Fantastick Four #1 (Marvel)
By Peter David and Pascal Alixe
I didn't pick up the last 1602 sequel 1602: New World
as I didn't think anyone could improve much on Neil Gaiman's
original concept of a Elizabethan age Marvel Universe, probably
because at the time I was unfamiliar with writer Greg Pak's
work. This time around I thought I'd give it a try and see what
Peter David could do with the concept.
While not reaching the level of Gaiman's original this turned
out to be a surprisingly entertaining sequel. David's mix of
early Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four history with a pinch of historical
period accuracy and an imaginative use of Shakespeare as a character
will bring me back for a look at the next issue.
Athena Voltaire #1 (Ape Entertainment)
By Paul Daly and Steve Bryant
High action and adventure as larger-than-life characters battle
the rising Nazi menace in the mid-1930s. If you love Indiana
Jones or The Rocketeer then you'll enjoy this tale
of the daring aviatrix Athena Voltaire and her race to prevent
the Nazi bad guys from getting their hands on an ancient mystic
relic. Sure, it's far from an original plot, but here it's carried
off with the right mix of style and action that draws you in
and takes you on a roller-coaster ride.
At least for the first half of the book. This iteration of
the book publishes the first issue that originally saw light
under the now-defunct Speakeasy imprint, along with the planned
but never released second issue. Unfortunately that second issue,
making up the second half of this edition, is little more than
pages of talking heads and expository dialog that bring the
story's pace to a grinding halt. Let's hope the following issues
get it back on track, as the opening 24 pages showed a lot of
Galactica #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
By Greg Pak and Nigel Raynor
Having not yet watched the new incarnation of Battlestar
Galactica (it's on my Netflix list) I may have missed a
lot of the inferences and references in this first issue of
the comics based on the series; but it says something for the
level of storytelling that even without the TV show as a touch-point
I still enjoyed this suspenseful and action-packed tale.
Again without reference I don't know how "on-model" the characters
were either emotionally or visually, but the dialog was sharp
and the interchanges believable, although I did on occasion
find it difficult to differentiate faces. This is a good, solid
opening and one of the better TV franchise spin-offs I've read
Blade #1 (Marvel)
By Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin
Yet another attempt by Marvel to launch the Daywalker in his
own series, which once more seems doomed to failure. Why have
it hit the shelves just as the first season of the Blade
TV show finishes? The story is weak and confusing and just full
of stupid plot devices that make no sense. Spider-Man is a vampire
(and we never find out how he got to be in that position in
the first place) but his blood will cure him so it's not a problem!
The undead take over a SHIELD helicarrier (is there more than
one?) without anyone noticing? Again just how they did it is
conveniently not mentioned. I don't know much about Blade or
his backstory, but the flashback "origin" scenes here seem to
contradict what little I do know. Chaykin's art is typical,
competent modern Chaykin but it needs a better story than this
to make it shine.
Criminal #1 (Marvel/Icon)
By Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips
Brubaker is an acknowledged master of the crime-noir genre
and in this creator-owned series he displays his talent admirably.
Freed from the constraints of telling this type of story inside
the confines of an established continuity, his story flows better
than most of his mainstream comics writing. The characterization
is strong and the characters intriguing enough to make you want
to know more about them and their past relationships and motivations.
Philips' art is solid and workmanlike, supporting the story
without breaking any new boundaries. Overall a good solid read
that will probably be best served in its inevitable trade-paperback
Dying In The Gutters #1 (IDW)
By Steven Grant and Stephen Mooney
The much hyped "CSI meets the world of comic books"
story arc has reached the shelves and I found it a major disappointment.
Storywise the first eight pages — the CSI team
discussing the wrap-up of a case and the conversation drifting
into what comics they read (or still read) — was well
scripted and captured the banter familiar to viewers of the
show, but once it got to the comic book convention pages it
lost track, becoming way too self-referential.
Not just self-referential about the comics scene in general,
but apparently limited to writer Steven Grant's friends and
acquaintances, with an over-abundance of dialog about recent
events, policies and individuals that mean little to those not
"in the know" and even less to the casual reader.
Having met several of the comics industry people portrayed
in the book I couldn't recognize them without the introductory
captions, and the anatomy and looks of the CSI team were also
way off-model at times (a fact commented on by several people
who flicked through the book). If this was meant to get the
super-hero comics crowd reading the CSI title it might
just work, but I don't think it will do much to raise the perception
of the comics industry in the eyes of any casual CSI fan
who may pick it up.
Doctor Strange: The Oath (Marvel)
Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin
Brian K. Vaughan's new mini-series takes a look at an often
neglected side of the Marvel Universe's Sorcerer Supreme, the
fact that Stephen Strange was a doctor before he was a mage.
This issue starts off with the good doctor under the knife himself
as, in astral form, he helps "The Night Nurse" ( a new and logical
addition to the Marvel Universe; after all, whom do the heroes
go to to get their bumps and cuts treated?). I'm not familiar
with the work of artist Marcos Martin, but here he demonstrates
a clear lined style that serves the story well and in many ways
reminds me of Doctor Strange's original artist Steve Ditko.
Gen 13 #1 (Wildstorm)
Gail Simone and Talent Caldwell
This relaunch marks the fourth incarnation for the Wildstorm
Universe's band of "different teenagers." This time around writer
Simone manages to introduce an angle that has the potential
to take Gen 13 away from being just another X-Men clone to establishing
an identity and premise of its own. There are surprises galore
for established fans of the series, but it's a solid enough
opening issue to draw newcomers in from page one (although I
thought the opening sequence was a little bit too brutal) without
getting lost. I'll be interested to see where this goes and
if it lives up to the potential shown in this latest "first"
Pick of the Week
Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 (Marvel)
By Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester
What would you do if you came across a superhero's suit?
Would you use it to do good for the common man, or would you
use it to have fun and pick up chicks? Robert Kirkman and
Phil Hester have great fun answering that question when a
less than perfect wannabe SHIELD agent happens across a new
Ant-Man suit. This is a totally unexpected book from Marvel
as it takes the concept of one of their earliest heroes and
injects a heavy dose of real human frailty, avarice and, yes,
a little lust into the idea of how a costumed "hero" acts.
Kirkman's characterizations and dialog are spot-on and are
perfectly complemented by Hester's storytelling and design
skills. His ability to switch between full-page splash panels,
open flowing panels and tight nine-panel grids to pace the
story and the action is textbook perfect.
Lone Ranger #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
By Brett Matthews and Sergio Carilello
I've been waiting a long time for this one. A slow-paced introduction
basically recaps the event that will eventually lead to John
Reid donning his famous mask. There's no Silver, and Tonto is
only a shadowy figure seen on the last page, but the setup is
great. It's atmospheric and gives a solid background for the
character and upbringing of the future masked man. Can't wait
for the next issue.
Mystery In Space #1 (DC Comics)
By Jim Starlin & Shane Davis
The latest incarnation of the Mystery In Space title
is full of great space-opera action from Jim Starlin that also
lives up to the "mystery" aspect of the title. While it centers
around the little-used DC character Captain Comet it doesn't
matter if you know anything about him, the story, while full
of twists, is highly accessible to the new reader; just as a
first issue should be. And Tyrone, his talking bulldog, has
to be the best new superhero sidekick in decades.
The second half of the book reintroduces Jim Starlin's creation
The Weird and ties him into the Captain Comet story while at
the same time laying the foundations of his own on-going mystery.
The Other Side #1 (Vertigo)
By Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart
The Other Side promises to be a hard-hitting look at the Vietnam
conflict through the eyes of two combatants, a reluctant conscripted
U.S. Marine and an enthusiastic dogma-driven volunteer in the
Viet Cong army, as they work towards what I can only assume
will be an eventual face-to-face confrontation. Writer Aaron
and artist Stewart skillfully use the technique of parallel
storylines to emphasize both the similarities and the cultural
and philosophical differences between the two men and their
training and indoctrination. Stewart's art is visceral in every
sense of the word and spares nothing when it comes to the horrors
of the battlefield. As a result the book is not for the squeamish,
but overall it promises to be one of the best graphic treatments
of the Vietnam War yet produced.
Pirates of Coney Island #1 (Image)
Rick Spears and Vasili Lolos
I've seen rave reviews for this book, but I just didn't get
it. I found it a quick and forgettable read that did nothing
to establish character or motive. It seems unnecessarily violent
and meaningless — or is that the metaphor for teenage
life that the creators were going for? I guess I'm just getting
Noir: Samurai Detective #1 (Image)
By Many Trembley and Eric Anderson
Take one part L.A. noir, mix it with feudal Japanese overtones
and throw in a samurai who thinks and acts like Sam Spade and
you get something that is both comfortingly familiar yet disturbingly
different. The story centers around the samurai falling in love
with a woman he has been hired to trail but never approach.
Then one night she shows up in his office, calling him by name.
The resulting mix of action and intrigue is an excellent and
evocative blend of cultures and genres.
Tales of the Unexpected #1 (DC)
David Lapham and Eric Battle / Brian Azzarello
and Chiff Chiang)
The new Tales of the Unexpected focuses on the latest
incarnation of DC's avenging spirit, The Spectre, and his new
host, former Gotham City cop Crispus Allen. If you have never
read the excellent Gotham Central title then most of
this will make no sense. Lapham's storytelling skills are conspicuously
restrained by DC continuity. Also, I'm not sure how The Spectre's
actions, or more specifically lack of action, could be viewed
as heroic. However, the backup Doctor Thirteen story was a blast,
with several twists, witty dialog and a self-deprecating sense
of fun that while paying homage to DC's past wasn't shackled
Ultimate Power #1 (Marvel)
Brian Michael Bendis and Greg Land
The first issue in the crossover between the Marvel Ultimate
Universe and the Supreme Power universe is a fine introduction
to the "Ultimate" version of The Fantastic Four and does a solid
job on introducing the characters, their motivations and relationships.
But as a crossover it doesn't work. There is no interaction
between the two teams at all. That looks to be setup for the
next issue. This would have perhaps worked better as an issue
of the regular Ultimate Fantastic Four series that led
into the cross-over miniseries. Or perhaps it's a sign that
what we have here is a six-issue story being stretched to fill
the planned nine issues.
Jack #1 (Marvel)
By Christos Gage and Mike Perkins
In the text pages at the back, writer Gage leads off with the
fact that he isn't British. And boy, does it show. The dialog
seems forced and stilted; while not the worst attempt at Brit-speak
I've ever read it is far from natural. At least British artist
Mike Perkins knows what the locations actually look like and
does a good job with the settings. This miniseries spins off
from a recent story arc in Captain America and you really
need to have at least a passing knowledge of that to get some
of the references. Some of the plot devices also seemed forced.
X-Men: First Class #1 (Marvel)
By Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz
We've had miniseries and specials that retell the story of
the formation of the first team of X-Men (of which Children
Of The Atom is by far the best) and now we get a series
that tells of their "missing adventures." Not a bad idea, except
that numerous anachronistic references to cell phones and e-mail
jar, and the central narrative device seems, if my memory serves
me correctly, to be totally against established continuity.
The fact that the four original X-Men also make patently forced
foreshadowing comments about events that will happen in their
future make the script read like bad fanfiction.