Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: THE ANSWER! #1

THE ANSWER! #1
DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

STORY: Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton
SCRIPT: Dennis Hopeless
ART/COVER: Mike Norton
COLORS: Mark Englert
LETTERS: Crank!
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

Part 1 of 4

Mike Norton is the creator of the Eisner Award-winning web comic, Battlepug. Dennis Hopeless is a writer for Marvel Comics (Avengers Arena). The Answer! is a new, four-issue comic book miniseries created by Hopeless and Norton. The series focuses on a librarian and an odd, masked crime fighter.

In The Answer! #1, we meet Devin McKenzie, an insomniac librarian who works at a research library. Devin has a knack for solving puzzles, which results in an out-of-the-ordinary 30th birthday gift from her mother. The gift leads to the “apeiron” website and Chip Carney, an ominous-seeming motivational speaker. When things go crazy, things get really crazy when Devin meets The Answer!, a masked crime fighter with a giant exclamation point on his face mask.

The cover for The Answer! #1, by co-creator and series artist, Mike Norton, does not convey how different this series is. I don’t know if The Answer! is a superhero; he seems like a costumed hero/masked man type – more like The Spirit than Batman. So The Answer! comes across less like a superhero fantasy and more like a mystery series featuring a resourceful heroine. This is a girl-on-the-run tale, and of course, there is a man of mystery who happens to understand the conspiracy set against our girl-hero.

And I love it. I like Norton’s clean, traditional art, which owes more to Alan Davis than to Bryan Hitch. Dennis Hopeless’ script is smart, funny, and (dare I say) sassy, like its heroine. Although I think that this first issue offers too much teasing, for my taste, I am delightfully surprised, and I want to read #2, now! Readers wondering if they can find something both offbeat and good will find The Answer!

A-

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

Review: THE ANSWER! #2

THE ANSWER! #2
DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

STORY: Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton
SCRIPT: Dennis Hopeless
ART/COVER: Mike Norton
COLORS: Mark Englert
LETTERS: Crank!
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

Part 2 of 4

We’re still waiting for The Answer! The Answer! is a four-issue comic book miniseries created by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Mike Norton. Norton is the creator of the Eisner Award-winning web comic, Battlepug, and Hopeless is a writer for Marvel Comics (Avengers Arena). The series focuses on Devin McKenzie, a research librarian, and The Answer!, an odd, masked crime fighter with a giant exclamation point on his face mask.

As The Answer! #2 opens, Devin McKenzie has been on the run with The Answer! ever since he broke into Newberry Library, the research library where she worked. Now, the mismatched pair faces off against a small army of brawny men dressed in medical scrubs. While the hero fights off the muscular brutes, a mysterious trio absconds with Devin. The three strangers claim to be from an organization and quasi-secret society called the Brain Trust, and they say they want Devin’s smarts.

The novelty of The Answer! being different from other superhero comics has slightly worn off for me. The series is, at this point, still hiding too many things. This goes beyond “the mystery deepens” and has just become withholding-info-just-to-be-cute. Still, The Answer! makes me think of the 1980s ABC romantic-comedy and crime series, Moonlighting, so I’m ready to read #3.

B

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Top Shelf Announces Book About "From Hell"

"A man-behind-the-curtain look at a seminal graphic novel... an indispensable reference." -- Kirkus Reviews

From Hell occupies a monumental place in the history of the graphic novel: a Victorian masterpiece of murder and madness which has won numerous awards, spawned a major Hollywood film, and remained a favorite of readers around the world for over two decades.

Now, Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics present THE FROM HELL COMPANION, an astonishing selection of Alan Moore's original scripts and sketches for the landmark graphic novel, with copious annotations, commentary, and illustrations by Eddie Campbell. Here for the first time are a set of pages, including some of Moore's greatest writing, which have never been seen by anyone except his collaborator. Joining them are Campbell's first-hand accounts of the project's decade-long development, complete with photos, anecdotes, disagreements, and wry confessions. Arranged in narrative order, these perspectives form a fascinating mosaic, an opportunity to read FROM HELL with fresh eyes, and a tour inside the minds of two giants of their field.

THE FROM HELL COMPANIONby Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
-- Deluxe softcover with French flaps, 7.5" x 10.5"
-- 288 pages (32 full-color pages)
-- ISBN 978-1-60309-303-3
-- $29.95 (US)
-- Audience: Mature readers (18+)
-- Shipping in May 2013

www.topshelfcomix.com


I Reads You Review: UNCANNY X-MEN #1

UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (April 2013)
MARVEL COMICS

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS/COLORS: Chris Bachalo
INKS: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
VARIANT COVERS: Skottie Young; Joe Quesada and Danny Miki with Richard Isanove; Francesco Francavilla; Gabriel Del’Otto; Stuart Immonen with Marte Gracia
28pp, Colors, $3.99 U.S.

Rated T+

Part of Marvel Comics’ Marvel NOW initiative (the re-launch of their comics line) is another re-launch of Uncanny X-Men. The new series is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who is also writing Uncanny’s sister title, All-New X-Men. For the time being, the art is being produced by Chris Bachalo (pencils) and Tim Townsend (inks). Longtime comic book readers know why I’m saying “for the time being.”

The roster of X-Men that makes up this new Uncanny X-Men is Cyclops, Magneto, Emma Frost the White Queen, Majik, and two new mutants. The newbies are an Australian girl, Tempus, and a boy who is a healer and who has not chosen his mutant name, yet. Cyclops/Scott Summers, one of the original X-Men, has become a highly controversial figure and is also the public face of a new mutant revolution.

Uncanny X-Men #1 opens in an underground S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogation bunker. Director Hill is about to interview a mysterious figure who has shown up out of nowhere. He has a tale to tell about Cyclops and his band of X-Men. It begins with the rescue of Fabio Medina, a young mutant whose powers have just awakened. What is this stranger really offering S.H.I.E.L.D. and what does he really want?

Brian Michael Bendis is proving himself to be the best X-Men writer in a decade or, at least since Grant Morrison on New X-Men. Bendis is doing his excellent work without making the changes Morrison did when he became an X-writer. In this first issue, the set-up of the mysterious stranger peddling information creates a thrilling sense of mystery, drama, and anticipation. It’s enough to have me coming back.

OK. Chris Bachalo. Yeah, used to like him a lot. He has done some really good work. Bachalo is from the school of eye-candy comic book art. He has sometimes been more about style than storytelling, and his compositions can be crowded, though not always. Gawd, remember Steampunk? Luckily, the crowding is down significantly. In Uncanny X-Men #1, the storytelling is off-kilter, at times, and the page design is sometimes a jumbled cluster-fk that makes certain pages annoying to read.

Thank God for Bendis.

A-

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Reads You Review: ALL-NEW X-MEN #6

ALL-NEW X-MEN #6
MARVEL COMICS

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST: David Marquez
COLORS: Marte Gracia
LETTERS: VC’s Cory Petit
COVER: Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger with Marte Gracia
VARIANT COVER: Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend
28pp, Colors, $3.99 U.S.

Rated T+

All-New X-Men, a Marvel NOW title, is set at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Here, Storm, Wolverine, Beast, Iceman, and Kitty Pryde try to keep Professor Charles Xavier’s dream alive. Meanwhile, Cyclops/Scott Summers, one of the original X-Men, has become a highly controversial figure and is the public face of a new mutant revolution. He and his teammates: Magneto, the White Queen, and Majick, are gathering new mutants as fast as they appear.

In a desperate bid to stop Cyclops’ activities from triggering a mutant apocalypse, a dying Beast/Hank McCoy goes back in time. He brings the original X-Men: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, and Angel, back with him. He wants young Cyclops see what he has become, so that he might change his ways and change his future.

All-New X-Men #6 opens after the original X-Men decide to stay in the present (their future) in order to save all our futures. Adjustment is difficult, however. Jean’s telepathic powers awakened for the first time. Angel is the only original X-Man who has not met his future-self. Cyclops has the most difficult time accepting what has happened, and that leads to a showdown with Wolverine.

With Brian Michael Bendis still writing, All-New X-Men is still good. His thoughtful, character-centric writing focuses on Marvel’s mutants both as people and as heroes. This makes All-New X-Men something like an evening teen soap opera / primetime drama.

David Marquez is now the artist on All-New X-Men. He replaces the team of Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger, who were the artists on the series’ first story arc. The results are mixed. Marquez storytelling is low-energy and his drawing style is bland. One of the problems with artists drawing from complete scripts is that they can become art robots, and Marquez’s art does lack a human touch. The robotic coloring doesn’t help.

Thank God for Bendis.

A-

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


Review: NUMBER 13 #3

NUMBER 13 #3
DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

STORY: Robert Love and David Walker
PENCILS: Robert Love – @Robert33071
INKS: Dana Shukartsi
COLORS: Heather Breckel
LETTERS: David Walker
COVER: Robert Love with Christian Colbert
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

The story of Number 13 that began in Dark Horse Comics Presents comes to an end. Will Number 13 be back?

Number 13 is a comic book series created by Robert Love. Love draws the series and co-writes it with David Walker. This post-apocalyptic tale is set in a world where a plague, Monstrum Morbus (the monster plague), turned most humans into mutated monsters, the Infected (“the fected”), or killed them. Only a few humans remained unchanged, the Immune (“the mune”), but, in a sense, they did become monsters, as they slaughtered the fected and effectively ended the world. The story centers on a bionic amnesiac known as Number 13 (or Number Thirteen), who is trying to recover his past.

Number 13 #3 continues the story of a war that began 60 years after the end of the world. This war between “the mune” and “the fected” rages with new battles. Number 13, the boy who was created to end it all, is caught in the middle of a battle between The Professor, who created him, and Mother Goose, the manipulative and cunning leader of a band of Infected.

The Professor and his Servators, cyborgs created to hunt and kill the Infected, threatens Mother Goose in order to regain 13 from her. Meanwhile, a Servator accidentally evolves, and 13 comes of age, so to speak.

Over the course of reviewing Number 13, I have noted that I think that this series shows the influence on creator/artist Robert Love of Jack Kirby and John Byrne (himself influenced by Kirby). While reading Number 13 #3, I wondered if this comic book is what a black exploitation science fiction movie would have looked like.

Imagine this union in the 1970s: someone willing to finance such a film, a European director, some Vaughn Bodé conceptual and design work, and a cast of the hottest “Afro-American” actors. I think the resulting movie would have looked something like Robert Love’s Number 13, and that’s a good thing.

Influences aside, I like this series. It’s big, an epic story squeezed into the tight space of a comic book page, but given range by the design and layout that grabs inches wherever they can find it. With the spirit of the Saturday morning cartoons of decades past, Number 13 is fun and imaginative beyond what is expected of it.

A

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: THE SHADOW Year One #1


THE SHADOW: YEAR ONE #1
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT – @dynamitecomics

WRITER: Matt Wagner
ARTIST: Wilfredo Torres
COLORS: Brennan Wagner
LETTERS: Simon Bowland
COVER: Matt Wagner (A), Alex Ross (B), Chris Samnee (C), Howard Chaykin (D)
The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

He has influenced such characters as Batman, Green Arrow, the Green Hornet, and Alan Moore’s V from V for Vendetta, but The Shadow began as a sinister voice on the radio, the mysterious narrator of a radio series.

Then, pulp writer Walter B. Gibson fully developed the character into the one we know. The Shadow became the mysterious crime-fighting vigilante with psychic powers that appeared in novel-length stories published in pulp magazines. The Shadow became a pop culture icon. The character is no stranger to comics, having debuted in a daily newspaper comic strip in 1940 and having also starred in a comic book series entitled Shadow Comics that ran during the 1940s.

In 2012, Dynamite Entertainment returned The Shadow to comic books with a new regular series. Dynamite’s latest release is The Shadow: Year One, a new miniseries from writer Matt Wagner and artist Wilfredo Torres.

The Shadow: Year One #1 opens in Cambodia, 1929. Chanda, a young gang member, runs to his cousin for aid. It seems his boss, the fearsome warlord, Kai-Pang, has been killed by “a dark spirit… thirsting for vengeance.” Now, that spirit wants Chanda.

Later, on October 30, 1929, the wealthy, world traveler and adventurer, Lamont Cranston, arrives by ship in New York City. A young reporter’s interest is piqued by Cranston’s return to America. Meanwhile, Margo Lane, a kept woman, is having a disagreement with her keeper, New York-based criminal and hood, Guiseppe “Joe” Massaretti. Margo and Joe’s relationship is about to bring The Shadow out of the shadows.

For a time, I was a huge fan of The Shadow. I read Howard Chaykin’s four-issue miniseries, The Shadow (DC Comics), several times. Chaykin, who provides one of four covers for the first issue of The Shadow: Year One, created a very popular re-imagining (before that word was used) of The Shadow. Eventually collected as The Shadow: Blood and Judgment, Chaykin’s miniseries was also controversial.

Whereas Chaykin’s The Shadow was flashy, crazy, sexy, cool and maybe just a tad bit aggressive and in-your-face, The Shadow, as drawn by Wilfredo Torres, is quiet and smooth. Torres’ art is straight from the David Mazzuchelli school of comics-as-Film-Noir, but this is a low-budget Film-Noir, with straight-ahead camera work. It’s no frills, just meat-and-potatoes, as if the camera just stands still and shoots what is in front of it.

Matt Wagner’s script offers intriguing tidbits throughout, but he writes a first issue that is frustratingly and mostly set-up. This is barely a prologue. The way this story is presented seems to suggest that the actual story hasn’t really started. Will this series turn out to be good? I’ll put my money on Wagner to deliver quality, if not excellent, work. But for now, this first issue is so much cock-tease.

B+

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Albert Avilla Reviews: Batman #16

Batman #16
DC Comics

Reviewed by Albert Avilla

Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Jonathan Glapion

“Castle of Cards” (Spoilers)

Snyder has taken us on a ride to the dark side that we won’t soon forget. Each month, for the short amount of time that we take to read this comic masterpiece, we should be thankful for every event that led to this story being produced. Runs like this don’t come very often.

Synder makes a comic story an emotional experience. Everything that makes Batman great comes exploding off these pages. The Joker is pushing Batman to the edge; Batman will have to dig deep to keep himself from jumping over. Synder has a unique talent; he is a maestro using every instrument in the orchestra to present to us a symphony of words and pictures. He burns our emotional skin off and leaves us hypersensitive to the emotions that run through his story. Snyder leaves us awe struck by his creativity. He strikes terror in our hearts with scenes like the flaming horse and the tapestry made from living human bodies.

The depraved humor of the Joker sends chills down your spine, leaving you questioning your sanity for laughing at the Joker’s antics. The Joker has Batman at his wits end, but we know Batman is at the top of his game. He easily dispatches some of his most vicious enemies, and yet the Joker outsmarts him at every turn. The Joker taxes Batman physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s amazing how an insane mind is able to out-think and bluff some of the greatest minds. Action, horror, and sadistic humor: Synder gives it all to us. The Death of the Family crossover is showing us that Synder is out shining his fellow writers in the Batman family of comics. This is definitely a must-read comic. Batman is the best single hero comic that I read.

The art falls in line with the writing; it integrates itself into the greatness of the writing. It is dark and foreboding. It perfectly illustrates the evil.

I rate Batman #16 Recommend It to a Friend. #1 (of 5) on the Al-O-Meter


Albert Avilla Reviews: Captain America #3

Captain America #3
Marvel Comics

Reviewed by Albert Avilla

Writer: Rick Remender
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson

(Spoilers!)
Rick Remender is reminding us of who Captain America is. Throughout this story, Cap’s nobility and courage are displayed.

He escapes from Zofjor, not because he wants to live, but because he wants to protect Ian. Cap is willing to sacrifice his own body to accomplish his goal. Cap’s bravery inspires one of the Phrox to come to his aid. Cap is spared. Cap, always the champion of liberty, begins to convince Ksul that the tribe should stand up to Zofjor. This leads to Ksul being killed by Zofjor. Cap is able to defeat Zofjor, giving the Phrox their freedom.

Remender also gives us a flashback to Cap as a young boy to illustrate that Cap was a hero before he got his powers. The powers didn’t make Cap a hero; they just made him a more powerful hero.

The counterpart to Cap is Arnim Zola. Zola is a vile, wicked (wait, let me get my thesaurus) base, immoral, depraved, and beastly villain. In Zola’s flashback we see the results of his despicable experiments. He has changed his housekeeper Hilda into a foul creature and expects her to be proud of his success. In the present, he leaves the child, Jet, to fight for her life against an army of mutates. If Zola’s villainy is a measuring stick for Cap’s heroism, then, Cap is truly the living legend. At the end of the story, we see why Cap has been suffering. This story arc is slowly earning the status of epic. This is the way that we kick off a new series. Wow! Marvel Now.

With such a good story we need to remember to take some time to enjoy the work of one of the masters of sequential art. John Romita Jr. shows that he can do his thing with any story setting.

I rate Captain America #3 Buy Your Own Copy. #2 (of 5) on the Al-O-Meter.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: THE BLACK BEETLE #2

THE BLACK BEETLE #2
DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

CREATOR/CARTOONIST: Francesco Francavilla
LETTERS: Nate Piekos (of Blambot)
SKETCH: Darwyn Cooke
COVER: Francesco Francavilla
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

“No Way Out” (Part 2 of 4)

One of those most enjoyable reads of the year returns with a second issue. The Black Beetle is a comic book series created by Eisner Award-winning artist Francesco Francavilla. Blending the aesthetics of pulp fiction, mystery, noir, and the superhero, the Black Beetle is a super-heroic sleuth, and his base of operations is Colt City, a classic pulp and noir-type urban landscape.

The Black Beetle’s new comic book series finds the hero attempting to infiltrate a meeting of Colt City’s two crime families, the Galazzos and the Fierros. Shortly after he arrives at the site of the meeting, the place goes up in a tremendous explosion – killing everyone inside. One of Don Pasquale Galazzo’s nephews, Constantino, is still living and is holed up in The Fort, an Alcatraz-like prison. The Black Beetle arrives at The Fort in time to witness Constantino’s murder.

As The Black Beetle: No Way Out #2 opens, our hero is fighting not to become the newest resident at The Fort. Then, it becomes a fight for his life. Freedom and a return to Colt City mean a return to the bomb site. That is where the Black Beetle is brought face to face with a wily adversary, the enigmatic Labyrinto.

It is good when a comic book series proves itself not to be a fluke after a dynamite debut issue. How does a creator prove that? Francesco Francavilla does so by creating a dynamite second issue.

Comic books are a visual, or more specifically graphics-based, medium, and Francavilla composes The Black Beetle with striking graphics and arresting static images. Page layout, panel design, color, lettering, and captions combine to create a visual flow that moves, hops, skips, and boogies to a pulpy Film-Noir beat. Readers looking for pure pop comics will find it in The Black Beetle: No Way Out.

A+

http://pulpsunday.blogspot.com/

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

DC Comics from Diamond Distributors for February 20 2013

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Albert Avilla Reviews: Savage Wolverine #1

Savage Wolverine #1
Marvel Comics

Reviewed by Albert Avilla

Writer/Artist: Frank Cho
(Spoilers!)

Savage Wolverine in the Savage Land, how else would you start a series? Let’s get savage in this piece.

It’s all Cho all the time. I am not familiar with him as a writer, but I do know that the man can draw a fine ass woman. His first guest star is Shanna, the jungle girl who runs around in a leopard print bikini. I thank you editors at Marvel for not being P.C. and giving this girl another costume that respects her as a strong intelligent woman. That girl has all the important B’s: boobs, booty, and bikini, and Mr. Cho is doing a great job of displaying them all. There is more good news: there is no Kazar or Zabu in sight to take up valuable panel space. I don’t know who else is in a scene when they try to share panel space with Shanna.

The story has good elements. There is foreshadowing beating us across the head. Mystery is keeping us interested in the outcome. Let’s not forget the reason we pick up this mag, Wolvie action. Good-old, vicious, animal attacks and human body parts flying all over the place is what I’m talking about. Even your-friends-stab-you-in-the-gut Wolverine action is in high gear. All of Wolvie’s mutant abilities are on display.

The plot is basic. Shanna and some S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents crash land on a mysterious island. They are unable to escape the island, because nature itself seems to be fighting them. The local tribe kills everyone except Shanna. Wolvie gets dropped into the situation by some mysterious force. Shanna and Oh, Uh, lost my train of thought the boobs are on my mind like crack on a crack head’s mind. Oh, yeah Shanna and Wolverine team up to try and find a way off the island.

I think that I covered the art enough for everyone to get the idea that Cho is the man. His stuff is just appealing to the eye.

I rate Savage Wolverine #1 Buy Your Own Copy. #2 (of 5) on Al-O-Meter Ranking

Albert Avilla Reviews: New Avengers #1

New Avengers #1
Marvel Comics

Reviewed by Albert Avilla

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: Steve Epting
Inks: Rick D’armate & Steve Epting

“Memento Mori” (Spoilers!)

The Illuminati are coming together as a team of Avengers, minus Xavier plus Cap. Does Captain America have to be on every Avenger’s team?

This is a team of big time heavy hitters. Every member is a leader of great significance in the Marvel Universe. Reed Richards and Tony Stark are two of the greatest scientists; Dr. Strange is the greatest mystic. Blackbolt and Namor are kings of two great nations. Captain America is the symbol of his nation. T’Challa is all of these things in one hero, the Black Panther. Just the brainwaves emanating from the group should be able to knock out a few villains.

Oh, let’s not forget the greatest lack of personality, Blackbolt. I tend to forget that he’s in a story with the I-don’t-talk-because-my-voice-is-so-powerful. Learn sign language or something; whistle. With Richards, Stark, Strange, and T’Challa, there will be so much talking and contemplating; Blackbolt should be able to take good, long naps. Let’s hope that the loose cannon, Namor, can get them into some situations that they have to fight their way out of. There are some awesome fighters on the team.

Hickman delivers an emotional story. Three of Wakanda’s brightest stars are viciously killed by visitors from another mission to destroy an earth. If you’re trying to make people hate a villain, then, have them kill good, intelligent children who have a future – not like those little blessings that have been knocking down my garbage cans. The villains destroy the Earth with little effort – setting up the villains as a great challenge for Black Panther. T’Challa with such overwhelming odds facing him calls, in the Illuminati.

Epting’s art is an improvement over his past work. His style is the same, but it seems to be more pleasing to the eye.

I rate New Avengers #1 Buy Your Own Copy. #2 (of 5) on the Al-O-Meter


Saturday, February 16, 2013

REVIEW: The New Deadwardians

THE NEW DEADWARDIANS
DC COMICS/VERTIGO – @vertigo_comics

CREATORS: Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard
WRITER: Dan Abnett
ARTIST/COVER: I.N.J. Culbard
COLORS: Patricia Mulvihill
LETTERS: Travis Lanham
MISC. ART: Cliff Chiang
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3763-9; paperback (February 2013)
176pp, Color, $14.99 U.S., $17.99 CAN

Vertigo, the DC Comics imprint, has just published The New Deadwardians. It is a trade paperback collection of the 2012 eight-issue miniseries of the same title created by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard. The series is set at the end of the Edwardian era, a period in the United Kingdom, from 1901 to 1910, that marked the reign of King Edward VII. The New Deadwardians is set in a world of vampires and zombies and follows a lonely detective’s quest to solve a murder that should not be.

The New Deadwardians opens on October 10, 1910. In post-Victorian England, most of the people in the upper classes have voluntarily become vampires, by taking “the Cure.” The cure for what, you ask? It’s called “the Restless Curse,” and it has turned legions of the lower classes into ravenous zombies. Zombies want to eat living flesh, which vampires don’t have, so the hordes of the mindless undead ignore the vampire undead – called “the Young.” The lower classes that are neither vampire nor zombie – the normal humans – are called “the Bright.”

The New Deadwardians’ central character is Chief Inspector George Suttle of Scotland Yard. Suttle has got the slowest beat in London; he’s on the “Murder Squad,” investigating murders in a society where practically everyone is already dead. Of course, you know what’s going to happen. A body has been found on the embankment by the Houses of Parliament. It’s an actual murder, and the victim is a vampire – something that can be killed by one of three ways. The corpse of the victim, Lord Hinchcliffe, shows no signs of those killing methods having been used.

Suddenly, Suttle is thrust into a world of privilege, protests, class unrest, and riots. With his acerbic driver, Constable Bowes (a normal human), at his side, Suttle interviews and investigates. His investigation attracts such colorful characters as Sapphire, a prostitute who can raise the dead (wink, wink), a missing artist (Pretendleby), and even a secret society (the Sons of Adam). As he searches to find who killed Hinchcliffe (and why and how), Suttle finds his own life and past being drawn into a snare.

The easy thing to do would be to say that The New Deadwardians is like a blend of two hot cable television series, “The Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.” I think of this comic book as being similar to and/or sharing aesthetic qualities with the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes films. The New Deadwardians also reminds me of two indie comic books that I wish more people read: The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde (Dark Horse Comics) and Moriarty (Image Comics).

This narrative’s connection to the Edwardian period isn’t superficial, and the extent to how essential this time period is to the story can be determined by the reader. I think the story is more relatable to the Victorian era, because many of the characters, especially the lead, George Suttle, are frozen in the past in which they became immortal or undead. Perhaps, the Edwardian period is a bridge that marks the desire to stay in the past (the Victorian era), as exemplified by the Young, and the struggle to move forward (as represented by the Bright) to the future, that being the World War I and Interwar periods.

The New Deadwardians is a detective novel, and class and clues are the things through which Inspector Suttle digs to solve the mystery of a murder that should not have happened. Also, I agree with novelists George R.R. Martin and Bernard Cornwell that fantasy and historical fiction are twins, so The New Deadwardians is the comic book as both fantasy detective and historical fiction.

Whatever it is, The New Deadwardians is a surprisingly fantastic read. When I first heard of the series, I scoffed at it. Now, I’m demanding more. Dan Abnett’s script is clever and is filled with both humor and satire. The characters are nice, but are mostly types: the sarcastic cop, the well-meaning whore, the stiff-upper-lipped rich, etc. George Suttle is by far the most developed and richest character here. Still it’s the basic plot that drives this story, ever pushing the reader to end, and the final two issues/chapters are actually quite chilling. I really felt scared as I raced to the shocking conclusion.

I.N.J. Culbard’s succinct and crisp drawing style makes for clean visual prose that concisely conveys the story and script. His elegant graphic storytelling transports the reader into a world that Culbard makes wholly and completely believable. I didn’t believe in this world at first, but I wasn’t far into the story when I started believing that The New Deadwardians took place in our real historical past. That’s some convincing art on Culbard’s part.

Vertigo strikes again. The New Deadwardians is one of the best and most imaginative comic books of 2012. The trade paperback collection brings it back to life for us to enjoy in 2013 and forever, because it deserves eternal life.

A

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


Friday, February 15, 2013

Yaoi Review: AWKWARD SILENCE Volume 3

AWKWARD SILENCE, VOL. 3
SUBLIME – @SuBLimeManga

CARTOONIST: Hinako Takanaga
TRANSLATION: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
LETTERING: Deron Bennett
COVER: Hinako Takanaga and Fawn Lau
EDITOR: Nancy Thislethwaite
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4356-7; paperback; Rated “M” for “Mature”
186pp, B&W, $12.99 U.S., $14.99 CAN, £8.99 UK

Born in Aichi, Japan, Hinako Takanaga is a female mangaka (creator) known for her yaoi manga work, including such titles as The Devil’s Secret and Liberty Liberty! She has also provided illustrations for light novels.

SuBLime is currently publishing her BL/yaoi manga series, Awkward Silence. “Yaoi manga” is a subset of boy’s love manga (BL) that usually depicts romance and explicit sex between male characters. The third volume of Awkward Silence focuses on a high school student confused after a rascally classmate steals a kiss from him.

Awkward Silence Volume 3 (Voice 6 to 7 and “Side Voice”) focuses on Yuji “Yu” Sagara. In Vol. 1, Sagara was a rival of Keigo Tamiya’s for the affections of shy and introverted Satoru Tono. Now, Sagara is the shy one, and a busy shy guy at that. Sagara’s mother needs surgery, and he works a part-time job to pay bills while his mother is in the hospital. In addition to preparing for college, Sagara also works in the Student Council Office at Nishikou High.

That Student Council is the reason Sagara has to deal with Takahito Kagami, an incorrigible flirt who has all the girls after him. When Kagami steals a kiss from him, Sagara doesn’t know what to do.

While it is labeled as a yaoi manga, Awkward Silence Volume 3 does not feature much in the way of sex, especially of an explicit nature. This graphic novel could be labeled as shounen-ai, the other subset of boys’ love manga. Labels don’t really matter, however, in regards to this book’s quality.

Awkward Silence Volume 3 is like a shojo manga high school romance, but with a same-sex couple rather than with teen boy-teen girl lovebirds. Sagara worries and frets about the way he acts around Kagami. Kagami comes on strong, but is genuinely determined to prove his love to Sagara. This love story is sweet and gentle. It even has light, comic moments, such as when Sagara and Kagami join Tono and Tamiya on a double date at the amusement park, MB Land.

I enjoy the grab-ass-a-rama that yaoi manga can often be, but I also like the pure romance that boys’ love offers, such as in this sweet, shojo-like book. I want more like Awkward Silence Volume 3. Readers looking for love stories about awkward young love can find it in the SuBLime series, Awkward Silence.

A-

www.SuBLimeManga.com

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: NARUTO Volume 60

NARUTO, VOL. 60
VIZ MEDIA – @VIZMedia

CARTOONIST: Masashi Kishimoto
TRANSLATION: Mari Morimoto
ENGLISH ADAPTATION: Joel Enos
LETTERS: John Hunt
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4943-9; paperback (February 2013); Rated “T” for “Teen”
192pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN, £6.99 UK

The worldwide bestselling manga, Naruto, began life as a one-shot comic appearing in the August 1997 issue of Akamaru Jump. Then, it began a still-ongoing serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump #43. The first graphic novel collection (tankoubon) of the series was released in March of 2003 in Japan. VIZ Media published its first Naruto graphic novel in August of 2003.

For the publication of the 60th tankoubon/graphic novel, several artists celebrated the publishing event by contributing pin-ups and art to the book. Naruto Volume 60 contains the work of the following artists: Atsuhiro Sato, Takahiro Hiraishi, Mikio Ikemoto, Yuichi Itakura, Masaki Murakami, Koichi Nishiya, Akira Okubo, Akio Shiraska, and Kenji Taira.

Naruto is the story of a young shinobi (ninja) named Uzumaki Naruto. He has a knack for mischief and is the biggest troublemaker at the Ninja Academy in the shinobi Village of Konohagakure. Naruto is special and an outcast, because when he was a baby, his parents imprisoned a nine-tailed fox spirit within his infant body. Now, 16-years-old and incorrigible as ever, Naruto is still serious about his quest to become the world’s greatest ninja.

The current Naruto story arc continues the Fourth Great Ninja War. The conflict begins when Akatsuki villains Madara and Kabuto declare war on the Five Great Nations, the world of the ninja. The five great leaders, known as the Gokage, form the Allied Shinobi Forces to fight back.

As Naruto, Vol. 60 (entitled Kurama – Chapters 566 to 575) starts, Naruto battles the other tailed beasts. His partner in battle is Killer Bee, the jinchûriki (hosts) to the eight-tailed octo-beast. Naruto’s mentor, Hatake Kakashi, and Guy join them to form a quartet against Madara. Now, Naruto tries to align himself with the other tailed beasts. Will he be successful? Can he also take on Madara? Naruto’s comrades, however, aren’t about to let him fight alone.

Meanwhile, Uchiha Sasuke, Naruto’s former teammate, decides that it is time to fight Naruto again. Kabuto, who revives dead shinobi to fight in the Fourth Great Ninja War, has summoned a special reunion for Sasuke.

The Naruto manga continues the current long story arc, the Fourth Great Ninja War. Once a year or so, we get a volume that shows the evolution of Naruto – how the outcast becomes a hero. It is an ongoing process, as it seems as if Naruto has to learn to become a hero over and over again. Naruto Volume 60 is one of those graphic novels that shows Naruto grasping something, some idea, some technique, etc. essential to his journey to becoming whatever he is supposed to become.

Naruto creator, Masashi Kishimoto keeps the series fresh in this way – not that he really needs to do so. The subplots and characters keep growing, and most of them are fantastically interesting. For instant, this Uchiha family element promises great new fun in the coming graphic novels (or tankoubon).

A

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: STAR WARS #2

STAR WARS #2
DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

SCRIPT: Brian Wood
ART: Carlos D’Anda
COLORS: Gabe Eltaeb
LETTERS: Michael Heisler
COVER: Alex Ross
28pp, Color, $2.99 U.S.

In the Shadow of Yavin” Part Two (of Three)

Star Wars, a new comic book series from Dark Horse Comics, is set during the time of the original and classic Star Wars films: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Star Wars is written by Brian Wood, drawn by Carlos D’Anda, colored by Gabe Eltaeb, and lettered by Michael Heisler, with covers provided by Alex Ross.

Exploring new story possibilities from that time period, Star Wars opens after the Battle of Yavin. The Rebel Alliance destroyed the Galactic Empire’s fearsome space station, the Death Star. Still, there are a number of post-victory struggles, such as finding a new permanent home base and restocking supplies and armaments.

Star Wars #2 opens aboard the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo and his first mate, Chewbacca, continue their secret mission for Mon Mothma, leader of the Alliance. There, is, however, someone hot on the Falcon’s trail. Meanwhile, Colonel Bircher takes command of Darth Vader’s personal Star Destroyer, the Devastator. Bircher’s specialty is tracking rebels, but he has also decided to target an additional quarry.

Back at the rebel fleet, Leia Organa forms a commando unit. In addition to Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker, this black operations team includes Gram Cortess from Alderran, Rus Kal Kin from Durkteel, Prithi from Chalacta, Falback Kord from Tinnel Four, Tess Alder from Corellia, and Ardana Cinn. Leia names Wedge Antilles her second-in-command, so where does that leave Luke?

The quality of the first issue of Dark Horse Comics’ new Star Wars comic book series was not a fluke. This is Star Wars, so naturally it is filled with pleasing elements of the franchise. However, this particular issue is also edgy and grim.

The edginess comes from the precarious position the post-Battle of Yavin Rebel Alliance is in. That’s what writer Brian Wood uses to make beloved Star Wars characters ruthless, single-minded, and even a bit selfish. These aren’t you or your father’s action figures, and their fight for survival feels genuine.

I find the series grim, because Wood doesn’t allow the original film trilogy’s signature characters, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, to dominate the series. In turn, this does not become a clean good versus evil tale settled by some exciting lightsaber duels. Indeed, thus far, Luke and Vader seem like two guys sent in the corner of the series to wear dunce hats. This is Star Wars off-the-hook and for reals, y’all!

Meanwhile, artist Carlos D’Anda already seems to have improved as a storyteller in this series, and he was really good in issue #1. Oh, this Star Wars comic book is too good to be true. It’s a trap!

A

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

Fantagraphics Unveils New B. Krigstein Collection

Messages in a Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein
edited by Greg Sadowski

272-page full-color 8" x 10.5" softcover • $35.00
ISBN: 978-1-60699-580-8
In-store date: February 2013 (subject to change)

Working in comic books for just over a decade in the 1940s and '50s, Bernard Krigstein applied all the craft, intelligence, and ambition of a burgeoning "serious" artist, achieving results that remain stunning to this day. While his legend rests mostly on his landmark narratives created for EC Comics, dozens of stories for lesser publishers equally showcase his singular draftsmanship and radical reinterpretation of the comics page.

Harvey Award-winning Krigstein biographer Greg Sadowski has assembled the very best of the artist’s work, starting with his earliest creative rumblings, through his glory days at EC, to his final daring experiments for Stan Lee’s Atlas Comics — running through nearly every genre popular at the time, be it horror, science fiction, war, western, or romance.

This edition reprints the out-of-print 2004 hardcover B. Krigstein Comics, with a number of stories re-tooled and improved in terms of reproduction, and several new stories added. Legendary EC colorist Marie Severin, in her last major assignment before her retirement, recolored 20 stories for this edition. The remainder has been taken from printed comics, digitally restored with subtlety and restraint. Original art pages, photostats from Krigstein's personal archives, and an extensive set of historical and editorial notes by Sadowski round out this compelling volume.

"Bernard Krigstein drew comics for less than a decade 50 years ago but in that brief time created some of the most innovative stories the medium has ever seen... Krigstein's reputation is based mainly on his stories for the EC comics, but Sadowski shows that his other work is also extraordinary." – Booklist

"There is no artist in the history of comics that I hold in higher esteem than Bernard Krigstein. No other artist understood the inherent potential of the artform better and no other artist ever demonstrated such a grasp of what was needed in order to reach and exceed both his own limits and those of his chosen medium." – Alan David Doane, Trouble With Comics

ABOUT THE CARTOONIST: Bernard Krigstein (1919–1990) was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2005.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Greg Sadowski is a writer, editor, and designer living in Washington State.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DC Comics from Diamond Distributors for February 13 2013

DC COMICS

DEC120314 AME COMI GIRLS #5 FEATURING SUPERGIRL $3.99

DEC120277 BATGIRL #17 (DOTF) $2.99

DEC120264 BATMAN #17 (DOTF) $3.99

DEC120267 BATMAN #17 COMBO PACK (DOTF) $4.99

DEC120273 BATMAN AND ROBIN #17 $2.99

OCT120260 BATMAN AND ROBIN WHITE KNIGHT DARK KNIGHT TP $16.99

DEC120318 BATMAN ARKHAM UNHINGED #11 $2.99

OCT120263 BATMAN ARKHAM UNHINGED HC $22.99

OCT120247 BATMAN HC THE NIGHT OF THE OWLS (N52) $29.99

NOV120150 BEFORE WATCHMEN COMEDIAN #5 (RES) (MR) $3.99

NOV120152 BEFORE WATCHMEN COMEDIAN #5 COMBO PACK (RES) (MR) $4.99

DEC120307 DEATHSTROKE #17 $2.99

DEC120300 DEMON KNIGHTS #17 $2.99

OCT120288 DJANGO UNCHAINED #2 (MR) $3.99

NOV120266 GREEN ARROW SALVATION TP $16.99

DEC120349 GREEN LANTERN THE ANIMATED SERIES #11 $2.99

DEC120238 KATANA #1 $2.99

DEC120312 RAVAGERS #9 $2.99

DEC120366 SAUCER COUNTRY #12 (MR) $2.99

NOV120263 STORMWATCH TP VOL 02 ENEMIES OF THE EARTH (N52) $14.99

DEC120306 SUICIDE SQUAD #17 $2.99

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DEC120302 TEAM 7 #5 $2.99

DEC120303 THRESHOLD #2 $3.99

NOV120288 YOUNG JUSTICE TP VOL 03 CREATURE FEATURES $12.99

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NOV120311 ALL NEW METALLIC SUPERMAN BY FRANK MILLER STATUE $79.95

Marvel Comics from Diamond Distributors for February 13 2013

MARVEL COMICS

DEC120713 AGE OF APOCALYPSE #12 $2.99

DEC120636 AVENGERS ARENA #4 NOW $2.99

DEC120634 AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #12 NOW2 $3.99

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NOV120774 CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BLACK WIDOW TP $14.99

NOV120794 COUNTER X TP GENERATION X FOUR DAYS $24.99

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NOV120798 ESSENTIAL MARVEL TEAM UP TP VOL 04 $19.99

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DEC120762 GUARDIANS OF GALAXY NOW POSTER NOW $8.99

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SEP120679 IRON MAN BY MICHELINIE LAYTON JRJR OMNIBUS HC VOL 01 $99.99

NOV120789 MARVEL FIRSTS TP WWII SUPER HEROES $39.99

DEC120766 MARVEL NOW AGE OF ULTRON POSTER NOW $8.99

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IDW Publishing from Diamond Distributors for February 13 2013

IDW PUBLISHING

FEB120393 GENIUS ILLUSTRATED LIFE & ART ALEX TOTH HC VOL 02 $49.99

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Dark Horse Comics from Diamond Distributors for February 13 2013

DARK HORSE COMICS

OCT120042 ADVENTURES OF SUPERHERO GIRL HC $16.99

OCT120031 ALABASTER WOLVES HC $19.99

DEC120073 BPRD HELL ON EARTH #104 ABYSS TIME #2 $3.50

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OCT120057 MANARA LIBRARY HC VOL 04 (MR) $59.99

DEC120048 STAR WARS #2 $2.99

DEC120078 STRAIN #11 (MR) $3.50

DEC120079 TO HELL YOU RIDE #3 $3.99

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IMAGE COMICS/MCFARLANE TOYS

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Comics, Magazines and Books from Diamond Distributors for February 13 2013

COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS

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OCT121187 ATOMIC ROBO TP VOL 07 $18.95

NOV121299 AWKWARD SILENCE VOL 03 (MR) $12.99

DEC121034 BIONIC MAN VS BIONIC WOMAN #2 $3.99

DEC121272 BLOODSHOT (ONGOING) #8 REG LOZZI CVR $3.99

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OCT120801 CHARISMAGIC DEATH PRINCESS #2 CVR A RANDOLPH $3.99

OCT120802 CHARISMAGIC DEATH PRINCESS #2 CVR B LOPEZ $3.99

OCT120803 CHARISMAGIC DEATH PRINCESS #2 CVR C OUM PI

NOV121204 CHICKENHARE TP $10.99

SEP121201 CLINT 2.0 #6 (MR) $6.99

DEC120806 CRAWLING SKY #2 [DIG] $3.99

DEC120870 CROSSED BADLANDS #23 (MR) $3.99

DEC120872 CROSSED BADLANDS #23 TORTURE CVR (MR) $3.99

DEC120871 CROSSED BADLANDS #23 WRAP CVR (MR) $3.99

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DEC121232 DEAD SPACE COLL ED TP $17.99

DEC121231 DEAD SPACE LIBERATION GN $19.99

DEC121233 DEAD SPACE SALVAGE TITAN ED TP $14.99

NOV128196 DEATHMATCH #1 2ND PTG $1.00

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