Review of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #14

APR140253He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #14 is about family and redemption.  He-Man’s sister Adora lives in self-imposed exile, haunted by her dreams and contemplating a journey to the forbidden island of Anwat-Gar.  Adora is shamed by her corruption and service to the conqueror Hordak; in her identity as Despara, she served her evil master well.  Free of Hordak’s influence, Adora begins a quest to Anwat-Gar, which may hold answers about her recurring nightmares.  He-Man arrives to let Adora know about some major changes to the status quo in the battle against Hordak, and recruit her to his cause.  But Adora is determined to go to Anwat-Gar; He-Man is just as determined to accompany her, and the siblings are soon embroiled in battle against the forces of Hordak.

Writer Dan Abnett’s script provides some poignant character moments between He-Man and Adora; Adora is not only ashamed of her service to Hordak, but also feels cut off from her family and robbed of her heritage, with He-Man reassuring her of their familial connection.  Despite her past, He-Man believes in Adora and wants her to be a part of his life and mission.  It’s a moving story amid the required action and combat of a He-Man comic book.  Artist Pop Mhan, with assistance from colorist Mark Roberts, deftly depicts these poignant character moments and intense battle scenes, and artist Ken Lashley provides a gorgeous cover.

He-Man’s conversation with Adora let’s her – and readers – catch up on recent events in this comics series; however, new readers may still struggle with understanding the story narrative, particularly Adora’s history with Hordak and He-Man.  However, veteran readers should enjoy He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #14.

Review of Captain Midnight #12

Captain Midnight 12Have you been reading Dark Horse Comics’ Captain Midnight series? If not, Captain Midnight #12 is a great starting point for new readers.

Captain Midnight is a brilliant heroic aviator and inventor with a rich history; the character goes back to 1938, and has appeared in radio, comics, television, and movies, leading the agents of his Secret Squadron in the fight for justice. Dark Horse Comics’ Captain Midnight series imagines that the character is transported through time from the 1940s to the present day. Captain Midnight not only has to contend with a strange modern world, but he also has to deal with the fact that the advanced technology that he developed years ago has been perverted to sinister ends.

Issue 12 sees Captain Midnight’s alter ego Jim Albright out of uniform and uncertain about his mission and purpose. In Albright’s long absence, his original sidekick has become a villain and is responsible for the death of one of Albright’s closest friends. Albright feels that his recent heroic actions have been less than stellar. Albright slips away to an out-of-the-way community to ponder his next move, and is seriously thinking about giving up his Captain Midnight identity. But the world needs Captain Midnight, and just because Albright wants to give up the fight doesn’t mean that Captain Midnight’s enemies are out of the picture.

Writer Joshua Williamson’s story takes a good look at Captain Midnight’s legacy and recent adventures, and provides an excellent opportunity for new readers to see what makes Captain Midnight such a compelling character. The artwork by Manuel Garcia is clean and dynamic, neatly depicting the comic’s exciting action and poignant characters moments. This comic is an excellent opportunity to discover an American icon.

Wicked + Divine #1

          Wic+Div1Overview:  Wow, where to start.  So, this issue we follow Laura–our narrative partner in this world–to a Amaterasu concert, where we find out that live musical performances in this world are a whole different experience.  Afterwards, we meet some of the Pop star/Gods, and are immediately thrown for a loop when an attempted assassination leads to some fantastical happenings.  The book begins with a prologue where a mysterious gathering of people in the 1920’s ends with a literal boom which I’m assuming has something to do with our modern day Pop Star/Gods, due to a finger-snapping connective thread. Got all that? Cool, because I think we just witnessed the beginning of the next book you’re going to force all your friends to borrow 🙂

          img104Art:  I come into this with a bit of a bias, because I think Jamie McKelvie’s work is fucking rad, but seriously the art in this book is fucking RAD.  This is in large part due to the wonderful combo of McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson.  McKelvie is a talented storyteller, and his character designs are always amazing.  He has a real knack for making every character in his books look like the coolest person in the room–sometimes the universe, i.e Miss America Chavez.  Wilson compliments these designs with appropriate shading and colors; whether they are bright and loud, as with the make-up of pop princess Amaterasu, or more subdued chic like the killer white pantsuit Luci rocks, it all works perfectly to make you want to know more about these characters.  As humans we are naturally drawn to what pleases us visually, so this knack that the art team has, especially on a book about Pop Stars, is crucial to the investment of the reader in the story.  It allows Kieron Gillen to withhold information, or begin a book with strange unexplained happenings, and not lose a single ounce of interest, because right away Laura is so damn beautiful and engaging that we just turn the page, and follow her no matter what.

          img105I do have one minor complaint, and it’s a tad nit-picky, but I noticed when Luci snaps her fingers, she used her index finger and too me that seemed weird. I tried it after noticing and I can’t do it, I’ve always used my middle finger, and I assumed that’s what everyone else does, am I wrong? Aside from that minor instance the rest of the book is lovely to look at; McKelvie’s style is rather static, but his facial expressions are perfection, and he understands the beats to hit when depicting action so that the static figures actually do move in our mind’s eye.  Without spoiling anything, I loved what Wilson did with the books main scenes of explicit violence, it really fit with the overall tone and established aesthetic of the issue, and was inventive in a “why haven’t we seen that before” kind of way, which is awesome to see.

         I’m sure everyone has already started to be drawn to one character or another, and for me that was Luci.  From the pompadour, to the white suit, to her attitude–which I’ll touch on later–I was smitten from the very first page she appeared; quoting Beatles songs and Phillip Larkin poems to a hopelessly ignorant teenager–admittedly, I had to look up the latter, so a bit of kettle calling the pot there, but whatever.img107  The rest of the issue only served to confirm my initial instincts–especially her being the Devil, which is right up my demonic alley–but also introduced other equally intriguing people and developments along the way.

          Story:  I’ve already touched on the story a little, but I’d like to elaborate some, because this was an excellent issue by one of my current favorite writers.  To start I’d like to discuss the choice behind using Pop Stars as modern-day deities, which is genius.  Gillen has an incredible ability to tap into the zeitgeist and use it as a basis for wonderful stories.  With The Wicked + Divine he is providing a commentary on the obsessive levels of fandom, while at the same time feeding it by being so awesome 🙂  He is one of the most accessible creators out there, and very active in reaching out to his fanbase, which just makes us all like him even more.  This book is everything a fan of the Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson team could ask for; and I’m sure it will even work to convert some who haven’t discovered them yet.

         img109 I’m very intrigued by the prologue as well, and I hope more light is shed on those happenings in issue two.  We know that it was a meeting of the 20’s versions of the gods, but which ones, we don’t know yet.  Also interesting was the apparent death of some–I’m assuming here–as evidenced by skulls representing them at the table.  I wonder if this is Gillen hinting at the publics belief and devotion having sway on the longevity of any given deity on Earth.  Maybe with trends or popularity going up and down through the years, certain gods are more “en vogue” so they are the ones who are allowed to wander the Earth amongst the living.  I’m sure the rules will be explained in the future, but this is the internet, and if I predict something before it happens, I’m automatically cooler than everyone who didn’t and I get to brag about it; so bear with me, I’m just establishing  precedence 😉

          img106So far the Gods we’ve met are Luci/Lucifer, Amaterasu, and Sakhmet.  We’re all familiar with Lucifer, so I’ll just skip her/him–I’m sure it’s ambiguous–and move on to the others.  Amaterasu is a Shinto goddess whom the Emperor of Japan is a supposed descendent.  In myth/dogma if you will, she is Goddess of the Sun and along with her sibilings created Japan.  She ruled the Sun and with it daytime, while her brother Susanoo who ruled the Moon and night.  I thought this was interesting, because that’s the opposite genders of Greek/Roman where Apollo rules the Sun and Selene/Luna the Moon; Japan being a misogynistic society in many ways, apparently is not when it comes to Shintoism.  We don’t really get an idea of Amaterasu as a person, except that she is very young–17–and is taking her fame/ascension seriously as a responsibility and destiny.  I’m guessing we’re going to get some elaboration on her next month, because it’s her face on the cover, should be very interesting and I can’t wait.

          img108We know even less about Rihanna Sakhmet.  Sakhmet, or Sekhmet, according to Wikipedia—what, you thought I just knew this shit? Thanks!–is an Egyptian goddess with a lion’s head; which explains the mentioning of her character acting like a cat.  She is the Goddess of fire, war, vengeance, menstration–more misogyny?–and medicine; apparently Egyptian deities are multi-taskers 🙂  She is a daughter of Ra–another Sun God, interesting–and is considered the arbiter of justice in the judgment hall of Osiris, the God of the underworld.  So we do see a connection with these three at least, they all have something to do with death and/or the Sun.  This could be seen as an allusion to the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, but again that might just be me trying to seem smart on the internet.  The pieces are there, so it’s fun to speculate since it’s all we can do until Gillen fills us in.

          The issue picks up towards the end when an attempt is made to assassinate all the lady-Gods we’ve met, by some masked men on a rooftop–atheists?–thankfully for the rest of them, Luci proves her awesomeness by handling it.  That does lead into the issue’s cliffhanger, where we witness some pretty graphic courtroom shenanigans, and a possible framing of our lovely She-Devil.  I found this part to be strange because Luci appeared to be overly concerned with proving herself innocent, when I was thinking she probably shouldn’t care less about our Earth-bound laws and justice system, but I don’t know the rules Gillen is playing by, so it’ll be interesting to see where this goes in subsequent issues.  Will Luci be the first incarnation of the Devil to care about humans?  Or is she just putting on a front to conceal her real identity?

          Conclusion:  Well, it’s safe to say I really enjoyed this first issue, the creative team is off to a wonderful start, and I’m more and more excited every time I start to think about the possibilities.  Beautiful art and an intriguing premise make me so happy, and I urge anyone who’s on the fence about this title to give this first–extra big–issue a shot.  It’s charming, smart, hip, and everything else you wished you were in High School 🙂  At the very least you’ll find out just how cool you really are–hint if you don’t like it, you’re less cool according to me and everyone on Tumblr 😉  So what did you all think of this first issue? Do you have a favorite character yet–Luci right?–do you have some insight that proves my predictions wrong?–of course not, that’s impossible. Let me know in the comments below. As always thanks for reading!

          Bonus  Pullist Playlist suggestions:The Flaming Lips-  Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and Do You Realize   Chvrches- Gun  The Vaccines- Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)

 

 

Review of Sex Criminals #6

scby Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Sex Criminals returns after a short hiatus doing all the things it did best while adding new dimensions to the series and it’s style. Mimicking the metaphor of a relationship Sex Criminals moves past the initial spark of excitement from the beginning of a relationship to the slow mundane existence of complacency and normalism. In this we focus on Jon’s life after the initial arc and explore the fall out of his psychosis. It’s a deep and empathetic portrait of the often dammed if you do dammed if you don’t choices when dealing with mental illness that pays off from it’s early introduction in the first arc while also working as a metaphor for how relationships evolve in from initially getting to know someone to really getting to know someone. It’s a credit to Fraction and his humanism that he can continue to fully flesh out these characters and keep them engaging while also keeping the story engaging, tight and sharp as ever. Issue #6 still manages the same sly humor and fun of issues past but it adds extra layers as well improving on what already appeared to be a fully formed world. Chip Zdarsky doesn’t get to do as much here as in issues past in terms of the hilarity and levity that he has added to the narrative with his illustrations but his work here remains excellent picking his spots on when to add those extra details that help make Sex Criminals as unique a comic that is on the stands while feeling totally relatable and his Saturday morning funnies style of drawing is as sharp as ever. Where only one issue in of the second arc but Sex Criminals #6 manages the difficult task of maintaining everything that made it great in the past while adding new tone’s, dimensions and layers. Issue #6 is both a reaffirmation of the books mission statement while an expansion of everything we’ve seen before and executes that flawlessly. Bottom line this comic is fantastic and it continues that here, being one of a handful of must read titles in comics right now.

Review of Thomas Alsop #1

Thomas Alsop 1

The first issue of Boom! Studios’ Thomas Alsop miniseries introduces readers to Thomas Alsop, the current “Hand of Manhattan”, a supernatural defender of the island of Manhattan.  The Alsop family has shouldered this burden since the 1700s, when Thomas’ ancestor Richard Alsop was cursed by a Native American shaman with this supernatural responsibility.  The Alsop family has performed its duties quietly over the centuries, but Thomas has become a modern-day Internet occult celebrity.

Writer Chris Miskiewicz and artist Palle Schmidt craft a first issue that splits its focus between Thomas and Richard Alsop.  The past adventures of Richard Alsop are actually more interesting than Thomas’ modern day adventures, and Schmidt’s art does a great job of using color palette to separate the modern and past narratives, with Thomas’ adventures having more color, while Richard’s adventures are depicted in stark black-and-white.  Thomas’ ancestor is a stoic family man doing his best to stop evil from coming to the shores of Manhattan, while Thomas seems like a drunken, self-absorbed celebrity who is fundamentally unlikeable.  The two Alsop’s adventures do intersect, and the first issue promises that something dark from Richard’s past is on the horizon for Thomas.

The first issue of Thomas Alsop is a nicely illustrated comic with an interesting premise and characters; it is worth checking out.

Review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #4

24755Everything Buffy and her friends thought they knew about vampires and magic is changing.  Recent events have left the state of the world’s magic in flux, and Buffy’s charming adversary Dracula (yes, that Dracula) has run off with both a mystic tome (which will give him the power to literally write the new rules of magic) and Buffy’s friend Xander Harris, whom Dracula holds in his thrall.

Dracula’s plans, however, don’t go according to plan.  Dracula discovers that the book’s power to grant his wishes can go horribly wrong when imprecise commands are given, and it is up to Buffy and her friends to save him and the world.  And amid all this action, Buffy discovers a heartbreaking truth about her sister Dawn.

Writers Nicholas Brendon (yes, that Nicholas Brendon) and Christos Gage craft a story that combines riveting adventure with great humor and poignant character moments.  All of these story beats are depicted quite beautifully by artist Rebekah Isaacs and colorist Dan Jackson.  In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #4, the creative team provides heart-wrenching character moments and riveting action that should be able to engage even new readers unfamiliar with the series.

Review of Fables #141

APR140293

For most of the 140 previous issues of the Fables series, the story has focused on a group of fairy tale characters in exile from their mythic homelands, stranded and forced to hide in our mundane world.  But things have changed in the Fables community.  Having defeated the adversary that forced them into exile and other threats to their community, the Fables are no longer united by a common foe.  Many Fables are thinking of leaving our world and returning to their original homelands.   And most distressing of all, two wonderful sibling characters that mean so much to Fables fans – Snow White and Rose Red – are embroiled in a dangerous personal feud that seems poised to shatter the Fables community.

Fables #141 continues to build the tension, as Rose’s magical power and abilities seem to increase, and Snow acquires a subversive ally to help in the pending conflict.  And on the streets of New York City, two police officers make a horrific discovery that will have a huge impact on the Fables community.

Writer Bill Willingham has announced that this series will end with issue #150, and he is ratcheting up the suspense for what promises to be a fantastic finale for a great series.  Artists Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Andrew Pepoy (with rich colors provided by colorist Lee Loughridge) depict all the characters and intrigue in a lush, gorgeous fashion.  The issue also contains a backup story written by Willingham and illustrated by Buckingham about King Ambrose (AKA “Flycatcher”)  that is unfortunately much too short, but nevertheless entertaining in its brevity.

This issue begins a new storyline, although new readers might not find it very accessible.  However, veteran readers will likely enjoy this issue.

Review of The Manhattan Projects #21

mpby Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Browne

Jonathan Hickman has proven over time that he is on the best and most prolific creators in comics with his steady stream of Marvel and creator owned work but in spite of the dissenting opinions The Manhattan Projects has remained his strongest work for the last two years and that is because he manages to ratchet up the imagination and insanity to levels that are equal parts haunting, hilarious and full of wonder to the highest order. In #21 we get a bottle issue about the space exploration dog Laika who is kidnapped by an alien scientific research ship that manages to walk a fine line between tense narrative structure while still selling the goofy aspects perfectly. Hickman has managed to hit on something in this book that I haven’t seen from his other work which is this universal truth that individually and in a micro sense people or really living things as a whole are actually pretty funny but the universe in a large scale or a macro sense is actually pretty fucking terrifying and in Manhattan Projects life is a balancing act of trying to laugh your way through the terror. Ryan Browne fills in effortlessly in regular series artist Nick Pitarra to the point that it’s hard to tell the difference in the best way possible. I’m for sure picking up his God Hates Astronauts series in September just off the strength of his work here as he manages to capture the sort crazy/goofy/frightening aesthetic that this comic demands. The Manhattan Projects continues to be one of the best ongoing series in comics and really issue #21 is just another strong example of what makes it so great. After all when faced with such a dark large scale scope of the universe what else can you do but just laugh at the absurdity of it all?

Review of Avengers Undercover #5

auBy Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker

This cover is amazing. It depicts exactly what is going on in this issue of Avengers Undercover. Baron Zemo has given the young Murder World survivors the option to join his gang of thugs or to go back to prison for killing Arcade. The words coming out of his mouth are, “No pressure, it’s your call.” But really what he means is, “Sign this contract in blood or I’ll kill you.” But the nice evil mercenary that Zemo is, gives the kids the night to think about it. During this time the teens get shown what life can be like if they just say yes to Zemo. Of course they are shown the glamorous lifestyle and the acceptance that they most likely won’t receive back home, now that their time spent on Murder World has been uploaded for the world to see. Part way through this issue I really did think the teenagers would see no other way than to join Zemo’s crew. However again this book surprises me. It appears they only have two choices, to join Zemo or go back to prison. However Cammi, Hazmat and Anarchronism are able to come up with a third option. Take the villains down from within and win the world over in the process. As much as I wanted to see these teenagers struggle with the perks that a life a villainy would bring this new plan of destruction within suits the characters much better. A true hero emerges in the darkest of times, and these kids are definitely all in their darkest of times. There are a few big moments at the end of this issue. One was a character reveal that had me gasping. Another solid instalment in the “join the dark side” tale. Hopeless does a terrific job outlining that just because you aren’t good, doesn’t mean you are bad. You need to get yourself out of the grey area of wanting to read this and just read it already!

– Dean

Abe Sapien #13

          img094Overview:  This issue we journey with Abe and his new companion Grace, whom Abe rescued from captivity last issue.  Together they meet, and join up with, a couple desperate to save their ailing son.  They all end up at a strange property, where a man is supposedly able to heal visitors with a special clay and some holistic practice.  As usual in this “Hell on Earth” things don’t always go as planned, and the harsh realities of this new world come crashing down on the group of travelers.

img095          Art:  Sebastian Fiumara is on art duties this issue, and he does a brilliant job.  The issue starts with, and contains, a few flashback sequences throughout, Fiumara takes this opportunity to differentiate them with rough, free-hand panel outlines.  It’s a subtle choice, but I really appreciate when an artist does something like this; often it’s left up to the colorist to modify things to provide a visual cue that a scene is from the past, but Fiumara proves that’s not the only creative way to get the point across and it’s the kind of choice that shows how much the artist “gets it”, which is nice to see.

img096 Sebastian’s style is all his own and I’ve become a big fan since he debuted on this title.  To me his work feels like Richard Corben, filtered through Sean Phillips, with hints of Guy Davis, and his action sequences are right up there with James Harren.  He also does a fine job channeling Mignola in his layouts and sequencing.  This issue there is a thematic constant of a mysterious bell tolling; from the cover, to various key moments during the issue it appears, often in sillhouette, and provides an ominous presence; this is a tool Mignola has nearly patented, and Fiumara uses it to great effect.  Every page of this issue has a visceral quality, you can almost feel the dread and weariness of every surface and character.  The mood will morph into a calmness, but then like a time-bomb something clicks and….BOOM! The page is awash in mayhem and violence.  It’s not often that an artist is well rounded enough that an issue can jump from such extremes without some discernible change in quality, but Fiumara has a firm grasp on both action and character, and it’s awesome to experience.

        img097 Story: This issue was interesting story wise, but for me the art really propelled the ambiance and lifted things beyond a so-so episode.  I’m still not sure what to make of Grace; it’s obvious she is deeply traumatized, but she seems to jump back and forth between catatonic and aware; often shifting only to complicate situations,  like a child who’s aware they can manipulate people with their behavior.  I’m not sure if this is done on purpose to shape her character, or if she’s becoming a plot device.  This also seems apparent when Abe describes his need to protect her, and his belief that he can do so.  I trust Allie to develop this further, because it does make sense for Abe, who’s lost control of nearly everything in his life, and is grasping for something he can help or alleviate in the face of a crumbling world.

          The parents of the ailing boy suffer from this as well, I feel like they were unnecessary, and the story could have happened without their existence.  They’re around mostly to be a device for us to feel sorry for, both before, and after their demise.  I think if you can remove a character and still achieve the same story, then you should consider removing them all together, or modifying their role; that is just my take though and it’s a minor thing in the long run, but it’s something I think Allie needs to consider for future arcs.

           I’ve enjoyed this series and it’s measured approach to dealing with the end of the world through a zoom lens.  It separates itself from BPRD, by focusing on the rest of the population, and the powerless nature of their plight.  Abe is wandering through the madness, knee-deep in tragedy and suffering, searching for answers , or at least signs, that there is something left for him in the world.  This journey is complicated by his desire to help others, and his resemblance to the very monsters infecting and destroying the world around everyone.  I believe Allie and Co. are doing an admirable job conveying the melancholy and seemingly insurmountable odds facing everyone, in the same way John Arcudi is doing with our intrepid agents of the BPRD in the main title, but on a scale that reflects the abilities-or lack thereof–of the civilian population.

          Conclusionimg098: If you’re looking for a rosy good vs. evil story, where the white knight always wins, then look elsewhere. This book is taking on the apocalypse on the ground floor, and it’s anything but rosy–unless you count the shade of all the blood.  The art by Sebastian Fiumara alone demands your attention, and I trust Scott Allie is building things that will reward us throughout the series, that is as long as you don’t mind rewards in the form of frog-monsters, mayhem, and a frightening look at the end of the world as we know it. If that’s your jam, then dig in, because there’s plenty to go around 🙂

          Just for fun here’s a Pull list Playlist suggestion for this issue: The Partisan, By Leonard Cohen If you’ve never heard this song then please give it a listen, in my opinion it’s one of Cohen’s best.