The Order of the Forge #1 Review

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by Victor Gischler and Tazio Bettin

Make no mistake, this is a blasphemous book. It takes some balls to lampoon the founding fathers of America, to show them as skirt-chasing, foul-mouth drunkards.

The book opens with George Washington, in his 20s, as his father scolds him for ungentlemanly conduct. As he turns away to look at his newly planted cherry tree, George angrily marches outside and begins chopping it down. His axe flies away, and strikes a Native American totem pole which hits him with a strange, green energy.

He moves to Philadelphia and makes a friend in Paul Revere, himself a lazy slacker who lets George do all his work. George accepts this openly, as he now blurts out how he feels and cannot stretch the truth in any regard. They work as servants to Lord Hammond, whose plans to use black magic for revolt against Great Britain are threatened by the arrival of his niece, the Lady Kate. As she begins snooping into her uncle’s secret hobby, George and Paul rush to warn Ben Franklin of a coming thunderstorm. Soon, all of them are gathered against a group of muggers as lightening hits both Ben and George.

There isn’t a lot of historical accuracy here, which is good because the book is very farcical. George Washington never chopped down his father’s cherry tree and the story that he did described him as a child not a 20 year old. The characters speak with a mostly modern cadence, rarely attempting period appropriate dialogue. However, this allows Gischler to both poke fun at the founding fathers and humanize them. The idea of Paul Revere being a thieving layabout is funny on multiple levels. Even a passing knowledge of American History should allow readers to both understand and anticipate the humor used.

The art by Bettin is good in places, with some panels looking like either characters or backgrounds took precedent. The art more than the story is a little faithful to historical accuracy and cements the time period in your mind. His style has a classical bent to it here which helps sell the story.

There will be more mysticism in the coming issues and I’m curious to see how the character’s respond to Lord Hammond rebelling against Great Britain. Will they try to stop him and in the process accidentally help create the United States of America or will that be in the background of a National Treasure-esque adventure? Regardless, the humor alone is enough to bring me back for more.

Truly one of the most perverse books I’ve read this year, The Order of the Forge is an enjoyable if conflicted read.

Resident Alien The Sam Hein Mystery #0 Review

 22533by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse

This is one of those books I’ve been missing, without realizing it at all until I finished reading.

When was the last time we got an alien movie about a strange visitor that was just a tad weird but heartwarming, and without some stupid end of the world plot?

Resident Alien: The Sam Hein Mystery is about just that topic, beautifully simple but enjoyable nonetheless.

Sam is an alien visitor, stuck on Earth and in hiding. He has no real powers except for increased empathy and the ability to look “normal” to most people. He poses as a human doctor, biding his time until he is rescued. He’s made some human friends who may be able to see his true self, but are committed to protecting him from government agents searching for him.

The tone of the book is self-aware, with humor thrown in sparingly but at the right moments. Imagine the film Coneheads with the video game Alan Wake and you could get a sense of how the book reads. It’s just weird enough to sell the premise but doesn’t feel overly cliched or off-putting. Make no mistake: right now this is just a story about an alien, his Native American friends and the government agents looking for him. It’s a drama more than a sci-fi story or action-adventure tale.

The art by Parkhouse is the main selling point, the story could not work without it. It reminds me of 80s comics, the ones that had personality and artists who honed their style instead of just drawing attractive people perfectly over and over. It feels pulpy, like a mix between Alex Toth and Joe Kubert. In the opening pages and later on in the book, I get a sense of play from the art, of experimentation. Which would make perfect sense, this is a collection of stories published in Dark Horse Presents. What stands out most is Sam himself, who is always shown as a purple alien with Elf ears. We never “see” how other characters perceive him, but how he really appears.

Resident Alien: The Sam Hein Mystery isn’t the event of the summer, or the hottest book that’s been teased for months to a feverish audience, but it is a sublime read. A story about a charming alien trying to fit in, no more no less. If you’re someone who preferred The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original) to the remake, this is for you.

Review Of Secret Avengers #15

detailby Ales Kot & Michael Walsh

How do you change the inherently destructive nature of a bomb?

In the final issue of Secret Avengers, Ales Kot and Michael Walsh create one of the most heartfelt and satisfying conclusions to a Marvel series in quite some time. While in the penultimate chapter we are left with the cliffhanger, here we are shown the after effects, the changes and the growth of the team. That’s where the heart of the story comes in and where you understand what it was all about to begin with, Secret Avengers wasn’t about being covert spies in the Marvel universe, it was about getting them past that and resisting the state of conflict with something much more profound; with understanding, with empathy and with love. That sounds corny on some level but if you take a hard look at what’s happening around the world, doesn’t it also feel necessary? And that’s ultimately the genius of Kot & Walsh’s Secret Avengers, behind the big ideas, the breakneck story telling, the dead on satire and the out there concepts, at it’s conclusion it’s landed in a place about moving past the compulsion of fight or flight and becoming something greater by coming together. What a beautiful thing.

How do you change the inherently destructive nature of a bomb?

Make it human.

Hit 1957 #2 Review

Hit1957_002_A_Main-651x1000by Bryce Carlson and Vanesa R. Del Ray

Detectives Slater and Sticky survive a close call that almost had them explaining to IA why they had a bloody, dead body in a hotel room.

Slater is determined to deal with his business in California and get to Las Vegas to see Bonnie. The pressure gets to him, and he takes it out on Sticky and Slick Ricky.

Meanwhile, Bonnie is making the best of her situation in Las Vegas. Technically a captive, her guard Vincent allows her small windows of freedom which she uses to plan her escape to Tijuana, as long as she can live a few more days.

The story has seemingly gotten more complex in a month’s time, as I’ve had to re-familiarize myself with these characters and their goals. A character sheet or a recap page would be helpful.

The art by Del Ray is a mixed bag. Some panels look very good, with the characters possibly drawn with a charcoal/pastel combo that makes the art feel more organic. However, the bar fight scene feels very stiff and the movements don’t feel natural.

Overall: The plot thickens, with the cast facing obstacles to their perspective goals. If you don’t readily recall the details of issue #1, you may get lost. The art by Del Ray is enjoyable except for some brief rough patches.

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent.

Vertigo Now

At NYCC 2013 during a Vertigo panel I’d attended, John Cunningham asked the full room to “Raise your vertigohand if you’re reading Saga“, and pretty much the entire room raised their hands. He then asked, “Raise you hand if you are reading Hinterkind“, and most of the hands went down; he followed that up with, “Ok, everybody that is reading Saga, should be reading Hinterkind” which at the time felt, and now still feels, like a complete misunderstanding of why fans love Saga and why it appeals to so many people. That’s not meant to be a swipe at Hinterkind, which by my estimation seems like an enjoyable–albeit completely forgettable–comic. It’s just that Saga is pretty much regarded, by consensus, as the greatest comic being published right now, and the reason has little to do with genre or what have you. I thought about this after reading the Vertigo Quarterly and seeing this interaction on twitter the other day.  I think there’s a problem at Vertigo where they fundamentally misunderstand current comics, what the audience wants, and how other comics have evolved with that in mind. They still do good work, especially when it’s coming from their top creators or relaunching/spinning off from past popular series with strong creative teams, but outside of that they are struggling. Vertigo is an imprint that comic fans such as myself have held in high regard for the majority of our time spent reading the medium. By any measure they’ve been home to several of the greatest series’ of all time, while having a much more limited publishing slate than their peers. Some of the greatest current creative talents got introduced to the comic book world at large via Vertigo, including Scott Snyder, Ed Brubaker, Matt Kindt, Sean Murphy, Jock, Jason Aaron, Jeff Lemire, Chris Bachalo, Brian Azzarello, and Brian Wood; not to mention its standing as the early publishing home for some of comics’ all time great talents like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Brian K Vaughan, Garth Ennis, Peter Milligan, and Paul Pope. However, that’s not Vertigo today, and I think it’s time that we all stop pretending it is.

Continue reading Vertigo Now