Review of Cyclops #1

CYCLOPS2014001cov-118b0by Greg Rucka and Russel Dauterman

Cyclops #1 is a fantastic call to adventure that acts as a reconsideration of the character by giving him a full fledged personality that is instantly relatable and enduring. We are all too familiar with the perception of Cyclops as being at best boring and more likely a stuck up douche nozzle but this shuts all of that down within a few pages by setting up Cyclops with a full fledged personality and then sending him into a fantastic situation based around the very basic concept of a teenage boy and his father awkwardly attempting to bond with one another. It walks the tight rope of playing with Cyclops as a concept while grounding him into relatability in the way only a veteran writer like Rucka can, even managing to play a joke on the audience by having Cyclops tell a joke and then have the person he’s telling it to not get it pushing up against the idea of him being humorless. But mostly what Rucka is doing here is putting you in the shoes of a young man on the cusps of adulthood and showing how difficult that can be. Ever since he’s been reintroduced into current Marvel continuity Scott has only had the older version of himself to look at and all the adults to tell him how wrong that version is. Now he has another example in Cosair and he just happens to be the coolest possible father any kid could ask for, one that literally checks all the boxes for who Scott want’s to be when he grows up and in doing so creates a complex dichotomy for Cyclops showing what he will become and what he wants to be. Or could be? Russell Dauterman kills these pages by elevating the sense of wonder and fun in the story line as he shows Cyclops, Cosair and friends ride across the vast and beautiful universe having a blast plundering weaker ships. You can see the constant joy in Cosair and his friends from Russell’s illustration and more importantly you can see that slowly transferring to Cyclops. This is fun swash buckling space adventure that takes a character with all types of baggage and burns it away in a stroke of pure joy and wonder. Someday Cyclops will still be the difficult and flawed super human that we’ve come to know over the last five decades but for now it’s great to just have him be the wide eyed teen going off on an adventure with the super cool dad he never knew he had. He deserves a break and we are all the better for it.

Review of Original Sin #1

osby Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato Jr.

The debut issue of Original Sin is an intriguing concept that doesn’t go anywhere for it’s first issue and doesn’t do itself any favors in the set up either. I’m sure you are all familiar with the gist of this story in that The Watcher is killed so Nick Fury Sr. gathers up Marvel’s bad news bears to solve the mystery. If you haven’t read it yet then you can just pay pal that $4.99 you were going to spend to because that and a Mindless One shooting itself in the head with the Ultimate Nullifier is literally all that happens in this comic. Keep in mind all of that has been spelled out in the promotional material for months and this comic is $4.99. I don’t usually like to harp on price points but the fact that this is a $1 more then everything else without any significant bump in the page count, and a story where very little happens that wasn’t spelled out already that’s pretty egregious. Jason Aaron is one of the strongest out of the new crop of writers that have graduated from creator owned darlings to big two rock stars and for his part he does some interesting work here. His dialogue and interactions are top notch especially the opening scene where Captain America, Black Widow, Wolverine and Nick Fury Sr. discuss the quality of their steak dinner (Black Widow prefers hers to come from a Russian bear) leading into a fantastic moment where Fury tells a story about when he, Bucky and Cap fought a German battalion over a random cow that wandered on the battlefield. The writing is great telling a story within a story that is funny, engaging, prophetic and tells you all about Fury, Bucky and Cap without spelling anything out. It’s the type of writing that takes gifted story tellers and humanist to pull off, the stuff that you learn about as young writer but rarely perfect in that easy to try hard to master sort of way. It’s also the best part of the comic. Mike Deodato Jr. does interiors here. Over time he’s developed the skills to draw engrossing backgrounds that do wonders to create the atmosphere while his page layouts do well to move the story forward but his figure drawings and facial expressions are still generic comic drawing 101 from 1995 and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. There is good idea’s here and the framework for what could be an interesting story that has the potential to go in any number of ways but that’s all it is a framework and for a comic that already had #0 preceding and costs more then the anything else a that just isn’t enough.

Review of Copra #14

COVER.14.FINAL_-674x1024by Michele Fiffe

After last issues roller coaster ride Copra #14 takes a step back for a much more measured tone where we have another bottle issue that works as both a reflection of the audience in addition to a chilling and sobering reminder of how violence changes us. In this installment we follow Patrick on leave as he goes home after his Copra mission out of his robot suit and in his hometown with his family and friends. In it we see a character who feels like your standard slacker bro that likes to hang out at record stores and comic shops with his crew while spending time with his mother and grandmother at night. Meanwhile Patrick’s younger pill popping cousin is looming in the background causing minor disturbances as the story creeps forward. This issue is as much about how Patrick is similar to us as it is about what makes him different and how he’s changed which plays out over the course of the story. You pretty much know what’s going to happen and that becomes even more apparent as the issue slowly marches towards conclusion but what makes it work so well is the constant terror it inspires as your are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Early on one of Patrick friends asks him if he’s killed anybody which he casually brushes off but as the story moves forward to it’s harrowing conclusion you learn the cost of constant violence and casual murder has on him in the comics chilling final pages. We’ve seen Fiffe do bombastic action sequences better then anybody but here he shows his uncanny ability to display subtlety, slow story building and abject horror. While it may be radically different from past issues it is just as fantastic as the stories of the series past while showing more sides to Copra’s world and Fiffe’s abilities. This isn’t your typical Copra story but it is a great one and it’s another dimension in what is already one of the best current ongoing series being created.

Review of FCBD Futures End #0

FE02by Jeff Lemire, Brian Azzarello, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Zircher ect

Futures End #0 is probably the most batshit insane comic I’ve read from DC Comics post New 52 but it’s also one of the most interesting and more over it might be one of the best. In it we are placed 25 years in the future as a grey haired Flash, Green Lantern & Batman among other are fighting against a Brother Eye that has overtaken the earth. I know a lot of this has already been on the internet already but it bears mentioning one more time: Superman, Wonderwoman and pretty much every other DC superhero you can think of has been converted to a cyborg controlled by Brother Eye with mechanical bug legs, Frankenstein has Black Canaries head sewed into his chest, it is absolutely fucking nuts in the best way possible. This is Age Of Ultron on blue crystal meth and you know what that’s actually pretty awesome. After a whole year of Bendis doing piss poor time travel stories that go nowhere, mean nothing and were pretty much boring from start to finish it’s kind of refreshing to see a comic do something similar but just go all out on the concept. Moreover considering past product it’s commendable that they’ve managed to pull this off without falling into some of the outright shittiness or stupidity that DC  has struggled with at times in the New 52 when they are taking chances on less familiar characters and concepts. I don’t know how they are going to make 52 issues out of this, where the stories going but after the snooze fest that is Batman Eternal, the uninspired creative team on that Earth 2 series or the September event without creative teams info this is a refreshing new take on DC’s universe which is so crazy that it might actually work.

Review of FCBD Hip Hop Family Tree

comics-hip-hop-family-treeby Ed Piskor

I’m not sure how large the venn diagram is for Hip Hop and comic book obsessives but if it’s just me, Wu-Tang Clan, MF Doom, The Fan Bros & Ed Piskor then that is absolutely fine by me as his Hip Hop Family Tree single issue offering via Fantagraphics for Free Comic Book Day is a fantastic overview of rap and hip hop’s early days that tells stories of the artforms past filtered through Piskor’s own unique viewpoint. Hip Hop Family Tree was originally collected by Fantagraphics last year  telling the story of the artform from 1975 to 1981 and there are already plans for an extended collection covering more history in a two book edition. The FCBD issue starts off with an introduction from Piskor himself that set’s the stage for the magic this comic is about to conjure as Piskor illustrates why he loves both comics and hip hop by showing their similarities including an amazing panel on the opening page featuring Daredevil and Spiderman in a freestyle cipher. I repeat Daredevil & Spiderman in a freestyle cipher. Pretty much this was the comic that was born for me. From there Piskor illustrates stories from hip-hop’s past that are equal parts informative, engaging, touching, hilarious and all around amazing.  Highlights include a super adorable young Reverend Run as Kurtis Blows DJ and later getting DMC to start rapping with him as Darryl casually reads an issue of the X-Men, a story about KRS One as a homeless youth killing battle raps, seeking knowledge and getting his MC name from associating with Hare Krishna’s, Too Short figuring out his business plan to sustain his rap career or Rick Rubin’s transition from punk rock to hip hop as the Beastie Boys play the background. In addition the comic itself is filled with print illustrations from guest artists from groups of raps past including an amazing Toby Cypress illustration of the legendary Kool DJ Red Alert, Geto Boys by Jasen Lex and Kool Moe Dee by John Negron among others. Again this is a niche subject being done in a niche medium so it’s probably not for everyone but if you happen to fall in said venn diagram listed above this is the perfect comic book for you.

Review of FCBD Transformers vs GI Joes #0

TFGI02by Tom Scioli and John Barber

Tom Scioli has been a hero on the alt comix scene for the last few years with his highly influential self published Satans Soldiers, Final Frontier & American Barbarian along with the his Image Series Godland with Joe Casey. His style is pure Jack Kirby pastiche in the best way possible with concepts and execution that looks right at home with comics of the mid to late 1970’s. Editor and co-writer John Barber has made clear that this comic is all Scioli as he’s essentially there to shepherd the comic into existence without offending Hasbro too much. As such Transformers vs GI Joe is as Tom Scioliesque as you are going to get from direct market comic in the best way possible as he’s able to apply his sensibilities and style from his self published work on a comic that’s a crossover of intellectual property from a toy company. Which is to say this comic is like 100% ass kicking fun from start to finish as we see the GI Joes take on Cobra while Decepticons hunt down the Autobots in hopes of universal dominance all in Scioli’s style that’s essentially a modern application of what Kirby did on his fourth world work with DC which essentially is totally fucking awesome. All that being said this may be difficult for readers that aren’t used to seeing this style or were expecting the type of crisp illustrations that you are used to seeing from modern comics. Scioli may be working with a large company here and the paper stock may feel like the type of comic you could buy anywhere but the aesthetic is pure Scioli self published with rough lines, pure illustrations and colors/inks that look as if they were done right on pencil and paper as opposed to modern digital technology. This is going to be a turn off for some people and that’s fine but if you’re a fan of comics of yesteryear or if you’re looking for something that is as much a throw back as it is forward thinking you really can’t do much better than this at your local comic shop. It’s some of the strongest talent that underground comics has to offer taking a work for hire assignment and making it completely his own. You may have watched these movies, seen these TV shows, owned the toys or even read the comics but you’ve never seen anything like this.

Review of The Amazing Spider-Man #1

ASMWell might as well keep the Spidey  fun going!  The Amazing Spider-Man #1 is a anthology of sorts.  The book starts off very strong but loses its steam towards the end until finally I completely lost interest by the last story.  The book begins with the main story which is Peter making his long awaited return.  The fun Spidey magic is definitely back in this story.  Peter has to figure out what Ock has done with his life and what messes he has to clean.  The book is witty and fun. I really enjoyed the first day back on the job being a naked one. We have all had that dream of going back to school or to a new job and suddenly realizes we forgot to wear clothes.  In this first story Peter finally gets his triumphant return to the sky and he finds himself in a real life situation of having to do it without pants.  I really enjoyed the first story and I am definitely looking forward to continuing with Peter and the Amazing Spider-Man.

Personally I dropped off of Superior Spider-Man around issue #12.  I did not drop off because the comic was not good.  I just dropped off because I did not want to read Spidey-Ock anymore.  I have been advised that I need to go back and read the rest of the run as it is quite strong. I am very happy that Peter is back, and I do think the break was nice.  Now we all appreciate his jokes and his fun loving attitude even more.  Spider-Man seems fresh and new.

The construction of this book is definitely aimed at new readers.  There is a lot of extra material in it for the new reader who picks it up after watching the movie.  This leads to some unnecessary stories in the back that lost me by the time I got to them.  The first three stories were very strong but the remaining ones are all fairly weak.

The reason that the second and third story were so strong is because they were directly connected to the first story.  There was a short story of Electro and a short story of Black Cat both stories connecting to each other and to the main spidey story.  If they did something like this for all the stories in the anthology it would have been much stronger. However after the first three connecting stories there are a bunch of disjointed stories in place to set up other characters in other books.  The book lost me at that point.

Overall I was very pleased with this issue and I am happy to be reading Peter once again.

– Dean

Review Star Wars Rebel Heist #1

25058Star Wars Rebel Heist #1 by Matt Kindt & Marco Castiello

This week Dark Horse kicked off a new Star Wars mini-series written by Matt Kindt. Set during the time of the original trilogy, Kindt’s story opens with Jan, a young man making his way through Corellia. He has recently completed his Rebel training, and is on his first official mission. Jan’s voice, which narrates the issue, is immediately engaging. Jan reveals somewhat mixed motives for wanting to join the Alliance. He does not claim allegiance to any noble ideology, as much as a desire to avoid becoming part of “the faceless hordes.” In short, he would like a bit of adventure in his life. And if he loses said life? Well, “worse ways to go out, I guess.”

Which is exactly how things almost turn out. Once reaching his rendezvous point, his cover is immediately blown. He is only spared by the timely arrival of his contact: Han Solo. It is here where Kindt uncovers his conceit for the series: instead of telling yet another tale of Han Solo, Kindt explores how Han would have appeared to a low level Rebel operative. We first see him, smoking blaster in hand, full of cocky charm. From this initial entrance, it is easy to hear Harrison Ford’s voice speaking Kindt’s dialogue. Jan considers himself in the presence of a master fighter, as well as stratisgt, someone who can think as quickly (if not more quickly) than he can punch. There would be no viable Rebellion without him. He is a legend.

He is also somewhat frustrating. The more time Jan spends with Han, the more he begins to be troubled by doubts. Han’s actions seemingly grow more reckless, less tactical than simply rash. Perhaps his continued survival was more a matter of dumb luck than skill? Surely we have all known someone like this in our lives? The person whose roguish spirit is amusing from a distance, only the closer we get to it, the more infuriating, or downright selfish, they actually are. Jan begins to wonder if Han really gives a damn about the Alliance, instead keeping with them for the sheer thrill of the ride.

Which, of course, is more or less why Jan is there as well.

In addition to this strong character work, Kindt is laying the foundations of a mystery, leaving the reader wondering just what it is that Han has in mind. The title suggests a type of inside strike, which would explain some of the choices Hans makes. But the others? By the last page, I was left wondering if this is truly where he expected to wind up, or if he has somehow overplayed his hand? As for Jan, the circumstances in which he is narrating this story are not the most pleasant.

Rebel Heist is off to a great start; I look forward next issue to seeing where Leia fits in Kindt’s puzzle.


Review of Black Science #6

Black Science 6Black Science #6 by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera

Now that was an emotional pay off.

This week’s issue opens with a stunning image of Grant and Kadir reflected in the eyes of an alien creature. It is an extreme close up of the alien’s face, the two humans viewed within the creature’s large orange eye. It is a brilliant contrast of near and far, which immediately grabs the reader’s attention. These two men may be central players in their own human drama, yet how important are they in the larger scope of the universe? Grants may think that he is, while Kadir wishes dearly that Grant was not.

This issue centers on the struggle between Grant and Kadir. Remender shares the narration between these two men, allowing each to give their side of the story. Grant confronts his own faded idealism, accepting that ideology is an elitist privilege. It has no place in the field, where survival is paramount. Animal instincts are all that matter, and one of the most primal of those is protecting the young. And so, Grant charges through danger in the hope that he might make it back to his children. That he might somehow right the mess he has made of his family.

Kadir too views himself as a protector, only his charge is much larger. He admits that he sabotaged The Pillar, Grant’s invention for traveling between dimensions. Grant believes that Kadir did it for self-serving purposes, whereas Kadir simply considered it an unethical experiment. In his eyes, Grant is modern day Frankenstein playing with forces and tools he cannot truly comprehend. Grant might believe that what he does will redeem humanity, but Kadir knows better. There are some things we are better off not knowing. (Besides, we all know how well Victor benefited from his creation).

These reflections go a long way in humanizing the characters, especially Kadir. This issue ends with the suggestion that Kadir, not Grant, is the true protagonist of Black Science. I shall not say too much about the ending, except it has an emotional resonance which until now had been sorely lacking from the series. For the final sequence, Remender and Scalera blend their talents together to craft the most powerful moment of the week.

The title still has a little ways to go, specifically the female characters could use some more definition. Hopefully this will be addressed in the next arc. Prior to this issue I had been planning to drop this series from my monthly pull, degrading it to trade/sale wait. This installment impressed me so much, however, that I’ll be picking up #7 when the series resumes in July.

I have a feeling that what we have read so far has simply been prologue and the real story of Black Science is only just beginning.


Review of Batwoman Annual #1

feb140208Batwoman Annual #1 by Marc Andreyko, Trevor McCarthy & Moritat

I wish I could make up my mind about this title post-Blackman/Williams. Really, I wish I could, only, well, it’s complicated. Also, it doesn’t help that Andreyko’s work has not been overly consistent. The first issue of the Wolf Spider arc was good. It was followed, however, by a pretty bad issue that nearly made me drop the title right there and then. Still, I have a loyalty to Kate and decided to stick it out a little longer. The next couple issues were good again. I picked up this week’s annual thinking that it might help me make up my mind about continuing or not.

See, this issue brings to a conclusion the storyline left dangling when Blackman/Williams departed the title last year. Batwoman has been blackmailed by Director Bones of the DEO. Bones wants to know Batman’s secret identity, and charges Batwoman with discovering it. Blackman/Williams’ final issue concluded with Batwoman and Batman locked in intense combat, which is exactly where this annual picks up.

Andreyko’s concluding chapter is fine, if for the most part unsatisfying. Honestly, this issue probably should not have been written. Andreyko’s Batwoman has worked when he has simply done his own thing without worrying about what came before. When he tries to evoke his predecessors, he merely ends up highlighting how inferior to them he. For the annual, Andreyko tries tossing in a random plot twist, only to (wisely) back pedal away from it at the story’s end. All in all, an average to mediocre issue. Largely, it feels like DC drew up an outline for this annual inspired primarily by the desire to have Batwoman fit in better as a generic DC superhero. It is probably not a coincidence that much of Kate’s family leaves Gotham (and the series). The stage is now set for Kate to be more fully integrated with the Bat-verse.

Yet, I guess I’ll stick around for at least more issue in order to see the Wolf Spider story to an end. I’ll give the series one more chance. Again. What can I say? I’m a fan of Kate, and would like to see her series be worthy of her once more.

We’ll see.