Review of Dead Body Road #4

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Dead Body Road #4  By Justin Jordan and Matteo Scalera

Did you blink?  If you did then you missed this issue of Dead Body Road.  I suggest grabbing a trade of this 6 issue mini when it finishes because I can guarantee you will have a lot of fun with this one.  Matteo Scalera blows me away every month with how exciting he can make a panel.  My heart starts racing, my lungs start tightening.  Every breath is a struggle as I fight to get oxygen into my blood. I constantly tell myself everything is going to be okay, no harm will come to me because I am sitting on my bed reading. I do not believe anyone has ever died from reading a comic. Although death by comic does sound like a good way to go. Now the real question at hand, if I died reading a comic which one of you writers is going to review the comic and write about my death? Sorry about that tangent, back to business.

Welcome to the car chase issue.  The dreaded car chase issue.  You don’t see many car chase issues these days.  Why is that?  I’ll tell you why, it is because the key to a car chase is fast paced, close call, edge of your seat action.  Okay easy, we just have to figure out how to draw fast paced close calls. Perhaps not as easy as I thought.  The car chase issue is not a popular one and it is simply because it usually does not work out.  If you attempt a car chase issue and it fails, it is really going to fail.  Especially in this type of book which has been fast paced since the first issue. Getting into issue 4 of a 6 part series and dropping the ball on a car chase issue is basically saying bye bye to a section of readers.  So how does Scalera do it? I ask because this is the best car chase issue I have read in a long time.  There is no other car chase issue that comes to my mind better than this one.  As I flip through the book to figure out how Scalera has accomplished it I see something I did not notice while reading for the first time.  Every page in the book is a two page spread.  Every page provides rows of scenes that continue across two pages.  I don’t know if this aided with the excitement of the issue or not but I was so into the comic that I didn’t even notice.  That’s a good sign!

I have not read a ton of Justin Jordan comics but honestly I think that is because there is not a ton of Justin Jordan out there.  I have read Luther Strode, which I enjoyed but I would say hands down Dead Body Road is my favorite Justin Jordan work.  These hard nose gritty characters fit Jordan’s style and he finds a way to make you love and hate practically every character in the story.  This book is not just a high paced thrill ride.  Jordan provides the humor and character development necessary to raise this book to the next level.  In my opinion this is one of Image’s most underrated books.  It really is fantastic and extremely fun to read.

So go buy a copy, take a deep breath, and dive into the pages of Dead Body Road.

Warning:  The creators of this book are trained professionals.  Do not attempt the panels they have created without consulting an expert.

– Dean

Review of Sandman: Overture #2

Sandman Overture #2 McKean regularSandman: Overture #2 by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

After a slight delay (which hopefully will be the last), Gaiman resumed his return trip to The Dreaming this week. While the first issue took place in the year 1915, the second opens with a flash-forward to now. In the present, Dream announces to Lucien that the time has come for him to fulfill an obligation which he cannot ignore. So, leaving Lucien to entertain visiting dignitaries, Dream travels to chat with a certain Henriette. Henriette, better known as Mad Hattie, has long been a fixture of the magical corner of the DCU. She previously played a role in the life of both Dream and his sister Death. On this occasion, Dream and Hattie take a walk through a deeply haunted house in search of an item that she once hid there. Retrieving what appears to be a pocket watch, Dream bids Hattie farewell, and returns to the current duties of his realm. I trust that this expedition amounts to more than a visit with familiar faces and that Gaiman is laying the groundwork for something that will be important later in Overture.

The issue then picks up where the previous left off in 1915. Dream had been called away (more like forcefully seized by mystical powers) to an unfamiliar place. Even more disorienting is the fact that he is surrounded by creatures who appear to be strange variations on himself. It soon becomes clear that each of these figures represents an aspect of Dream’s essence. They are all one, yet also separate. While not expressed in quite this manner before, this theme has always played a part in the Sandman mythos. Dream appears in the form the viewer would best comprehend. Thus, when visited by a cat in “Dream of a Thousand Cats,” the Dream Lord appears as a feline. Throughout the series, artists portrayed Dream in a variety of ways, depending on their personal style. Williams pays homage to this tradition by dressing one of the Dream aspects in a flame-patterned robe which bears a strong resemblance to a garment worn by Marc Hempel’s Dream in The Kindly Ones.

Gaiman also uses this conclave of Dreams to hint at future events. As the conversation meanders through philosophical discussions & digressions, Dream asks if he is always like this: “Self-satisfied. Irritating . . . unwilling to concede center stage to anyone but myself?” Yes, is the answer he receives. “Ah, fascinating,” Dream muses. How Dream just described himself fits perfectly how his personality has been for millennia. The core of his character arc in Sandman is how he gradually learns to relax and allow himself to be more open to others. In the past, readers have concluded that it was Dream’s time in captivity which first sparked this reassessment. Here, however, Gaiman seems to be suggesting that it started a little earlier. Was it this experience with the aspects of himself which first forced Dream to confront who he was in all his ugliness? If so, will we see more hints of this shift before the conclusion of Overture?

Towards the end of the issue, Gaiman reintroduces a threat familiar to fans (hint: Doll’s House). Then on the final page he leaves the reader with a bit of a shocker. Less surprising is the fact that Gaiman continues to be a cat person.

As for the art, Williams simply amazes with every page. Somehow he has found a way to outdo his own stellar work on Batwoman. Each page is imaginatively constructed and beautifully rendered. From the shifting fantasy background ofdec130330d The Dreaming to the horror house tour with Mad Hattie to the cosmic setting for the gathering of Dreams, Williams shines. Credit should also be given to Dave Stewart’s outstanding colors, especially the bright reds of the ruby pages; also, Todd Klein deserves notice for keeping clear a wide assortment of fonts in the conclave section. And of course, no Sandman comic would be complete without a Dave McKean cover . . .

Overall, this issue seemed to be a bridge getting us through some exposition on the way to the primary conflict. Regardless, it is a very lovely bridge, which is a pleasure to stroll along. Having done so now, I am eager to see where the third segment of our journey will take us.

Cheers

Review of Silver Surfer #1

“His [Kirby’s] Surfer had been a being of pure energy who had to learn from Earthlings what emotion and individuation were all about. Stan’s was a man from another planet who’d made the supreme sacrifice in becoming Galactus’ herald.” – Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs, The Comic Book Heroes (1997)

Silver Surfer 1Fantastic Four collaborators Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had conflicting visions for Marvel’s Silver Surfer character. Created by artist Jack Kirby, the Silver Surfer debuted in Fantastic Four #48 (1966), a silver-toned alien being travelling through space on a vessel that resembled a surf board (some context – it was the 1960s, there was a surfing craze going on, and Kirby was one of the most daring and imaginative comics creators who ever lived) to scout out worlds to be consumed by his master – the immensely powerful alien being Galactus. The Silver Surfer, moved by the humanity he encounters on Earth, rebels against his master and helps the Fantastic Four defeat Galactus.

The Silver Surfer was a popular character and his adventures continued. Writer and editor Stan Lee saw the humanity in the character, and envisioned the Surfer as an alien man who had volunteered to serve Galactus in order to save his home planet. Kirby intended the character to be a cosmic alien being whose compassion would be learned by his interactions with humans. As editor, Lee had the final say, and his vision for the character endured.

Reading the first issue of Silver Surfer by writer Dan Slott and artist Mike Allred, it seems that the creative team is trying to reconcile the conflicting visions of Kirby and Lee. Slott and Allred’s Silver Surfer is a powerful cosmic traveler with a conscience, trying to make amends for his past actions, saving planets and hoping to atone for helping Galactus destroy worlds. The Surfer gets recruited by a mysterious alien civilization that he has never encountered before to help it repel a powerful threat.

The aliens introduce the Surfer to an Earth woman named Dawn, believing her to be of great importance to the Surfer. On Earth, Dawn and her twin sister Eve are very different; Eve likes to travel the world and have adventures, while Dawn likes to stay in her home town and help her Dad. The two sisters reflect the qualities that define the Surfer – compassion and adventure. It will be interesting to see how the Surfer reacts to Dawn’s presence in future issues.

Mike Allred’s art is brilliant; he’s clearly having fun rendering all the alien characters and worlds in the comic. Allred also nicely contrasts Dawn’s small town world with the Surfer’s strange cosmic universe. Colorist Laura Allred reinforces these differences with very bright colors for the Surfer’s panels, and slightly more subdued colors in Dawn’s.

Slott and Allred’s Silver Surfer combines cosmic strangeness with very human compassion, a neat reconciliation of two very different visions for the character.

THIS COMIC IS RANKED:

Entropic! | Redshift! | Blueshift! |  COSMIC!

 

 

Review of Rocky & Bullwinkle #1

Rocky & Bullwinkle #1Rocky & Bullwinkle #1 by Mark Evanier & Roger Landgridge

This week I bought two books which offered me a pair of nostalgic experiences. The first Sandman: Overture, I shall discuss at more length in separate review. For now, though, I’ll simply say again that reading Neil Gaiman’s series in high school made a lasting impression on me. So, naturally, when his return to the character was announced, I was excited; I was even more ecstatic to discover the new material matched the old in terms of quality.

Rocky & Bullwinkle offers a different type of nostalgia, which the new IDW comic does a good job of channeling. As a kid I checked out of the local library videos of the original show; nowadays I have the first two seasons on DVD. Never an obsessive fan, I was always fond of the program. Reading this issue today, it was easy to hear those familiar voices bumbling, quipping, and narrating their way through the story.

The issue is set up similar to the format an episode of the show: a Rocky & Bullwinkle segment, a special feature, followed by another installment of Moose & Squirrel. This issue’s middle section belonged to Dudley Do-Right, who was always my favorite of the “friends.” There is something about the Dudley stories which were even more absurdly ridiculous than the adventures of the main heroes. Maybe it was Horse. Regardless, the Do-Right chapter is a fun story involving yet another scheme of “the incessant” Snidely Whiplash. It was probably my favorite part of the issue. I am assuming that future issues will spotlight other special features (Fractured Fairy Tales, Aesop, etc). However, if they simply gave us more Dudley, I’d be OK with that decision.

The Rocky & Bullwinkle narrative is enjoyable as well. As par for the course, Boris Badenov has concocted yet another half-baked plan which is probably more complicated than need be. In this case, he is posing as a psychic in order to swindle the wealthy Louis F(ilthy) Lucre. Once Rocky catches on, he declares that Lucre should sue the charlatan. “That’s right,” replies Bullwinkle, “He should file a Seer Sucker Suit.” Yep, that’s correct, the series honors faithfully the TV show’s love of bad puns.

One of the reasons I took a chance on this comic was the talent involved. Writer Mark Evanier himself hits a nostalgia button for me due to his work on Groo, which I remember being passed around in junior high. Here Evanier has written a funny, charming comic, which honors what came before it. In a similar manner, Landgridge does well with the art, which should not come as a surprise for anyone familiar with his contributions to Boom’s line of great, though now defunct, Muppets comics.

All in all, this was an enjoyable debut issue, which I would recommend to other fans of the TV show. As for myself, I plan to pick up the second issue next month.

Here’s hoping Fearless Leader shows his scarred face at some point.

Cheers.

Review of Deadly Class #3

deadly-class-03-releasesby Rick Remender and Wesley Craig

In issue three of Deadly Class Remender and Craig manage to capture the manic youthful energy of the debut issue of the series after the second slowed down to introduce the expansive cast. Here we get nothing but action and teenage angst as we watch Marcus and Willie go on their first kill for the assassin school and learn that looks can be deceiving in this world. Story wise the pacing here is fantastic as we watch two teenagers fly around the streets of San Francisco dodging danger as they are forced to take the life of another. In it Remender gets deeper into both Marcus and Willies story as he exposes aspects of Willies past that plays against expectations and stereotypes while building the characters. This is still being told from Marcus point of view so it’s important to approach some statements as you would with Lorde lyrics by recognizing that this is a teenager whose prone to believe the same nonsense that we all did in our youth but the pure angst that Remender channels with lines like “There are monsters our there. And I’m going to be ready for them. I’m going to grow scales and breathe fire” is pure magic. Craig continues to create astonishing layouts and panels as he sets the scene for 1980’s San Francisco awash with colorful street lights, large scale architecture and dirty back alleys. The fluidity of movement in his work is second to none in it’s craftsmanship and it truly shines when he can do full scale peddle to the medal action like this. This is a comic that essentially succeeds on pacing by letting the narrative go a mile a minute slowing down for short moments emotional catharsis before jumping right back into the action. It’s to the credit of Remender’s writing and character building along with Craig’s illustrations and layouts that they’ve excelled at this practice so far. There has also been clues to something more in this comic as Remender’s politics continue bleed out of the pages and the pan out on the final page is a haunting reminder of the stakes involved. Marcus want’s kill Reagan. Is the compromises he will have to make in Reagan’s America to reach that goal worth the cost? I can’t wait to find out.

Review of All New Ghost Rider #1

All New Ghost Rider #1by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore’s All New Ghost Rider #1 defies expectations while playing within different genre’s for a tight and engaging opening salvo for the new iteration of the classic hero. While it’s truly an origin story in the classic sense of the word the way they go about it exceeds traditions and cliché’s to give the concept something wholly original an unique. We start out briefly getting to know Robby Reyes as a mechanic that takes care of his disabled younger brother and street races at night. From there the narrative shifts to an incredible street racing sequence before we find the hero’s call to adventure. Throughout his work Smith has always had a distinct voice that’s on full display here. It’s spot on in depicting young inner city characters without leaning too heavily on cliché’s and what it lacks in suitability it makes up for in heart and fun.There is a particular life flashing before his eye’s moment that manages to hit multiple points about who Reyes is better then some series do in a whole arc by capturing his fears and desires against the paradox of a young man who wants to do the right thing while also being enticed by the danger of a deadly sport that is outside the law. Moore does some of his best work yet in crafting his round and abstract visual storytelling that is close to a perfect fit Smith’s manga style narrative. His work here is surprisingly excellent beyond what is already a very high bar he has set for himself on past work. Who knew this guy was born to draw a street race? Overall All New Ghost Rider is another win for the All New Marvel Now Initiative where Smith and Moore essentially distill the best parts of the Fast and Furious franchise into a 22 page comic book and then retrofit that into a Ghost Rider story. This is the type of comic that hit’s you out of nowhere and leaves you begging for more by the conclusion. More please.

Review Superior Spider-Man #30

SSMSuperior Spider-Man #30 by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Well, here we are. The second to last issue of Superior Spider-Man. For roughly a year now, Slott has been chronicling the adventures of Doctor Octopus’ mind inside Peter Parker’s body. It was a gimmicky premise that could have easy blown up in everyone’s face. Yet, somehow it worked more than it failed. Naturally there were the screams of discontent, the impassioned cries from comic book fans who had somehow never read a “nothing will ever be the same again” saga from a comic book before. Still, I give Slott credit for this: he stuck to his guns. This was not a three, four month storyline, as many suspected. He took a year and really played with the idea of Octavius trying to walk in Peter’s shoes. As I said above, not all of it worked, but what did was fun. For example, watching Otto bond and fall for Anna Maria has been a pleasure.

Continue reading Review Superior Spider-Man #30

Review of Manhattan Projects #19 By TheOtherBluth

img008Manhattan Projects #19: Finite Oppenheimers

[Memorial]

Writer: Jonathan Hickman Art: Ryan Browne & Jordie Bellaire

Manhattan Projects is a book that will challenge you.  The story is not very straight forward, and it uses historical fiction to create a maniacally entertaining story. Fortunately for us, the ship is being steered by Jonathan Hickman; a man who knows how to weave complex and entertaining stories that reward our patience and examination.  It’s as if Hickman has a roulette wheel at his house, with all kinds of insane scenarios on it that he spins to see where he will take this very un-merry band of scientists and military men next.  For some that may result in a negative opinion of the story, but personally, I have loved the wild ride and all the ridiculous surprises along the way. Hickman and regular artist Nick Pitarra have clearly decided to go nth degree crazy with this book, and I think they are having a ball doing it.

Issue nineteen concludes The Oppenheimer Civil War, which has been going on for fifteen non-years–or three issues–inside the mind of the deranged twin of Robert, Joseph Oppenheimer.  Drawn by fill-in artist extraordinaire Ryan Browne–of “God Hates Astronauts” fame–these issues have taken the fantastic levels of crazy we’ve grown to love in this series, to wonderful new heights.  It has brought us moments that include Robert Oppenheimer storming into battle atop a headless horse to battle ninjas, barbarians, and all sorts of nutty iterations of Oppenheimer prime (Joseph).  Robert is joined by “redeemed” analogues of his adversary whose eyes he has cut out, a process that converts them to his side.  These three issues (10, 15, and now 19) have been some of my favorites of the series to date, for the unbridled approach and execution of such mind bending ideas.  One thing that bugged me was that Hickman mixes narrative caption boxes with regular dialogue to provide an objective historical perspective on the state of the war. I’m not a fan of this technique, because I find myself distracted a bit when reading it, the dialogue comes off stilted, and I lose the conversation threads when it occurs the entire issue.  Though most of the dialogue in this issue is limited to “Hmmm” and irrational numbers anyway, so not really a big deal, but it was one negative aspect I felt.  What has kept me wondering throughout these tangential chapters about the war; is how it all fits into the larger scheme of things in the “real” world of the title. What are the ramifications of the outcome of this war? Did this happen immediately after Roberts death, or is it happening in this book’s present time? Thankfully those issues are addressed at the conclusion of this book, and I have to say, I was simultaneously delighted and bummed. There’s no other way to put it, because I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will say no more than that.

Colorist Jordie Bellaire—who at this point has earned all of our admiration and awe—soaks these war issues in two main colors, blue and red; representing the two factions, with some gray scattered throughout for a neutral balance. This palette has been reflected in the series proper as well with red always representing the antagonist. Is this some sort of commentary on communism? I don’t know for sure, it could just be that red and blue are both highly contrasting primary colors that work well to establish sides when all the soldiers are analogues of the same person–yeah let’s go with that, fuck symbolism J Needless to say Jordie is killing it as usual, and I have to recognize her contributions to the overall look and feel of the art. Speaking of art, I can’t say enough good things about Ryan Browne’s work on this. His style fits perfectly with the tone established by Nick Pitarra, so the transition isn’t jarring at all. Browne has a wonderful ability to draw lines that appear sketchy and detailed at the same time. His facial expressions are phenomenal, and he can drawn the shit out of a horse with or without a head, or in this issue’s case with a badass armored-head adorned with a laser cannon and blue fire-breath! That’s right a fire-breathing horse! How can you not be reading and loving this book!

So to make a short review long, I found issue nineteen of Manhattan Projects to be another great issue in a fantastic series.  Hickman has been criticized in the past for his “cold” storytelling, and while this book doesn’t ooze with heart or feelings, it does deal with complex emotions and presents situations with bittersweet outcomes that left me feeling for the characters involved.  After reading this issue I can certainly say I have no idea where things are headed next, but I do know they will be exciting, crazy, and thought provoking. This book, in my opinion, is Hickman and company at their best, and I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Review of Hawkeye #18 By Reed Beebe

HEMarvel’s Hawkeye comic is about two superheroes (Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, both known as “Hawkeye”) whose crime-fighting paraphernalia of choice is the bow and arrow, a ranged weapon that requires distance to do its work. The heroes’ choice of weapon serves as a neat metaphor for two characters that are socially distant. Clint is often portrayed as an outsider: the reformed criminal mistrusted by his teammates, the non-superpowered guy on a team of very powerful superheroes, and the lover who just can’t seem to stay in a lasting romantic relationship. Clint is a misfit loner who always seems to stand apart from the characters that surround him. Kate shares her mentor’s distance – she is stubborn, often in conflict with her family and friends (including Clint), and unable to maintain lasting relationships; she recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to distance herself from Clint.

The genius of the Hawkeye creative team is that they force these two loners to have meaningful, entertaining connections with other characters. Over the course of the series, Clint is required to interact with the neighbors that live in his apartment building, his chronically troubled brother, and – before her departure to California – Kate. In Los Angeles, Kate becomes a self-proclaimed private investigator who gets involved with the interesting lives of her clients.

Hawkeye #18 maintains the series’ recurring tension between distance and intimacy as it focuses on Kate’s West Coast adventures. Kate becomes involved in the life of “Cat Food Aisle Man”, a mysterious, aloof stranger that Kate always encounters while shopping for cat food. The stranger announces that he is leaving town and asks Kate to take care of his cat, which triggers an adventure in which Kate learns all about “Cat Food Aisle Man” (including his identity, which should be a treat for fans of Marvel horror comics) and his connection to Kate’s enemies. Kate also learns that Clint is in trouble and that she will need to return to New York to help him.

Artist Annie Wu does an excellent job of conveying the humor and horror that writer Matt Fraction’s story requires and excels at rendering a range of human emotion on the characters’ faces. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth uses a dark palette that is appropriate for an issue that focuses on a character caught up in the secret darkness at the heart of Los Angeles.

USING THE ASCENDING RANKING SCALE BELOW, THIS COMIC IS RANKED:

OFF-TARGET! | NEAR MISS! | HIT! | BULLSEYE!

Review of Ms Marvel #2

Ms Marvel #2Ms Marvel #2 by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

As I have discussed previously, there are only so many plot variations out there. Sole survivor/exile from a lost home world, family members brutally murdered, accepting a previously unknown heritage. As dedicated comic readers, we have seen them all so many times already that new origins are more about the execution than originality. Can the creators take an old routine and make it feel fresh once again. In the case of Ms Marvel, the answer is a resounding yes.

Wilson spent most of the first issue introducing readers to Kamala Khan, a 16 years old Pakistani-American in living Jersey City. She hangs out in convenience stores with her friend, writes Avengers fan fiction and tries to navigate conflicts with her parents. In other words, despite her minority ethnicity, she is a pretty typical American teenager. During the course of her debut issue, Kamala snuck out against her parents’ wishes to attend a party, only to find herself targeted for ridicule. Kamala stomps off just as the whole area is engulfed by a mysterious mist, which is where the second issue picks up.

Continue reading Review of Ms Marvel #2