Since Ridley Scott’s Alien debuted in theaters, there have been comic book adaptations of the film. As the popularity of the movie increased and became a series of related franchise films spanning across decades, the amount of comics associated to the property has increased exponentially. The sheer volume of material in the medium based on the concept could probably rival some b-list Marvel or DC characters at this point, and one thing that’s become abundantly clear is that Aliens works best in comics with a highly expressive visual artist in a singular style. That’s not an accident, it’s ingrained in the original films DNA from the design work of Moebius and HR Giger. This is apparent in the original adaptation by Walt Simonson in Heavy Metal, through some of the early Dark Horse series with Mike Mignola & Sam Kieth, up to the more recent Predator: Fire & Stone or Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens by Chris Mooneyham. The upcoming debut of Aliens Dead Orbit, created in totality by one of comics best current artist James Stokoe, continues on that trajectory with one of the mediums best adaptations of the material in years. The first issue exemplifies the creators mastery of craft with his singular imaginative vision, while standing out for the way it utilizes the framework of the horror genre that the films are based in. Continue reading Review of Aliens Dead Orbit #1
Quantum Teens Are Go #1 is a fun introduction to the series that explores a teenage couple on the cusp of scientific breakthrough while still navigating the trials of adolescence with the added weight of one transitioning while the other is dealing with the fallout of his adoption. It’s writing is crisp, whimsy and efficient with art that stands out for it’s technical acumen and subtle stylistic originality.
The series title is an apt describer of the book in it’s last word, Go. Quantum Teens has a kinetic energy from it’s inception and it maintains that for the books duration. Visaggio has a knack for dialogue and plot structure that let’s Quantum Teens wring a lot of story out of a single issue. She creates what feels like a fully realized world in it’s multiple settings with artist Eryk Donovan. Speaking of Donovan, Quantum Teens Are Go feels like a breakout moment for the artist with the skill he displays here. Donovan is wholly adept in almost everything you’d want in a comics artist. The geometry and spacing are aligned perfectly, his design is crisp, his storytelling is engaging and his character acting is highly expressive. He’s similar to Chew artist Rob Guillory in his angular style but it’s much cleaner and feels like a closer approximation of reality, going more for fun as opposed to being funny. It’s light hearted and cartoonish, but there is a high level of skill on display and it’s action sequencing is superbly realized. Colorist Claudia Aguirre adds to the books high functioning visual elements with a bright palette that works well for the books Southern California setting.
Quantum Teens Are Go #1 is the type of science fiction adventure comic that almost anybody can read and enjoy for it’s effortless charm and imagination. As the books debut is merely scratching at the overall premise of time travel, there is a lot to like here and probably even more to look forward to.
Disclosure: Publisher Black Mask provided a review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.
In the Old Guard #1, writer Greg Rucka introduces his newest creator owned series with art from former Queen and Country collaborator Leandro Fernandez and Daniela Miwa handling colors. It’s an intriguing premise with a strong visual aesthetic, but it’s reliance on cliche hobbles the series debut.
The Old Guard is about a group of soldiers that have lived for centuries and while they’re apparently able to die, they haven’t yet. Artist Leandro Fernandez and colorist Daniel Miwa are particularly impressive in the books introduction to the cast the way they show time passing for the books main character, Andy, contrasting her many wars with her many one night stand over her internal dialogue. As the issue progresses, Fernandez proves to be especially adept in drawing from angles and visual story progression while Miwa creates vibrant color contrasts throughout. Fernandez has an interesting and off kilter style, yet it’s highly proficient on a technical level for The Old Guard #1 and it represents some of his best work. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the issues writing from Greg Rucka which ultimately feels by the numbers. Anybody familiar with the writers past work will see similar plot contrivances here from the bad girl protagonist to the military geo-politics and that’s disappointing consider how prolific he’s been the last few years. There is very little here from Rucka that he hasn’t done before with little variance. Now considering this in a wide angle context, that this is a Rucka Image book where he could have considerably wrote about anything he wanted to, the assumption is that it’s all purposeful. It doesn’t seem likely that Rucka decided to do a new Image Comic just to rehash a bunch of the same concepts he’s been using for decades. At the same time, it doesn’t make the single issue feel any less redundant in itself. Being only the first issue, The Old Guard certainly has the potential to transcend it’s flaws, but it starts out lacking in distinction.
Nearly twenty years ago, writer Warren Ellis teamed with artist Bryan Hitch to redefine superhero comics with the debut of their The Authority title, a reboot of the writers Stormwatch series set within the pre-established superhero universe. The Authority was a revelation for the introduction of wide-screen story telling in comics that would have ripple effects across the industry, starting at Hitch’s own Ultimates at Marvel and culminating into the Avengers films years later. Ellis himself continued to have a successful run with the publisher on his own with comics like Planetary & Global Frequency before the imprint was ultimately shuttered in December of 2010 in an attempt to consolidate it’s existing IP into the mainline DC universe during the publishers ill fated New 52 initiative. Ellis returns to the world he helped bring into existence with artist Jon Davis Hunt and colorist Ivan Plascencia in the imprints relaunch with what the writer has promised to be a modern epic retelling of the publishers mainline superhero universe in the debut of The Wild Storm, the first in a 24 issue series of four planned titles. It’s marked subtlety and measured beginnings introduces an intriguing architecture that feels analogous to the world we live in and reminiscent of the writers past work on the property.
The Wild Storm’s debuts in a world that feels nearly identical to our own until the book reveals slivers of it’s secret underbelly. The Wild Storm #1 is a relatively simple and straight forward story which hints at it’s complex mythology in it’s margins without announcing itself. Ellis uses his gift for engrossing dialogue to lead the reader down it’s rabbit hole to great effect while the books action centerpiece is a purely spellbinding comics sequence. Credit much of that to artist Jon Davis Hunt and colorist Ivan Plascencia, whose smooth streamlined visual storytelling feel’s like a cross between Gillen & Wilson with Plascencia’s Capullo collaboration on Batman. It’s incredibly fluid with a light but distinctive color pallete. Hunt & Plascencia go a long way in making The Wild Storm feel like an approximation of our own world while still firmly establishing the aesthetic of the series. There’s an inherent design sense in the work that perfectly captures the books tone and seamlessly blends the astounding with the mundane in the series debut.
The Wild Storm is a series with so much promise based on the creative talent assembled and their stated ambitions for the book. This issue is only scratching the surface but based on what they do here, it has the potential to be another game changer for Ellis and co.
In Batwoman Rebirth #1, the debut issue of the series manages to avoid many of the pitfalls that befell previous Rebirth one shots by focusing on the character’s unique identity politics.
Batwoman feels like a comic that DC is going all out on with an all-star creative team of James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, Steve Epting and Jeremy Cox. Having recently co-starred with Batman in Tynion’s highly popular and effective Detective Comics run, the series Rebirth issue follows a familiar formula in exploring the character’s past up to the launch of the new series. But Batwoman Rebirth also far exceeds what we’ve seen from most of the Rebirth one shots by focusing on the real world ramification of the characters past trauma on the current state of the protagonist.
To be specific, Batwoman Rebirth points towards the murder of Kate Kane’s mother & twin sister combined with her being dishonorably discharged from the US Military because of her sexuality as catalyst event in the life of the character that eventually leads to her taking on the mantle of Batwoman. Tynion & Bennett approach those events and their fallout with a deft touch that’s even more impressive when considering the limited real estate that’s afforded to them from a single issue. In spite of those limitations, the writers cut to the heart of the matter immediately and then build out the rest of the issue based on that. Artist Steve Epting & colorist Jeremy Cox maintain a staunch realism to their style that serves the books grounded story and dark setting. The art doesn’t go much beyond meeting expectations for the creators, but that in and of itself is pretty enjoyable. While less expressive then Eptings most recent work on Velvet, it’s a promising direction for the book and it’s thematic overtones for the series as a whole.
Overall, Batwoman Rebirth is a stellar debut and quite easily the most successful of the Rebirth one shots for the emotional resonance of it’s thematics. It’s a big picture examination of the charachter that feels incredibly personal. If the ongoing series can match the punch of it’s Rebirth issue, DC should have another distinctive hit for their superhero line of comics.
The debut of the three part AD: After Death miniseries is incredibly dense and relatively unconventional, even by Image Comics standards. Partially driven by prose and sectioned off into time displaced narratives, issue one of AD is remarkably interesting, even if it reveals very little about anything besides it’s protagonist. Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire have been two of comics best writers for the last five years and their most recent work on titles like Trillium, The Wake, Descender, Plutonia, Wytches or even AD writer Snyder’s most recent Batman & All Star Batman series; have represented some of the most creatively ambitious works from both creators in their respective careers. Based on it’s opening chapter, AD feels as if it’s going for the same outward trajectory, a tribute to both creative talents imagination and resistance to convention.
The elevator pitch for AD: After Death has always been pretty straight forward; humans find a cure for death and the series is telling it’s story in that future. What that means and what that story amounts to within that is still very much an open question as AD’s opening chapters opts to deep dive inward in exploring the personal history and perspective of the main protagonist. As Scott Snyder has firmly established himself as one of comics best writers, his Achilles heal has remained his impulse to overwrite his character’s exposition. That makes sense on some level as Snyder began his career in prose writing before getting his comics debut on American Vampire. What’s interesting about AD’s functionality is how it circumvents that by having almost half of the book’s central focus on long form prose sections from Snyder. This works incredibly well, partially because Snyder is clearly a gifted prose writer in a way that goes beyond the standard of comics writing or really, genre writing in general, and partially because Jeff Lemire is so effective at making single illustrations per each single page that perfectly exemplifies the written content. In that sense, the prose sections still feel very much like comics in terms of it’s visual narration. Yet AD’s text section are able to convey so much more story then the portions that are strictly comics; mostly because that’s the entire purpose of written prose. The writing of Snyder in these parts is what’s doing the heavy lifting, but Snyder’s inherent strength as a writer with Lemire’s unique skill set as a cartoonist helps make these sections of AD immensely compelling.
Yet while the text pieces certainly constitute the majority of the comics content, the comics section represents some of Lemire’s most impressive cartooning in years. Creating a sort of rural futurist setting, Lemire illustrates lush and sprawling landscapes with incredibly expressive character acting. Not much happens in any part of the book that is purely comics, this isn’t Frank Miller drawing Daredevil fighting Bullseye. But it is stunningly beautiful in it’s heightened naturalism contrasted with a strain of the surreal. It’s all very subtle, but it represents several small evolution’s in Lemire’s style that should be exciting for fans of the creator.
It’s hard to know what to make exactly of AD: After Death #1. It’s certainly unconventional, but not in any way that feel’s like a radical departure for Snyder and Lemire or the medium in general. That’s because while much of AD’s debut is decidedly singular to the book itself, all of it plays to the strengths of Snyder & Lemire. And when you’re talking about comics creators at that level, it’s makes for a debut that is intrinsically special.
by Aubrey Sitterson, Giannis Milonogiannis & Lovern Kidzerski
There’s very little that’s exciting about IDW’s Revolution crossover, the companies latest attempt to expand their Hasbro licensed comics past their core audience. There is no shortage of books from main series writer Cullen Bunn across the comics landscape leaving very little reason for casual readers to check out the event’s primary title while the majority of the tie-in series are being helmed by the same creative teams that have been working on these comics for years. And while I get a kick out of reading Transformers More Then Meet’s The Eye via Comixology unlimited as much as the next man (well maybe not as much as this man but you know, sliding scales and all that), crossing it over with a bunch of titles whose only real common trait is that they’re owned by a toy company isn’t really enough to get me running to grab the single issues off the shelf. But for those in the know, there was one book that had an elevated level of intrigue and that was for one reason; artist Giannis Milnogiannis for Revolutions GI Joe crossover series. The first issue debuted last Wednesday and true to form for the illustrator, it’s pretty fucking rad.
Giannis Milonogiannis is a Greek artist with a particular aesthetic of a rough line with insanely precise detail and geometry. He’s primarily known for being an integral part of Brandon Graham’s Prophet revival band and his Akira meet’s post EU Greece Old City Blues with a brief stop filling in on Michel Fiffe’s Ultimates experiment. He’s been comics most underrated artist of the past five years as his style’s singularity has proved adaptable to almost any setting his books are placed in. GI Joe Revolution is no different as it follow’s a small team of Joe’s fighting some type of strange alien/zombie hybrid with Milonogiannis expert craftsmanship in fluidity of movement. In GI Joe Revolution; Milonogiannis constructs a thrilling visual narrative that is on par with some of the best moments we’ve seen from Declan Shalvey or Greg Capullo in action driven comics. He has a unique gift for translating the intensity of movement in combat that is remarkably exciting and engrossing. That’s because Milonogiannis has an innate ability in suggesting motion on a page that is static while his panel composition is able to dictate a pace from each individual part, in effect making a series of singular pictures feel as if they’re moving naturally from one panel to the next in succession. In addition, Milonogiannis excels at perspective, he’s as close as you’ll get to three dimensional in a traditional comics style and it’s even more interesting in contrast to his actual design which eschews realism for an aesthetic that fall’s somewhere in between classic Manga and 1980’s small press black & white books that were designed to upend the comics code. In almost measurable sense, Giannis Milonogiannis excels as a illustrator.
This review is not meant to negate the other elements that make GI Joe Revolution #1 work so well in spite of questionable background. Writer Aubrey Sitterson’s dialogue is incredibly strong in it’s casual realism and instantly endearing. Colorist Lovern Kidzerski provides an extraordinary pallet for the comic and has a way of sharpening Milonogiannis line just enough to make it more palpable without taking anything away from it. Still, the heart of this book is in it’s dynamic artwork from Giannis and if you’re one of the many indifferent comics readers to Hasbro and IDW’s Revolution event crossover, GI Joe Revolution #1 is as good a showcase as any for one of the mediums best and least recognized illustrators and while I wouldn’t call this comic the best one he’s worked on by a long shot, it barrier to entry is pretty low in comparison to the artists past books with a premise that’s easy to enjoy and understand. In that sense, GI Joe Revolution #1 is one of the best introductions yet for casual readers to discover Milonogiannis and that is worth the effort in and of itself.
Mark Waid and Marvel bounce back from an underwhelming mainline Avengers series with a back to basic’s approach that’s elevated by Mike Del Mundo’s continued excellence in comics illustration.
While the concept of All New, All Different Avengers was certainly a great idea on some level, it’s execution always felt lacking. As Waid broke up the team by putting it’s younger character’s onto his new Champions series, Avengers feel’s like one of the most traditional takes on the team in quite some time with the majority of it’s cast featuring original members and it’s usage of Kang The Conqueror as their first adversary and after years of multiple Avengers titles that were all over the map in terms of their content, direction & concepts; that actually feel’s pretty refreshing. Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete reduction to the books roots, there is no Iron Man to be found in the books debut, Cap & Thor are the current comics versions of the character as opposed to their original incarnations and Spiderman is on the team to take on the role of financial patriarch. In terms of writing, this is the sharpest and most inspired a Mark Waid comic has felt since his close to iconic run on Daredevil. Waid’s script is funny in it’s use of biting sarcasm and energetic dialogue while the plot flows naturally with an inviting progression to it’s story and setting. It’s a strong opening salvo for the writer that bodes well for the series future.
While Mark Waid’s writing on Avengers could be qualified as great; artist Mike Del Mundo’s contribution continues to be breathtaking. While Del Mundo’s interior art on the two volumes of the Weird World series were never less then astonishing, it was done so within a setting that was congruent to the artists strength in it’s free form high fantasy setting. What’s impressive about Avengers is how he manages to be as awe-inspiring with a more traditional Marvel superhero style book and it’s natural limitations. Some of this comes from the added imagination his art brings to something like the Vision being caught in a time stream but it extends to pages like Del Mundo’s beautiful illustration of New York City’s skyline, the expressive character acting or the sleek design elements. This is the quality and imagination that is to be expected from Del Mundo but it’s like nothing we’ve seen before from the artist in his sequential illustrations. Mike Del Mundo is an automatic buy until proven otherwise and that stays in effect based on Avengers #1.
The debut of Avengers almost feels like a lot of the best DC Rebirth comics in the way it integrates a back to basics approach to the series in a modern context while still allowing for the creative flair of it’s writer and artist. As the latest Marvel Now initiative has underwhelmed on some level, Avengers #1 is not only the strongest debut to come out of the publisher’s new line so far, but one that stands out without any qualifier for it’s entertaining writing and superb visuals.
Occupy Avengers follows the logic of the expansive property over the last few years by using it as a catch all term for it’s team books. Occupy appears to be stretching that concept even further then we’ve seen before as it focuses on a minimal superhero cast while being centered on real life political issues of inequality. While the comics art is at times uninspired and stiff, writer David Walker continues to be a revelation with one of his strongest Marvel debut’s yet.
There are two things you should know to get the full effect of Occupy Avengers, one of which is a national news story and the other is a relatively recent Marvel series. The first is the controversy over the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock reservation. The NY Times has a pretty comprehensive outline of the disagreement here but to put it in simplest of terms, they are building an oil pipeline through North & South Dakota and the people from Indian Reservations in that area are against it because of the potential effects it can have on it’s water quality. The second is Matt Fraction & David Aja’s Hawkeye series which I wrote about extensively here but to put in the simplest of terms, was a comic series about the Marvel character that was god damn amazing partially because they leveraged so much of the past character’s continuity into a modern context in a way that made him feel fully formed, three dimensional, relatable, endearing and wildly entertaining. Occupy Avengers is using the thinnest of allegories to the Dakota Access/Standing Rock issue’s for the basis of it’s plot in having Clint come to investigate a Native American reservation whose water has been severely tainted. Walker writes Clint through the prism of the Fraction run, he talks and thinks like Hawkguy, even more so then when Jeff Lemire & Ramon Perez had taken over the book from Fraction or Ales Kot & Michael Walsh’s use of the character in Secret Avengers. With that being said; Walker pulls off his Hawkeye writing flawlessly. As much of the story is guided through internal dialogue, David Walker writes Clint with a familiarity to what readers have seen from the character post Fraction, yet he does so in a way that feels firmly within the writers own voice and aesthetic while still accounting for his new status-quo post Civil War II (spoiler: he killed Bruce Banner per the troubled host of the Hulk’s own request. No I don’t read Civil War II either but they tell you in this book) That combined with his deft use of the books allegory, the build up of it’s mystery and the execution of the plot’s big action moment makes for a highly engaging debut issue.
While the book suffers slightly from an art style that is relatively uninspired and not anywhere near the Gabriel Hernandez Walta illustrations that the series was announced with, it’s faults never bring down the comic in any significant way. There’s enough to like about Occupy Avengers to subsist it’s faults and it’s further evidence that writer David Walker is a force to be reckoned with in the medium.
Reborn #1 has been one of the most hyped new comics of 2016. Artist Greg Capullo just finished an astonishing five year run on DC Comics mainline Batman title while writer Mark Millar recent move to Image Comics has brought a new level of vibrancy to his work that had been lacking for years in his Icon offerings. Unfortunately, Reborn fails to live up to it’s own hype with a first issue that offers very little outside of Millar’s formulaic set up with only a few pages truly worth of Capullo’s immense artistic talent.
There is a strange dichotomy to Millar’s work that’s on full display in Reborn, that between genre conventions and Millar’s own impulses to soften them for mass consumption. This has been successful for Millar in almost every way imaginable in terms of both his work in comic’s in addition to the burgeoning film career he’s built out his work being adapted for the big screen, but it doesn’t always translate to something interesting. Reborn is an issue that, charitably, spends 50% of it’s content meeting the main character as she exists in some form of reality as we know it. She’s an old woman who is about to die and while her feelings and idea’s are certainly relatable on an almost universal level, they’re also thin and without much to distinguish the protagonist or the book beyond the premise that was already made clear for anybody whose spent time reading about the project. The second half enters an afterlife that is this sort of this post apocalypse dystopia where the women who just died has been re-incarnated as a younger version of herself. Like the first half, very little happens here to distinguish the events in the book’s content from what you’d expect based on the imagery. Here’s the thing; as the opening fifteen minutes of a film, this first issue could be solid assuming the creators behind the movie are coherent. But as a comic, it’s barely doing anything at all. Compare this first issue with similar high profile Image #1’s from 2016 like The Black Monday Murders, Kill or Be Killed, Seven To Eternity or Mirror; the actual content is severely limited while the scope of it’s imagination feel’s smaller and less engaging in contrast with the aforementioned debut’s. The beauty of comics comes from the limitlessness of it’s narrative but in structuring Reborn like the introduction of a film, Millar immediately put’s a ceiling on the first issue. All of that is a shame because artist Greg Capullo with inker Danny Miki and colorist Ivan Plascencia feel strangely muted compared to their most recent Batman work, which is the opposite of how this should work. The creator owned book is where you’d expect the artist to go wild but save for a couple (very notable) pages, nothing stands out here the way an entire issues of their Batman series often would.
Reborn isn’t bad per say, but instead, mediocre and verging on lifeless in it’s first issue. While it’s hard to believe that it will stay this way due to the books structure and talent involved, it’s unremarkable debut isn’t a great sign and leaves a lot to be desired.