Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reading a Big Stack of Comics, Part 2

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Ignition City #1-2 (Avatar Press, $3.99 each) was exactly the kind of thing I think to myself that I want to read. So I should really have liked this, but instead I found it annoyingly unsurprising. Maybe I should take a break from reading just about everything Warren Ellis writes, because Ignition City felt too much like Ellis-by-numbers: Tough, smart, hot chick protagonist? Check. Lots of swearing, drinking and talking about swearing and drinking? Check. Making a fetish of air travel, space travel and or British exceptionalism? Check. I still liked it, though I wish artist Gianluca Pagliarani didn’t try so hard to get me to look at Mary Raven’s ass.

Soul Kiss #1-2 (Image Comics, $3.50 each) puts a fun twist on the deal-with-the-devil idea as a struggling young production assistant gains the power to kill with a kiss. Man of Action Steven T. Seagle delivers a peppy script, well matched by some bold and vibrant from the artist, Marco Cinello. This feels like the indie comics of decades past and I’m on board for the rest of this one.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 (Vertigo, $3.99) is something I bought mostly because anything Grant Morrison does is almost always worth a look. But this is a reminder that not everything he does pans out. My first clue should have been that I remembered the art from reading the first Seaguy series but nothing about the story. This sequel made an equally lax impression on me as Seaguy mopes his way through a story that’s strange but as lifeless and pointless as the first series was (now that I remember it).

Elephantmen #15-18 (Active Images/Image Comics, $2.99 each) has turned into a real favorite, largely because each issue actually adds to the story. The pace isn’t exactly a rip-roaring roller coaster, but unlike too many other series when something happens in Elephantmen it happens for a reason. It also looks fantastic, with great artwork, lovely coloring and effective (though occasionally over-busy) designs and top-notch lettering. It also is one of the few comics that actually feels like a periodical publication, its pages filled with bonus features, articles about British comics and even backup features. I particularly liked issue #18, which featured some lovely artwork from comics newcomer Marian Churchland.

Astro Boy: The Movie #1 (IDW, $3.99) debuts a four-part prequel to the upcoming CG-animated movie. The comic has an appealing, simple style, courtesy of writer Scott Tipton and artist Diego Jourdan, that is ideal for a kids audience (which is what I assume they’re going for). Fans of Osamu Tezuka or the old anime Astro Boy cartoons are probably going to find this a little shallow, but this is pretty good for a kids-movie tie-in.

From the Ashes #1 (IDW, $3.99) is a strange and fun “speculative memoir” by misanthropic cartoonist Bob Fingerman in which he and his wife, Michele, appear to be the sole survivors of a mysterious apocalyptic event. It’s surprisingly funny to watch them take relief in the idea of not having to go to work or that all the annoying people they hate aren’t around — until, of course, the cannibals show up. The almost blasé reactions are a nice counterpoint to the hysteria of, say, Cloverfield.

Buck Rogers #0 (Dynamite, 25 cents) is a short preview of a new series resurrecting the classic sci-fi hero for the 21st century. Most of my knowledge of Buck Rogers comes from the 1970s TV show, which was decidedly cheesy, so this is a pleasant surprise. Scott Beatty sets things up with an action packed script and the art by Carlos Rafael has a terrific modern look.

American McGee’s Grimm #1 (IDW, $3.99) is a reasonably fun little lark in which the title character — who apparently stars in his own video game series — spoofs superhero comics by helping the supervillains actually win, for once. While superhero comics are a pretty easy target, this has a few clever moments and some interesting looking artwork, courtesy of writer Dwight MacPherson and artist Grant Bond.

Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #4 (Oni Press, $3.99) continues the series spun off the Comedy Central faux news hosts’ fan fiction joke. The joke was funny when the first issue came out, some two years ago, but it’s wearing a little thin in this fourth issue.

Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us #1 (Oni Press, $3.99) brings back Chynna Clugston’s ode to ’80s high school highjinks and hasn’t lost a step. There is something odd about seeing these characters coming back after a pretty lengthy absence having aged not at all, but it’s made up for by Clugston’s overall sharp sense of humor and an art style that’s increasingly influenced by the work of Jaime Hernandez. Now, my sole complaint is that this series isn’t in color …

Spawn #188 (Image Comics, $2.95) is Part Four of the Endgame story that brings creator Todd McFarlane back into the creative process. Having read this book for the past few years, I find this title to be quite underrated. McFarlane co-writes the story with Brian Holguin and it’s got a good hook, a sufficiently creepy undertone and makes loads more sense than any of the issues McFarlane did back in the early 1990s. Artwork also is quite goood, with pencils from the always-interesting Whilce Portacio and “digital inks” from McFarlane himself. It may not necessarily look much like classic McFarlane, but at least a little of his iconic style sneaks through to nice effect.

Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #2-3 (Radical Comics, $2.99 each) is military sci-fi in the mode of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. While the machismo, even from the lead female character, is a little much for me, fans of this kind of thing will likely find this to be a superior comic. Created by Mark Long and Nick Sagan and scripted by M. Zachary Sherman, the details of the story get a bit lost in the dark but lovely painted artwork of Bagus Hutomo. I appreciate the look of the art, but some clarity in the images would help the storytelling.

Hotwire #1-2 (Radical Comics, $2.99) is another Warren Ellis comic starring a tough-as-nails hottie chick — this time she’s a exorcist detective in a world where ghosts are real. Scripted and painted by Steve Pugh, this is an imaginative world featuring a story that’s attractively told and could develop into something really interesting.

The Unwritten #1 (Vertigo, $1) is the discount-priced debut of the new series from writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross. This ongoing series kicks off with a guy named Tommy Taylor, whose father wrote a series of Harry Potter-style books starring his son — and suddenly disappeared. Tommy himself is the object of adoration at conventions, signings, etc. — until it’s revealed he may not be who he says (or thinks) he is. Written with Carey’s usual care and in a nice literary style, this book also looks terrific thanks to Gross’ excellent art and truly fine coloring from Chris Chuckry. This feels like the kind of hit Vertigo specializes in and should make fans of Fables, Sandman and Y: The Last Man happy.

BONUS BLAST FROM THE PAST #1: It doesn’t really matter that DC’s Heroes Against Hunger #1 (1986) is not a good comic, because it was a benefit book for African famine. It’s amazing to look back and see how many benefits of this type there were, from Band-Aid and Live-Aid to USA for Africa, Northern Lights and Marvel’s X-Men comic Heroes for Hope. This is very much like Heroes for Hope, in that it features a ton of great talent all contributing a few pages at a time. The story, such as it is, features Superman and Batman working on various hunger problems and needing the help of Lex Luthor. It’s got a cool cover by Neal Adams and art by just about every top artist of the era — Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino, George Perez, John Byrne, Barry Windsor-Smith, Walt Simonson, Dave Gibbons, Denys Cowan and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. It’s also got most of the DC writing stable of the era, but it’s lacking the star power evident in Heroes for Hope, which had pages by Alan Moore and Stephen King. Again, little of that matters, as this wasn’t really meant to work as a great piece of art as much as a good excuse for comics fans and DC to contribute to a good cause.

BONUS BLAST FROM THE PAST #2: Pacific Comics is no longer around, but Alien Worlds #2 (May 1983) proves it put out some good stuff. This particular issue offers fans of sci-fi art some terrific eye candy. Up first is a tale called “Aurora,” written and drawn by the late Dave Stevens in 1977. It’s a great reminder that he was a fantastic illustrator, and this sci-fi tale portrays a beautiful heroine in a lush, beautifully detailed and believable alien world. Each panel looks like it was labored over with love, and the result is really enchanting. Up next is a harder-edged story from Ken Steacy that again is beautifully illustrated with inky shadows and slick tech. Last is “A Mind of Her Own,” written and drawn by Bruce Jones and another tale where each panel encourages the reader’s eye to linger. Terrific, and well worth seeking out.

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Jevon said...

Wow, Tom. Lots of good stuff here.