Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Gabriel Cassata
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
22 pages, $3.99
I’ve been trying to add more independent comics to my repertoire in recent months and so far– I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Reading stories where the characters are unfamiliar and the writers are not well known (to me) offers up the chance to review a comic with as little bias as possible.
Although I knew nothing about Hexed before delving into it, the comic turned out to be a real treat– opening up an entirely new genre for me. I don’t quite know how to classify it, but Hexed is a mix of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. As a whole, the book is something I would recommend to fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer or maybe True Blood (though Michael Alan Nelson’s writing is nowhere near as cheesy as the latter).
Nelson speaks to a wide audience, but also gives a little nudge towards the female demographic by creating a strong sorceress-type lead named Lucifer (but don’t call her Luci). Hexed is filled with demons, curses, occult symbolism and mesmerizing magic that offers an eye-catching visual presentation and an engrossing story.
Lucifer’s story starts out as a crime caper, then spontaneously combusts into a huge ball of “WTF!?” that immediately signaled the book would be a fun read. She’s snarky and utterly without fear, and manages to be a female lead who doesn’t require oozing sexuality to maintain a presence. Several other characters are introduced in the premier issue, with some left unacknowledged… Leaving an air of intrigue and a vast amount of potential for the series’ future. Even though there are no “good guys” in this mixed-up reality, there are some lovable and harrowing baddies I seriously look forward to learning more about.
– Danielle Young
Bits and Pieces
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artists: Edgar Salazar, Jay Leisten
Colorists: Richard & Tanya Horie
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
20 Pages, $2.99
Wow, this book is so sub par… Mediocre art, serviceable writing– it really isn’t trying very hard to win me over. Worst of it all? The complying end cliffhanger tying directly into Futures End– another example of a title screwed over by one of DC’s now infamous September sales gimmicks.
This issue’s biggest problem– stuff happens without any more of an explanation than “don’t ask how or why, it’s magic”. From such poor storytelling comes a terribly boring reading experience. Magic should have clear rules. As a reader, I should be able to understand what a character can and cannot do… But everything occurring by the hands of these magicians is simply so random. Constantine apparently can time travel fairly easily. He can also put mental probes into his enemies’ minds without breaking a sweat. It all feels just too easy, then Constantine seems victimized like a puppet during other sequences. Then things simply happen… Because they need to. I must blame writer Ray Fawkes for the lazy way the plot advances– and for forgetting to do some concrete, earnest world-building.
As for that final cliffhanger (spoilers obviously ahead), I find it so annoying to see Constantine sent to Apokolips. What’s the point? It’s not interesting nor taut storytelling. John is simply going to run around next issue– wreaking havoc on some Parademons by coming up with a couple of inexplicable tricks… And then he’ll be sent back to the present day, allowing the main story to continue.
Lots of comic books are forced to meander– then jump through crazy hoops for editorial and marketing reasons. As a trade-waiter, I can tell you that– when collected and read in one sitting– these titles make my head hurt. You can see the tapestry of unfocused, unbound plot points going nowhere. It’s maddening and sad at the same time.
My solution to the problem? Next time John teleports inexplicably somewhere, let it not be Apokolips… But back to Vertigo’s Hellblazer comic, okay?
– Simon J. O’Connor
Fantastic Four #8
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Leonard Kirk, Scott Hanna
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99
The Fantastic Four really have it rough these days. Not because the comic is bad, but because a lot of crap has been happening to these characters. I haven’t read this series since Issue #4, and all I could think while reading this issue was, “Boy, I’ve missed a lot.” Fortunately, there was a handy-dandy recap page at the very front which caught me up to speed. Every sentence in the recap page was helpful. It even contained parts that caused legitimate, “I can’t believe this actually happened!” moments for me.
What’s Strange– The first 8 pages (or so) go over everything explained on the recap page. That didn’t sit well with me at first, but the more I thought on it… I actually think the recap page softened the hit of those first 8 pages. Knowing what happened in the last few issues helped me swallow the second recap at the beginning of the comic– all cleverly narrated as a report by journalist Betty Brant.
James Robinson’s writing is always very hit-or-miss for me. Fortunately, this new Fantastic Four series is an absolute hit. He tells a great story, sucking you in, to the point you become extremely concerned for what’s going to happen to the FF next. Robinson also excels at taking these characters back to their roots, making them more relatable. Everyone can empathize with being overwhelmed by the crap life throws their way. By bringing Marvel’s First Family down to earth, it allows readers to connect to the characters quickly. It’s refreshing to see that someone at Marvel is still capable of doing this.
Sure, a lot of these plot devices have been used before: Being blamed for something really bad, having everything being taken away, using a reporter as narrator, being arrested/wanted for murder (I’m sensing this plot point in particular is becoming a theme within some of these newer Marvel comics)… But Robinson makes them work uniquely enough that I stayed invested.
Because the first 8 pages are entirely recap, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for current story development… But again, Robinson makes the best of this rehash by giving all the main characters a “moment”. There are a few pages with a good amount of dialogue, but because the words have substance– it never felt like a chore to read. There’s also an extremely enjoyable scene that proves my long-held belief that the Invisible Woman is the most awesome member of the FF. (Go, Sue Richards!)
Leonard Kirk’s art is great. He can convey more emotion in small panels than most artists working today can achieve in a full-page splash. (There’s one page in particular where you can practically see the Thing’s heart break.) The fight scenes are dramatic and exciting to look at… But the conversation heavy scenes are also composed in compelling ways. Kirk’s art lifts many of these sequences to the next level, which is what good comic book art is supposed to do. The inks and colors blend really nicely with Kirk’s pencils as well.
Despite employing some overused storytelling techniques and making some choices in the story I disagree with, Fantastic Four #8 is still a well put together comic that deserves your attention. This series has been really fun to read and has even helped me regain some respect for Marvel. (Something I thought was long gone.) – Aaron Evans
Spider-Man 2099 #2
Women & Secrets
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99
Another Spider-Man comic read, creating yet another wave of baffled curiosity why Dan Slott is still writing Spider-Man’s premiere book. Spider-Man 2099 #2 is how you write a proper Spider-Man story, especially one that involves a lot of talking.
This rampant dialogue is a testament to how great a talent scripter Peter David is– and becomes a textbook example of how to write a talking head issue. He puts so much of Miguel O’Hara (the character under the mask) on display, it’s easy to forget nothing overly eventful happens for 20 pages. (David helped create the character back in the 90s– probably a huge reason why it’s so easy to feel at home with the character now.)
The wit and humour flowing through this comic book is the key to enjoying this issue. Smart humour is severely lacking from most of the Spidey-related titles I’ve read over the past year. It’s so refreshing to read something that isn’t crass– or broken down to the lowest common denominator. Honestly, I think the only action sequence in the book is one big set up for a (literal) punchline.
Having different characters, each with their own distinct voice, is something I don’t often see anymore in mainstream comics. Generally, the tone and focus is on the hero and everyone else is background noise– existing only to move the plot forward. Peter David decides, and rightly so, that these characters are just as important as Miguel. For example, I was just as interested in Tempest and Liz. They are Miguel’s equals, not just fluff creating false obstacles for the protagonist to overcome.
The age-old problem of wondering why no one can figure out a hero’s secret identity is also handled very differently in Spider-Man 2099. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but it’s so refreshing not to see stupid characters just going with the flow– oblivious to their surroundings. Simply put, Peter David rocks!
The best thing about the art is how well Will Sliney is able to make some of the most mundane situations have a feeling of action… And he damn well makes sure the one action scene is also filled with a fun energy– something that’s also vacant from many mainstream comics. There really isn’t much more to say about the art or the colour work (ably accomplished by Antonio Fabela)– since David didn’t give them a lot to work with. But they still do a good job, never distracting me from the writer’s main goal of defining his characters.
Spider-Man 2099 #2 is also a good book– worth your time and money. – Nick Furi