Monday, June 4, 2007

Epic-length review roundup

Okay, I'm finally getting to the recent comics reviews I've been promising for a week or so. There's lots of stuff here, and I might talk about some of them more than others. And rather than just picking them randomly off a stack, I've tried to be a bit more organized and do them alphabetically. It's almost professional. Anyway, off we go:

The Boys #7
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Darick Robertson



The unceremonious cancellation of this book by DC seems to have raised its stature in the comics blogoweb's consciousness, including mine. Ever since it started, I thought it was pretty fun with some decent (if mean-spirited) jokes, but never was anything too groundbreaking. This issue brings my memories back, since it's more of the same. Some funny bits, maybe a little worldbuilding, lots of ridicule of superheroes, nothing too special. I expect I'll keep buying it, mostly out of my current antipathy toward superheroics, but I'm not really expecting big things. Who knows, maybe Ennis will pull out the stops and come up with something crazy in future issues, but he seems to be coasting along on his anti-superhero sentiment right now. We'll see where he goes with it.

Oh, and I should mention that I like the variant cover there. It's a good viewpoint reversal from the first issue's cover. Cool.
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Cover Girl #2 (of 5)
Written by Andrew Crosby and Kevin Church
Art by Mateus Santolouco



Well, I kind of criticized the first issue of this miniseries for being mostly setup, but the second issue almost seemed to be designed to address my concerns. As I suspected, the best part of the story is seeing Alex interact with Rachel, which is pretty much what happens for the entirety of this issue. There's some pretty good dialogue (and less of the forced wittiness that bothered me last issue):



Plus lots of action:



This issue has a different artist, and I like him better; his style seems to be closer to Rafael Albuquerque's cover art, and it looks really nice, with good facial expressions (although a couple of characters sport sharklike grins that I found offputting) and pretty nice layouts.

So my concerns have been addressed. One complaint (which involves SPOILERS): The black guy gets killed. That's too obvious of an action movie cliche. Maybe there will be a twist or something, but it bothered me [end SPOILER]. Anyway, good, enjoyable stuff, and I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series.
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Criminal #6
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips



Now this was pretty sweet. I think it was the slight hiatus that this title had been on, but I was wondering if I should drop it. This issue changed that feeling right away, with a slam-bang intro to a new, brutal story about a tough guy running away from the army to find and get revenge on his brother's killers. We're sure to get some good crime details in the upcoming story, but even this first chapter has some good characterization, and a nice, moody art style. I glanced through the recent Marvel Zombies one-shot that Phillips illustrated, and was not too impressed. He should really stick to this sort of story; it fits his sensibilities much better. So I'm hooked again, and can't wait to read more of this stuff. Nice job, guys; don't let me down!
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Gutsville #1 (of 6)
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Frazier Irving



I had been highly anticipating this title ever since I first heard about it, and, judging by the first issue, I don't think it will disappoint. It's a crazy concept: a ship was swallowed by a giant sea creature back in 1850; the passengers survived and set up a society in its intestines. It's a Puritanical place, with religious elders who call themselves Jonahkin ruling over everybody else, promising a "great gurgitation" someday. A sprawling cast is introduced, with our focus seeming to be mainly on Albert, a young man who wants to be an artist (which is frowned upon by the elders) but is forced to take up his father's mantle as Ratcatcher. He's in love with a young lady named Emilia, but she has chosen to marry the son of the head religious leader instead. Albert has found a map of his father's (as Ratcatcher, he had explored the intestines extensively), and hopes to use it to escape. There's also a plot about a serial killer, and a subplot about the mystical abilities of some aborigines (slaves?) on board. And then there's a hell of a cliffhanger on the last page, but I'm not going to spoil it for anybody who hasn't read the book.

Frazier Irving's art, which was the main attraction for me on this book, beautifully conveys the freaky world these characters inhabit. I can't wait to see what he has coming up in the future. He especially excels in portraying the psychedelic aborigine visions:



And while there's tons of other stuff worth mentioning, I wanted to point out the expressive depiction of hands in these panels:



That's really cool. Really, there's only one bit I didn't like, and that's the computer lettering in this panel:



Would it have killed them to hand-letter that? When lettering is printed on top of the art like that, it always looks to me like the letters are floating in front of whatever is being shown. But I'm nitpicking here, and it's one panel out of the whole book. (I seem to seize upon and obsess over minor details like this. A while back I was going on and on about panel borders; now I seem to be all about fonts. Weird.)

But anyway, it's pretty awesome. I recommend it, especially if you like weird stuff like me. I'm excited to read the next issue.
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Iron Man: Hypervelocity #5 (of 6)
Written by Adam Warren
Art by Brian Denham



Damn, I love this book. Adam Warren has been pulling out all the stops to give us an ultra-technofetishistic look at a rogue Iron Man suit occupied by an upload of Tony Stark's consciousness. He spends almost the entirety of this issue fighting off the intelligent virus that has infected his armor (and losing badly). Absynthe (the female projection of the virus, who turns out to be another uploaded consciousness, I think) beats the hell out of him for page after page, wiping out all his memories, like this one (which cracked me up):



Warren pulls of a twist with all this that I saw coming, but it's still handled pretty elegantly. Nicely done. At the same time, the suit is on autopilot, fighting of what seems like the full extent of SHIELD's arsenal. It's all pretty awesome, and it's leading up to a big action finale next issue. Sweet.

As for the art, I complained about previous issues that Denham's style doesn't fit Warren's writing as well as a more manga-inspired artist's might, but he seems to finally be getting close enough to Warren's actual art style that I find it pretty satisfactory. Warren does some pretty extensive layouts, from what I understand, and five issues in, he seems to finally be getting it. You can probably see what I mean on the page above. So it's pretty nice-looking as well as exciting and fun to read. If you haven't been reading the series, I highly recommend the inevitable collection.
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Loaded Bible 2: Blood of Christ
Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton



I'm not sure why I bought this. I got the first issue, which came out over a year ago, and I thought it was okay. But this one just wasn't very good. The big story in part one was Jesus fighting off the vampires that had overrun the earth, only to find out he was actually a clone being used by the Catholic church, who were the rulers of the remnants of human society. In this one, you have him angsting over that fact, while the people discover that they've been tricked, so the church releases their hordes of captive vampires to exert control, followed by their army of Jesus clones to regain safety. You've also got some stuff with resistance fighters, and scheming by vampire leaders. Yawn. It just didn't really interest me, possibly due to the absence of any wit in such a crazy concept. Art is by Mike Norton, the current artist on Runaways. He does a decent enough job, but nothing spectacular. I doubt I'll be back for any further chapters.
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Local #9 (of 12)
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ryan Kelly



I don't really have too much to say about this one, other than "it's really good". It's a series I love, and I wish it came out more regularly. This issue sees Megan traveling back to her hometown of Norman, Oklahoma to pay respects to her mom, who just passed away. It's a very emotional issue, filled with flashbacks to Megan's childhood, and Kelly's art is just beautiful. The way he conveys Megan's sadness is amazing:



And I love the style he uses for flashbacks, with thin lines and rough, charcoal greytones:



Nice. It's a great book, and I can't wait for the next issue, which takes place in my former hometown of Austin, Texas. Don't make me wait to long, guys!
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Madman Atomic Comics #2
By Mike Allred



Oh, yeah, I love me some Madman! We learn what's going on in this issue, and fans are surely happy to learn that Allred is not throwing out all of Madman's past adventures, like he teased us with last issue. Rather, it's a plot by the evil Monstadt! There's some really cool stuff this issue, with a bunch of double-page spreads detailing Frank's Ditko-esque psychedelic adventures. Here's a small detail:



And there's more philosophizing, plus this gem of a moment:



Yeah, that's what I like to see! Next issue promises more interdimensional/spiritual/afterlife action, and I can't wait.
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Newuniversal #6
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Salvador Larroca



I had thought this issue might wrap up the first story arc of the series, but that doesn't seem to be the case; Ellis is just writing a long story, and who knows how long it will last. I'm impressed with the scope of the story he's telling; whole characters and subplots seem to disappear for issues at a time, and most of the characters haven't even met and barely know the others exist. I count six major characters, each with their own storyline. Two of those stories seem to have merged, as Nightmask and Starbrand have met up and escaped a military attack. The Angelina Jolie-lookalike cyborg-building girl works under the NSA superhero expert, but they've barely interacted. And we don't even get to see what's going on with the archaeologists in Estonia this issue. It's a big, sprawling cast, and I'm finding it very interesting seeing what Ellis is doing with them.

This issue seems to be focused mostly on Voight(the NSA guy)'s meeting with the President (Hillary Clinton, in this universe). We get to learn some of his backstory, and it's pretty scary. We also get to see Justice continue to go nuts, murdering a street full of people because they are or will be guilty of something. I guess. This is an interesting development, since he hadn't done anything too evil before now, but he seems to have become quite the villain.


So, interesting stuff. I don't know if I would get any more out of it if I was at all familiar with Marvel's original New Universe, but I don't really care. I'm finding this really compelling, and unless it takes a drastic downturn, I expect to keep reading and enjoying it.
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X-Men: First Class Special
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Kevin Nowlan, Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred, Paul Smith, and Colleen Coover



It seems like every other comics blog has talked about this book and how fun it is, so I don't really feel the need to cover it too extensively (or post that panel of Xavier using Cerebro to determine the cuteness level of ducklings). So I'll just say I liked it quite a bit, and share this awesome Nick Dragotta/Mike Allred drawing:



Cyclops' eye really freaks me out there. Anyway, my enjoyment of this issue, and Jeff Parker's writing in general, has me considering picking up the collection of the X-Men: First Class miniseries and/or the upcoming ongoing series. I don't generally care for "hidden years" stories, and the regular artist is Roger Cruz, whom I don't care for too much. Plus, I've been getting pretty tired of superheroes lately. I'll consider it, maybe by trying to find the collection for cheap, but I dunno. It's a dilemma. Any thoughts, anybody?
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White Picket Fences #1 (of 3)
Written by Matt Anderson and Eric Hutchins
Art by Micah Farritor



I picked this one up because I thought it looked interesting, and I kind of liked the art style. The story has to do with a young boy living in suburbia stumbling across a military/alien weapon and possibly starting an interplanetary war. It seems to take place in an alternate version of the 1950's, where the populace is scared not by Communism, but by aliens from Mars or Venus. It's odd, and not explained very well (at least not yet). The story is kind of cute; in addition to Charlie (the boy) and his friends' comic book-inspired activities, we get some scenes between Charlie's father and a neighbor who mocks their shelter, where they hide from alien attacks, I guess. And there's a plot about the military showing up and taking over the town to root out the menace within. It's interesting, I guess, but not too compelling of a plot; I don't know if I'll come back for the next issue or not.

The art is pretty nice though, with some cartoonily angular designs. I especially liked this splash page of the kids playing war games:



It kind of reminds me of Jordan Crane or somebody like that. There's also a backup story featuring an adventure of Captain Odyssey, the kids' Flash Gordon-esque comic book hero. It's kind of fun, although it might be trying too hard to seem like Golden Age comics. And the character designs seem a bit too similar to the ones in the main story; if you ask me, they should be more fantastical. Fortunately, there are some nice visual flourishes:



So it's a fairly fun book. I might or might not pick up the second or third issue.
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Whew! I think that all I wanted to cover. I might have more stuff tomorrow. We'll see.