Review of American Vampire Second Cycle #3

amvBy Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque 

If you read my review of issue #2 you know last issue was one of the scariest comics I have ever read.  There was something about the Trader that gave me chills right down to the bone. It is that subtle creepiness of the far away familiar voice calling out to first make you drop your guard and then convince you that dying is a good choice. It is the feeling of no control the Trader creates which gets to me. It isn’t everyday you read a comic that makes you realize your worst fear and mine was realized in the Trader.

As good as issue #2 was, issue #3 is even better.  It begins with a battle between Pearl and a creature created by the Trader.  This battle is illustrated like only Albuquerque can. It is extremely terrifying and full of action. It becomes very clear that the only option for Pearl is to run. She does not get very far before the monster catches up and gets Pearl into a very tough spot.  This cues the return of Skinner Sweet as well as another terrifying panel. I thought the Trader panel from last issue where he swallows the old man was the scariest thing I have seen. Well you can strike that and add the panel from this issue where May who is slowly making the transition back to human gets strangled by a tongue coming out of her own body.  It sounds a little wild if you have not read the issue, but if you have read the issue I am sure you felt that uneasy feeling I felt while reading this page.

The Trader makes another appearance at the end of the issue which is just the creepy cherry on top. This issue has everything I could want in a horror comic.  In just 3 issues this comic has shot into my top 10 and knocking at the door of my top 5 which is already occupied by two other Snyder titles in Batman and The Wake.  Snyder is on top of the game right now and it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon. If you have not jumped onto this series you need to do that now, especially if you like horror comics. The Trader is easily the scariest character in current comics.

– Dean

Review of East of West #12

East of West 12By Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta The tension and intensity of this issue are both immense and constant. From the opening scene to the final panel I can’t wait to turn the page. After reading the issue and then leafing through the pages a second time I noticed that the entire issue was simply all the characters sitting around a table and talking. The writing by Hickman and the pencils by Dragotta bring this roundtable discussion to life. All the leaders of the world have been summoned by Xiaolian to discuss the inevitable war that is before them. There are many different personalities in the room and many characters with ulterior motives.  The way Hickman bounces these characters off each other is delightful. I could read them bickering at each other all day. The opening flashback is beautiful giving us a taste of things to come.  I love when characters tell a story which parallels their current actions.  This is nothing new to comics but is incredibly enjoyable in this type of futuristic tale. We see Doma Lux placing an explosive device down an old man’s throat. As we exit the flash back and get back to the meeting we realize that Doma Lux has a few plans of her own. A character that I have not given a second glance to is now revealed as a scheming pot stirrer. The culmination of the discussion takes a violent turn as some of the ulterior motives start to surface. Three murders, seemingly committed by three separate parties becomes the catalyst for the war that was being argued just a few moments earlier. This issue not only keeps me completely engaged throughout but also revs me up for the future issues to come. I have mentioned before that this is a book that gets better with every issue. With Hickman at the helm I have no doubt that it will keep building and building until we reach an end. This is one of the most consistent books on the stand. The world that Hickman has constructed is so vast there is no telling where this story could end up. – Dean

Review: Saga #19

Saga 19Saga #19 by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Short version: This week Saga returns from hiatus, and, yes, it is just as fabulous as always.

Longer version: As suggested at the conclusion of the previous arc, Saga makes a time jump forward this chapter. How large a leap is revealed on the first page with a graphic illustration of the birth of Prince Robot IV’s heir. Several months have passed since Prince Robot disappeared during the course of his mission to track down a pair of fugitives. In that time no one has heard from him, and many fear the worst. In fact, the nurse immediately refers to the newborn as already possessing his father’s title, an error the Princess instantly corrects. This opening section provides us with an intriguing peak into the history and structure of the Robot Kingdom. For example, we get our first glimpse of the commoners, whose heads (in a clever design choice) are monitors of a humbler make than the aristocracy. Vaughan seems to be sowing seeds of class tension, and I am eager to see how they might develop. This is a society I want to see more of.
Continue reading Review: Saga #19

Review: Flash Gordon #2

Flash Gordon #2Flash Gordon #2 by Jeff Parker & Evan Shaner

This title was never a must buy for me. Before #1, I had never read or watched any Flash Gordon. Basically, the creative team caught my eye. I had liked some of Jeff Parker’s work in the past, and his laid back adventure style struck me as well suited for a book with science-fiction pulp roots. I may not have ever read any actual comics Shaner had illustrated, but I had seen a lot of impressive art by him on the internet. Since it was a light week, when it came out, I decided to give #1 a shot. How much did I like it? Enough that even though I had a very heavy week this Wednesday, I still made sure to grab a copy of #2. Having now read it, I can say that I shall definitely be buying #3 as well.

This month’s issue picks up soon after the ending of the first. Dale has convinced local Prince Barin that she and her companions are historians sent by Ming to study the area. Seated at a lavish banquet the trio of companions (Flash, Dale & Dr Zarkov) each deal with the situation in their own way. Dale is trying to think of how they might best perpetuate their ruse, while Zarkov drinks a bit too much. Zarkov’s review of the local cuisine (“a bit gamey, but I suppose it’s good for being from a giant bug”) may be the best laugh-line of the week. Flash for his part, continues to be Flash. Impulsive, adventurous, and, naturally, reckless. He accepts a string of princely challenges without thinking through what the consequences might be. Meanwhile, agents of Ming are on their trail, and, no matter how well they bluff, it is only a matter of time until a member of the trio slips up.

Parker handles all of this with an easy touch which fits the book perfectly. What also matches the book so well is Shaner’s art. His illustrations combine light-heartedness with a strong sense of imagination. A two page spread depicting a wooden ship carried through the air by birds is simply stunning. Together, he and Parker are crafting a tale of high adventure, which is a pleasure to read.

Cheers.

Review of A Voice in the Dark #7

A Voice in the Dark 7By Larime Taylor

A Voice in the Dark #7 delivers the conclusion to the story arc Killing Game. I won’t get into too many details of the plot because I know a lot of you are going to pick up this trade when it comes out in June.  The first few pages of each issue has given us a glimpse into the moments just after Zoe has committed the murder. This issue brings it all together and we get to see how the murder unfolds. The most exciting part of any murder or heist story is always how it was done.  Zoe takes us step by step through her careful process.  The process of the murder is of course very exciting as expected but there are two scenes I wanted to focus on.

There is a scene as Zoe is on her way to commit the murders where she has a few moments of doubting.  These two pages convey a very real emotion, humanizing Zoe.  This is a hard task to accomplish, to make Zoe relatable to the reader as she is on her way to commit a murder. However it is pulled off brilliantly in these two pages. By the end of Zoe’s second guessing and reassuring scene I am totally on board. I sure am easy to convince.

The other scene I wanted to highlight is the hook at the end. Larime has done this a few times in earlier chapters.  He gives us just enough at the end so that we are not mad, but we definitely want more. Things may not have went quite as smoothly as Zoe thought.

I encourage everyone who is not reading this title to go out and buy the trade in June. If this book does not continue because you did not support it, I will hunt you down and shove a…okay perhaps I am reading a little too much of this book. The point is you should buy A Voice in the Dark, it is fantastic.

– Dean

Abe Sapien #12

23884          Overview: A stand alone issue that focuses on a pair of lost souls Abe stumbles upon in his wanderings.  Choosing prose over dialogue, Scott Allie weaves a tragic and affecting tale of the collateral damage caused by the rampant destruction of the world in the wake of the “Hell on Earth” reality. Combined with gorgeously rendered art by Max Fiumara, this issue separates itself dramatically from the previous 11 issues with it’s almost poetic approach to storytelling.

          img061Art: Max Fiumara burst onto the BPRD scene in 2012, with his debut on “The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell”; since then he’s joined forces with brother Sebastian to rotate art duties on Abe’s solo series. Max has a surrealistic style that works very well with the monsters and mayhem that usually occur in a Mignolaverse book, but this issue he showcases a wonderful ability to depict regular people in a surreal setting.  His characters still have rather wide-set eyes and large heads, but not so much that’s it’s a distraction.  I was very impressed with Max this issue, because of how the story is structured. Every page has three page-wide panels that jump from past to present, character to character, with no specific segue narratively. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, but Fiumara pulls it off adeptly, and Dave Stewart aids this process by using distinct color palettes to differentiate time and place.

          There are really three stories taking place this issue, and they are presented in a rotating montage fashion. The first, at present, has Abe wandering upon an farmhouse inhabited by a couple of people not keen on company–especially anyone looking like Abe–and the consequences of that encounter. The other two provide an explanation of who these two new characters are, and how they ended up in their current predicaments.  The stories are anything but uplifting, and the team of Fiumara and Stewart do a magnificent job keeping with the melancholy feel of the narrative, allowing us as readers to immerse ourselves in this world.  I don’t know how many creative teams would be able to pull of a task like this with such proficiency, it shows that the trust Mignola and Alllie put in them is well placed, and bodes well for future issues.

         img062 Story: I was caught off guard at first by the choice to exclusively use narration boxes to tell this story.  It was a bold decision by Allie, but in the end I think it was a wise one.  Despite not fully absorbing it all upon first read, I was deeply moved by the story, and spellbound by the language and it’s ability to create a discomforting ambiance.  At times it felt a bit verbose and indulgent, but after reaching the last page I was overcome with an unease and sadness that made me reconsider my previous notion.  After going through it a second time I was more comfortable with the style, and therefore, was able to let it really soak in and transport me to this place. This would not be the best approach to take with multiple issues, but for a special episode it worked very well.

          Allie has definitely molded a very different kind of book for Abe than I was expecting, but I enjoy the surprise of that.  In some ways I wish we could attain more insight into what exactly Abe’s mindset is at this point in the story, but maybe he doesn’t even know himself.  To me it seems as though he is loosing more and more of the man he used to be, and slowly morphing into the beast he may have always feared he could become.

          Conclusion: This has been an interesting year for Abe so far, I know after all he has been through, adaptation is inevitable; especially with all the physical changes he has experienced.  I’m not sure where it is all leading to, but I’m intrigued, and I want to continue to see where it goes.  While the story has me pondering, the art has been phenomenal, and this issue particularly shows just how remarkable Max Fiumara’s storytelling is.  This series is not the home run BPRD has become, but it’s doing a great job of showing the other side of the coin during Hell on Earth.

Review of Starlight #3

Starlight 3This series is quickly climbing up my charts with every fantastic issue.  Issue #3 of Starlight spotlights two very important aspects of the story.  The first is the introduction of Lord Kingfisher, the leader who has taken over the planet Tantalus. His opening scene is both arrogant and menacing. He is one of those villains that has charisma so you end up loving and hating the guy.  He delivers one of the best lines in the comic while talking to a member of the resistance and torturing him with a pair of telekinesis gloves he just purchased.

“I paid for this with a year’s supply of your planet’s most precious minerals. Think about that as you die.  Because that’s what I’m spending your money on, loyal soldier…useless toys.”

Then we shift over to Duke McQueen who has arrived in Tantalus.  He seems very worried and reserved; personally I am getting a little worried for him at this point.  I am not sure how this old man is going to be able to do anything to save this planet. I understand he saved them once but he is so old now, he looks like he will barely be able to climb the castle stairs. Duke sees a statue of himself which was erected after he saved Tantalus so many years ago.  I don’t know if this fueled Duke and lit a fire within him but just a few panels later the police are beating on a helpless victim and Duke takes matters into his own hands. I was thinking, “Oh no Duke, what are you doing?  Get out of there.” But before I could even think of how badly I’m going to feel when he gets the shit beat out of him he turns it on and absolutely annihilates the first four cops and then does the same to the next four cops to show up.  This is the first we get to see of Duke kicking ass and I definitely do not have any worries anymore.  The guy may be 60 years old but he is a rock star!

This issue took the story to the next level introducing a menacing villain and then putting Duke’s toughness and skills on full display. I am really enjoying this series.  Millar and Parlov are doing some excellent work with this one!

  • Dean

Review of The Field #2

Field #2The first issue of The Field was definitely a wild ride.  Just as the main character has no idea who he is or what is going on, neither do we. All we know is that he has been “kidnapped” by a trigger happy, drug taking, religious zealot. The first few pages of this issue reapply that hook that was in my side from issue #1. The opening pages illustrate a memory from the past, but just as this series has presented, sometimes our memory can be a bit fuzzy. There is a fuzzy memory page featured in freeze frame this week and you can see how the rough dark nature of the art makes it difficult to see the details of the panels.  We get the idea of what is going on, but details are lost.  This is a very interesting representation of a memory and in a story about memory loss I am glad they made this artistic choice in the flashbacks.

We then resume the story of our forgetful protagonist and his religious zealot kidnapper, Christian.  We find out that Christian is protecting this character and that he is of great importance. The issue was getting a little more confusing and almost lost me in the middle but thank goodness for the King Kock’s Kounty Klub, it roped me back in.

In the King Klub we find out that the unknown character’s name is Grant and he is the key to time travel.  Without him time travel is not possible and that is why he is so valuable.  I was not expecting the story to be about time travel, it caught me by surprise and really won me over. The Field is a mini which spans four issues.  After two issues we still do not know exactly who Grant is and why he is so important to time travel. What I do know for sure is that with only two issues left this story is not going to let up.  It will probably speed up (if that is possible).  This series is very strange, it does not have my usual qualifications for a great book but I am enjoying it all the same. If you get into this one buckle up because you are in for one wild (and apparently time displaced) ride.

  • Dean

Review of Avengers Undercover #4

auDennis Hopeless did a fabulous job in Avengers Arena placing teenage characters in an extreme situation and writing character responses and emotions which seem genuine. The premise has changed for Avengers Undercover but all the things that make Avengers Arena great are still there.  In Avengers Undercover Hopeless is exploring what it would be like for teenage heroes to “break bad”. The previous chapters were laying out the groundwork, placing the teenage heroes in situations where they are forced to explore the difference between revenge and justice. Throughout the whole series thus far there has been a positive light shone on the life of a super villain.  Perhaps it isn’t so bad. This is the issue it was all leading up to.  The teens have been through a lot up to this point and Baron Zemo is extending the invite for them to join his gang of villains. This would seem like a lame cliff hanger as we know exactly what the heroes are going to say, but it is different this time.  The way Hopeless has set up the last four issues, he has really made villainy seem like a pretty good option for these kids. I could see this series going either way and personally I hope they decide to join Zemo and we get to read the backlash.  I would like to see if the villainous life is as glamorous as Zemo is making it seem. It is a very believable look at how this group of “damaged” heroes could actually be tempted by the likes of Baron Zemo and tempted by the life of a villain.  Just like Avengers Arena this series is more than teen drama and cool battles, this series is a deeper examination at human reactions to the curve balls life can throw. Excellent issue and series.

  • Dean

Review of The Bounce #12

Bounce 12by Joe Casey, Sonia Harris and David Messina

Even though this series started out looking like a “Spiderman as a stoner” Mark Millaresque premise The Bounce has continued taking readers expectations and flipping them on their head and the (unexpected!?!?!) finale is no different much to the credit of Joe Casey and his elevated aesthetic. Much like Godland & Catalyst Comix this was an ending focused on the theme of transcendence to a higher level of humanity and purpose. Yet par for the course with The Bounce Casey get’s to the destination on the road least expected as what was perceived to the villain turns out to be the hero and the parallel universe is actually a missing piece of our own. Battle, convergence, the cosmos, rinse, lather, repeat and all is right with the world. It’s kind of amazing how Casey keeps managing to flip the script on what’s become well worn tropes but again this series was about defying expectations more then anything. What appeared simple ended up being an experience unlike any other. I’m not sure where this sit’s in his bibliography but it was never predictable and always engrossing. Messina does some amazing work here with an assist by Sonia Harris in conveying everything from universal cosmic convergence, a fight in a laboratory or a conversation in a book store with equal parts care and vitality. After everything  The Bounce #12 is a fitting ending to an engaging and unexpected journey. Joe Casey shows again that he is one of the strongest and most unique voices in comics that continues to push the medium forward and The Bounce has proven itself as another step onward. Turns out it wasn’t what you thought it would be, it turned out to be more than we could have asked for.