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1, I’m sorryI just can’t help myself. Call me a “Buffy Fanboy” if you want, it’s okay. But I prefer to think of myself as simply a fan of great comic books. The fact that two of my passions happen to intersect with this comic? We’ll, that’s just a cosmically cool bonus. – Aaron Evans

4.5 Star Rating

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1 Isaacs CoverBuffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1
New Rules Part One
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Richard Starkings,
Jimmy Betancourt

22 pages, $3.50

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Since Buffy The Vampire Slayer returned to comics with Season 8, it’s kinda been all over the place… And that’s never a good thing. I stuck through Season 8 till the last issue– only to be slapped in the face with the ridiculous death of a character who had been around since the TV show’s first episode. Let me be honest: With the title’s multiple writers and (always) vomit inducing art– it was never really a fun ride. At all. I thought things might get better with Season 9… And boy, was I wrong. Same ol’ terrible art paired with even more not-so-consistent writing.

So what made me think Season 10 would be any different? Two reasons: Writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs. These two are responsible for producing one of my favorite comics possibly ever– Angel & Faith. That book was everything the Buffy title should’ve been… But the most important thing that comic had going for it? Consistency. Gage wrote the entire series and Isaacs drew all but a few issues. With the same creative pair now moving over to the Buffy series, how could my expectations be anything but high?

With the first issue of Season 10, the title seems to now be in more than capable hands… Even if it did take me till about the halfway point to start to feel completely on board. Yes, it was nice to see the Buffster and Scoobies dealing with some “back to basics” vampire (or zompire… Ugh… Thanks again Season 9) slaying… But it isn’t until Gage starts to show his hand– letting us know where he is going to take this series– that things start to take off.

A more powerful race of vampires, ghost Anya, and a Faith cameo toward the end were all great moments… But none compare to Gage and Isaacs delivering the ONE SCENE I have been hoping to see since the end of Season 8.

BTVS S10 #1

I’m not going to bullshit around here: These few panels are exactly why I am so glad Rebekah Isaacs is now drawing the Buffy comic. There is just no way the title’s former artist could have pulled off this reunion with as much emotion as Isaacs puts on display. Hell, before Isaacs arrival… I could barely tell who some of the characters were supposed to be– and that really is a sad thing. I know Ian can attest to what I am saying here… He’s got a great story about how he purchased the expensive, oversized Buffy hardcovers for his girlfriend– only to watch in abject dismay as she put them down because she specifically could barely recognize any of the characters previous Buffy artist Georges Jeanty was drawing.

Gage and Isaacs are the creative team Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 deserves… And almost every other comic currently published should be jealous of the creative craftsmanship on display here. Their art and writing mesh so well. (Even crazier– their synergy only seems to be growing with every comic they create together.) I’ll be sad not having them on Angel & Faith any longer… But I also refuse to complain, since the Buffy comic hasn’t been enjoyable to me for a very long time. It’s nice to see things have changed so dramatically… And it’s even nicer to see true creators get their just due. – Jose Melendez

4 Star Rating

Thor God of Thunder #20Thor God of Thunder #20
All Worlds Must Die
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: Joe Sabino
20 Pages, $3.99

This title received quite a lot of praise many months ago… So I was quite interested to see how Thor God of Thunder was doing now. I won’t mince words: Writer Jason Aaron is providing some entertaining moments, but overall, this book meanders and is horribly decompressed.

First of all– and this is no small detail– the dialogue in this comic is embarrassingly clumsy. Most character interactions feel extremely unnatural, which significantly decreases the quality of the final product. Why do I make such a big deal of awkward dialogue? To put it simply, this story involves different versions of the same characters through time… As well as supernatural entities, gods and even Galactus. These are all tremendously huge, bigger-than-life beings– to the point where they are concepts more than mere flesh. So when it comes to their dialogue, finding the proper words to fill their mouths becomes a crucial component in making them sound “just right”.

So imagine my disappointment to discover Aaron makes all these bigger than life entities sound like American Teenagers. This isn’t Young Avengers or New Warriors– it’s Thor The Friggin’ Thunder God!

There are also a lot of silly ideas in the comic too, like some evil corporation getting rid of all the fish in the sea. Rack these idiotic moments next to the crap dialogue. The main bad guy in this story is a CEO, but is later revealed to be a minotaur as well. Plotwise, this is what I call a bad turn. It would’ve been so much more interesting if this enemy were just a human. If you’re just dying to write about a minotaur, you can always introduce one at some point… But a character has way too much on his plate by being both a genius-tier CEO and a mythical creature. I find it much more entertaining to follow the conflicts of protagonists with clearly defined skills and boundaries. Characters with too much wits or strength often tend to be the creations of lazy, unimaginative writers.

Still speaking of plot, Galactus isn’t really important and is very weakly used. His presence is contrived and this sad rendition of the gargantuan world eater can be summed up with these 6 words “trite cosmic menace of the month”.

Finally, the story is extremely decompressed– to the point of stalling. Half the book is useless exposition or unnecessary splash pages. This considerably devalues any possible enjoyment from the comic but, amazingly, doesn’t prevent it from being extremely wordy and long to read– with absolutely no payoff to be found at the end.

On the bright side, kudos to artist Esad Ribic— his drawings are spectacular. There isn’t a single page that couldn’t be deemed profoundly beautiful. The gorgeous colors by Ive Svorcina lend Ribic’s drawings a painting-like look– thanks to Svorcina’s watery, sometimes almost oily, tinges. The combination of both artists’ talents is this book’s only plus.

What a disappointing experience. I would only recommend Aaron’s Thor to die-hard fans of the Norse God… And even then I would run from the shop if the fan I recommended this comic to walked in the next week. Others should skip this run like the inane plague it is. I know I will. P.S.- My rating is for the art only.
– Simon J. O’Connor

2 Star Rating

PrintSex Criminals #5
Going Down
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Colorists: Chip Zdarsky, Becka Kinzie
20 pages, $3.50

Holy crap, this series is fun! I have been reading Sex Criminals since the beginning and Issue #5 marked my decision point– do I drop the comic, or do I place it permanently on my monthly Pull List? With Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky serving up this gem, there’s no way I could spurn this series. I had a feeling I was going to fully subscribe anyway, but wanted to give it just one more issue to see if the fun, wit and charm could be maintained over 5 issues.

Right off the bat– and on the recap page no less– I’m hit with a sense of goofy entertainment. Fraction’s remade the page into a dirty limerick, and a (surprisingly) fun one too. Of course, this type of humor only works if it’s played as serious. The creators need to go all in or it will not work. Thankfully, this serious playfulness has been rampant throughout the entire series.

Time to be blunt: Sex Criminals is the first Matt Fraction series I’ve ever enjoyed. The scribe is able to weave in-between the present, past and some goofy sex-time-freeze-zone (aka The Quiet) with ease. The amount of narration in this comic would normally cause massive problems for me. But the way it’s directed at the reader– like some mega fourth wall break– works extremely well and helps make the story dance flawlessly through one concept to the next.

In-between all the ridiculousness of the main story, I’m given some very intriguing character building moments. There’s great insight into the two main characters’ (Suzie and Jon) audacious motivations– a nice touch that is (unfortunately) missing from many other comic books in the industry. I could go on and on about how much I love the idea, the humor, the story, the characters (both the protagonists and the antagonists), etc… But then I would probably just be rambling.

Instead, let’s turn the focus on how Chip Zdarsky’s art hits a home run. He awesomely brings a slew of varied emotions to life. The way characters react and play off each other is such a treat to experience– it’s almost like watching really good actors improvise a series of lines or reactions because it’s natural for their characters. The second thing worth mentioning: How Zdarsky decides to portray The Quiet as little wisps of light and colour gliding through the page– but never once becoming a distraction. (Quite a feat if you ask me.) Finally and simply, Zdarsky is an amazing artist. His linework and colours work so well together. I’m guessing he’s gone a route similar to Fiona Staples and creates everything digitally… Giving him the control he needs to get everything just right. Whatever the case, it’s stunning!

Books like Sex Criminals compound and exemplify the notion that creators (and their ideas) suffer at the hands of the Big Two. This book would never happen at Marvel or DC… But to see this adventurous, bold idea– and how the creators go at it with such conviction– is incredible. This simply doesn’t happen at Marvel or DC.

I laughed, I cared and I’m compelled to continue reading. This issue marks the end of part one and I highly recommend you pick up the trade if you haven’t read the series yet. Well done Matt and Chip– you have me hooked! – Nick Furi

4 Star Rating

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6 Responses to IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

  1. NicktheStick says:

    Erin, you know what’s crazy? That cover to Curse #3 is hanging in my LCS! Riley just had an art show there – I wanted to buy some stuff sooo bad, but just didn’t have the extra bucks to do so.

    Also, come Wednesday – when I head to my LCS – I might just have to see if they have any copies of Curse still around.

    • Erin says:

      Nick, Nice! I’m a budding fan of Riley Rossmo. I bought Curse #3 because I saw that he was the co-artist, and I was not disappointed. I have enjoyed all of his comic art so far. I even went and bought Drumhellar back issues because I knew he illustrated them and I like the weird storyline.

  2. Insideman says:

    I’m so happy to see Gage and Isaacs on Buffy. Like many, I really loved their Angel & Faith comic. As it happens, the last A&F and Buffy trades were on my pile to read the last few days. A&F was fantastic… And the Buffy trade was extremely “meh”.

    Whedon has an easily imitated writing style… But unless someone like Gage comes along and gets it totally– that’s all the writers ever come off as… Imitators. (Remember Jose noted how even an IMJ Fave like Jeff Parker seemed to be having his share of problems on the Willow mini-series.) Sadly, I didn’t even like the Espenson story in the back of the last Buffy trade. It was so trite and inconsequential… The message she going for came off totally limp.

    Of course, none of this stopped all kinds of desperate sites looking for pull quotes from fawning all over the Buffy trade– as if the stories within were the Second Coming of Joss.

    And Jeanty’s art really was mediocre/serviceable– bordering on sorta putrid. Crazy as this may sound, it never got any better. He has a terrible time with perspective (Buffy and Dawn often looked like little people) and his drawing of female eyes always resembled gashes in the top of a tin can– if the can were opened with a knife. The fact that his art never got any better is still what kills me though. He had plenty of time (years) to get the likenesses down… But never went beyond his preconceived ideas of what he thought the main characters should look like. That said, Jeanty’s worse day was never as bad as the steaming Angel/Spike licensed shit IDW put for a couple of years.

    But Hobbits in leather jackets… Damn. So glad that’s over.

    Any idea who’s taking over Angel & Faith?

    • J. says:

      Victor Gischler and Will Conrad. There was a few page preview in Buffy #1.

      • Morlock50 says:

        Hey Jose and Aaron, great reviews of Buffy, and I heartily agree with you both. I read Angel & Faith 1 which was very good, and I’m going to go through Season 9 as well. Gage and Issacs are a very solid team.

  3. phil says:

    The only Buffy comics that I’ve read had been trades from the library. I had always questioned if a comic could capture the essence of the show, and was shown, it couldn’t. Georges Jeanty’s drawing was serviceable, but not recognizing who was who, w/o the word balloons 4 help, was frustrating. Plus the dialogue seemed 2 be from rote, at best. From what l can see on my cell phone, Isaacs seems to be a few steps up from Georges. The next time I have a few bucks 4 comics, I’ll see if B can still make that magic, in print.

    Never really been in2 Thor, but Ribic’s art I’ve always wanted 2 check out, so he might make me become a believer in the thunder god, as long as he’s painting, and not pencilling, which had Paolo Rivera painted, instead of pencilled, l might have been picking up Waid’s DD.

    Anyway…,gr8 reviews guys.

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