I’ve been a fan of the Thor comics for a while but with all these so-called “adult” responsibilities I’ve had little chance to really keep up with today’s comics. I finally managed to request the first two Thor: God of Thunder trades, The God Butcher and Godbomb, for the library and man Jason Aaron and Essad Ribic absolutely live up the litany of great writers and artists of yore.
Of all the New 52 titles so far Green Lantern is one that remains relatively unchanged and simultaneously majorly overhauled. After spending considerable time returning Hal Jordan to his rightful place during Rebirth, DC tossed him right back out the door again with the New 52 reboot. Sinestro, with all his crimes, is back in as GL (through Gardner, Raynor, and Stewart still bear rings as well) while Hal has been thrown back to Earth sans ring. It is quite the change and the Hal of New 52 is kind of an ass despite his experience (not quite the man-child glimpsed in the New 52 JLA reboot) and a far cry from the somewhat more mature Hal of the original continuity. All these changes might be somewhat more tolerable except that they also seemed to have kept much of the original GL continuity in tact. There are still multiple corps of different colors, Kyle still bore all of the GL power at one point, and Sinestro was still the leader of the Yellow ringbearers. As a result GL sort of feels like a half a reboot and the changes that have been made just sort of feel like they were made for changes’ sake. To make matters somewhat more frustrating we’re still hammering on the “Guardians are emotionless bastards” angle that has seemingly been a staple for the longest time ever. I’m definitely glad I waited for the trade and I don’t think GL will be making it back into the monthly rotation. Despite solid writing from GL veteran Geoff Johns and fantastic art by GL veteran Doug Mahnke I found Volume 1 of Green Lantern to be a major disappointment.
Meanwhile the reboot of Ultimate Comics X-Menwas a bit more up my alley which is strange because this series is relying quite heavily on the “world that hates and fears them” angle that X-titles have been using since the sixties. Nick Spencer (whose work on Morning Glories is awesome) has taken a neat twist on the nature of mutants, that the U.S. Government created the X-Gene, and totally run with it. Spencer follows the
revelation and its repercussions on the lives of mutants throughout the book and it really does a wonderful on exploring the nature of identity and perception. Paco Medina’s art definitely works well here and his huge splash pages detailing the situations mutants now find themselves in are particularly fantastic in capturing the tone of the story. Ultimate Comics X-Men also tosses Johnny Storm into the mix who, despite lacking an X-gene, constantly refers to himself as a mutant (much to the annoyance of many characters). The Johnny Storm/Bobby Drake pairing is a natural one and given Reed Richards’ history in the Ultimate ‘verse it’s nice to see the Human Torch getting some play elsewhere. I’m already an avowed Nick Spencer fan so I’ll definitely be on board with while he as the helm.
One thing the New 52 definitely got right were the Batman titles. I’ve already professed my love for Scott Snyder’s Batman and the same definitely goes for Peter J. Tomasi’s’ Batman and Robin. I’ve always been a fan of Tim Drake as Robin but the more I read of Damien as Robin the more I come to enjoy Bruce Wayne’s biological son. Brash, arrogant, and yet strangely naive the League of Assassins trained Damien Wayne is one of most interesting additions to the Bat universe in years. As the title suggests Batman and Robin is as much a book about the relationship between the two characters and in this instance father and son. I’m definitely enjoying how each of the Batman titles (or at least the two I’ve read) manage to take the same character and shift the tone just ever so slightly to produce a book the feels distinctly different. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
were a great duo on Green Lantern Corps and they continue that trend here. Gleason has a real talent for kinetic action and he brings a degree of physicality to the art really makes the action scenes pop. Gleason is aided by some vibrant color work, a bit atypical for modern Batman title, subtly balanced by the inks of Mick Gray. With Batman and Robin DC has nailed yet another Bat-reboot and I look forward to seeing how this title and the haughty Robin, Damien Wayne evolves.
Locke and Key, Vol 5: Clockworks
Joe Hill (writer) and Gabriel Rodriguez (art)
Stop. No seriously. Stop. Have you been reading Locke and Key? If you’ve answered no you have two options. Option 1: Start reading Locke and Key. Seriously, this is an awesome comic that is so consistent in its greatness that it boggles the mind. Option 2: Leave. Yes, get out. Come back later if you want but know that I will pity you for having not read any Locke and Key. Obviously, I’d prefer you take Option 1. It’d really be better for both of us, but if you aren’t a person who likes horror, or the supernatural, or are just a general curmudgeon who enjoys being contrary you can probably stop reading and go do something else. I should also point out that if you haven’t read any Locke and Key that this review will most definitely contain spoilers for the earlier volumes. You’ve been warned.
Growing up in the nineties I was around for the genesis of Image Comics and as a result I am both constantly amazed at the quality of material coming out of the studio now. While the Image Comics universe has its own internal consistancy it is never so weighty as that in the other “big two” competitors and the lack of having to rely on a decades old universe (even if you throw said universe out) seems to allow the folks at Image to tell stories with an of creativity and pure fun that often far eclipse that of other major comic book publishers. The carbon copy heroes of Image’s genesis have faded into the background allow new talent and new heroes to jump to the foreground. While much of Image’s catalog still offers generous throwbacks to the publisher’s that spawned superhero comics, Image has really come into its own as a publisher.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is sort of a superhero story and sort of isn’t. It borrows much in terms of background from the violence and characters of Kick-Ass but ups the violence to new levels and tosses in a dose of the titular “strange” into the mix. Luther Strode is sort of your average geek. He lives with his mother and together he and his mom have survived they abuse of his father who is now in jail. On a whim Luther orders a goofy strength training manual and despite initial misgivings he finds that it works…maybe a bit too well. The primary question that the comic asks is what would happen if someone was given these amazing powers. We’ve seen this explored through Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility.” But with the Luther Strode that line seems to be more “with great power comes great power.” We all like to think we would be heroes but The Strange Talent of Luther Strode examines the question of just how much a hero an average person given seemingly unlimited power can be. This is an often shockingly violent comic, to the point of almost near nausea, but one whose violence is almost hipnotic and intrinsicly tied to the story’s plot. It is rendered in style thanks to the dynamic art by Tradd Moore whose style is similar to, and on par with if not better than, John Romita Jr.. The colorist Felipe Sobreiro deserves recognition for the vibrant work that makes the art pop and the fact that the copious amounts of red splashed across many of the pages manages to never grow tiresome on the eyes. This is an entertaining book that tells a complete and satisfying story with an ending that will weigh heavy on the reader’s imagination but will hopefully spawn future adventures in this universe.
We3 and Joe the Barbarian below the jump!
Fantastic Four: Season One
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (words) & David Marquez (art)
There is a part of me that takes a look at something like Fantastic Four: Season One and wants rail in rage and frustration. Truth is, I don’t want to be that guy. It helps that the art and writing in FF: Season One is solid and actually does breath some new life into the characters. Reviewers have also been praising Jonathan Hickman’s run on FF, Hickman’s track record with science fiction comics is near flawless, and I have to wonder why he wasn’t given the reins on this original graphic novel. That isn’t to say that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does a bad job but the minor tweaks to the familiar origin story are slight and just enough to keep the FF relevant in a modern world. On the one hand this a good thing, it doesn’t have the radical newness of the more angsty Superman: Earth One or the New 52 titles that might alienate old fans but its strict adherence to the familiar story lends the story a peculiar flatness. I would love see what Hickman (or any good creative talent) said “Here’s the Fantastic Four origin story. Update it, go nuts.”
American Vampire Volume 1
Scott Snyder, Stephen King (writers)
Rafel Albuquerque, Dave McCaig (art/color)
Scott Snyder has become something of a household name in the comics world now that he’s taken the reins of one of DC Comics’ Trinity with the New 52 reboot of Batman. Before Batman though Snyder worked on a creation of his own: American Vampire. Published under DC’s Vertigo line American Vampire received the attention of veteran horror legend Stephen King who agreed to pen the origin story (a backup feature with each new issue) for the comic’s lead character: Skinner Sweet.
Nick Spencer (writer)
Joe Eisma (art)
Rodin Equejo (covers)
Nick Spencer’s Morning Glories is what you would get if you crossed Lost with Tower Prep (sort of obscure but I did enjoy that show). There are no tropical islands here instead there is a prestigious private school, Morning Glory Academy, where all the students seem to share a birthday and the teachers may enforce a lesson by trying to drown you in a flooding room trap. Spencer has gone on record saying that there is a planned 100 issue arc and, assuming the whole isn’t just the afterlife, I can’t see being disappointed (we’re only 13 issues in).
This book is badass.
Seriously this is the best “New 52” title out there. You can ignore all other DC books and be happy to read this title. My question regarding Batman (at least two issues in): is Batman the main character? I admit that I am not the most adamant of Batman readers but in my brief run ins with various creative teams over the years is that none have placed Gotham City in the spotlight quite the way that Snyder has done here. While the cast of Batman is certainly familiar Snyder has made Gotham into a character in its own right (not to be confused with the Gotham seen in Stormwatch #3).
The story of this arc isn’t about Batman (at least two issues in), it’s about Gotham City. I absolutely love that. Snyder has catapulted the Bat to the top of my read pile. Greg Capullo has a very kinetic art style that suits Batman’s high impact fights and his ability to craft a detailed environment is certainly impressive. That being said he isn’t my favorite artist particularly when he pulls back for the wide angle shots where the loss of details leaves the art feeling somewhat unfinished. Capullo’s light pencils are thankfully enhanced by solid inkwork by Jonathan Glapion. If there is a title where a good inker is needed Batman is that title and Glapion’s work enhances Capullo’s work immeasurably. FCO Plascensia does a bang up job with colors using a dark/dingy pallete that enhanced the brooding air of Batman that we all know and love.
Issues #1 and #2 are on the stand now and Batman #3 will be hitting your LCS on November 16th.
Stephen King’s N
Adapted by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Alex Maleev
I picked up a read the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s N. some time ago and after digesting the work several diverging thoughts crossed my mine. The first was “this is awesome,” followed shortly by “if this was awesome was the short story awesomer”, and lastly concluded with “this would make a really neat short film or single episode of an anthology show.” N., published by Marvel as a four issue mini-series is adapated from the short story of the same name seen in Just After Sunset.
The story uses the classic horror mode of the confessional. Or rather several nested confessionals. This narrative device in which the author (or a fictional author constructed for the story) presents the fiction as truth goes as far back Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (based on an “italian manuscript”) and employed authors like Edgar Allan Poe (The Narrative of Arthur Gordan Pyn of Nantucket) and H. P. Lovecraft (At the Mountains of Madness). This is the same narrative framework that, for better or for worse, has given birth to found footage horror films The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Apollo 18. I am rather a fan of this narrative device, no matter what genre it is used in (though I think it is at its best in horror), and N. cleverly nests several narratives within one another.
The titlular N. is an OCD patient of Dr. John Bonstraint whose encounter with a strange formation of rocks exposes either deeper levels of neurosis or some rather horrific truths about the nature of the universe. Apparently N. is heavily influenced by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (which also inspired Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror) and, particularly in comic form, does a fantastic job of evoking an atmosphere of anxiety and terror. Maleev’s realistic pencils do not in any way hinder his ability to conjure truly horrific monsters and the heavy inks and muted colors used lend the images a palpable weight that really serves to enhance the atmosphere.
N. is complete but doesn’t provide answers to all the questions the narrative asks. Instead N. leaves just enough room to let the imagination of readers extrapolate the horror as far as their twisted minds will allow. If you are a fan of horror I highly recommend going out a grabbing a copy of N. or giving the 25-part motion comic a try.
Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows (Volume 3)
Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom (Volume 4)
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
While on vacation a couple of a weeks ago I stepped into a bookshop in Portsmouth, NH and while trying my very hardest to keep my hands jammed deep into my pockets and away from the shelves none-the-less noted the hardcover editions of volumes 3 and 4 of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez’s Locke & Key (signed by Hill) sitting on a display. My will was weak and in a near haze I found myself forking over a portion of my cash to the bookseller. My regret was minimal however as the third and fourth volumes of Locke and Key, Crown of Shadows and Keys to the Kingdom, are just as solid as the first two and I would say (surprising as it was) even better than I expected.