Best Shots Advance Reviews: LOST VEGAS, HELHEIM

 

Lost Vegas #1

Written by Jim McCann

Art by Janet K. Lee

Published by Image Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The team behind 2011’s Eisner award-winning Return of the Dapper Men, Jim McCann and Janet K. Lee, is back but this time with a decidedly different story tell. A far cry from the all-ages fairy tale they crafted with Dapper Men, Lost Vegas barrels out of the gates with a combination of sci-fi adventure that’s equal parts Ocean’s 11, Fifth Element and Escape from Alcatraz. The result is the fast-paced thriller on par with the best Hollywood has to offer.

McCann and Lee don’t waste any time getting us into the story. There are no big establishing shots with over expositiory narration. Instead, they go small. We open on a card game and meet our narrator, Roland, in the midst of making one of the biggest mistakes of his life. And with only three pages, the stage is set for the rest of the book.

Unlike Dapper Men, Lost Vegas features a much more direct and adult mode of  storytelling. McCann never lets exposition slow him down. While narration is a basic tenet of the genre, it doesn’t keep the story from moving forward nor does it overexpose potential mysteries in the script. Roland’s ambiguous cool makes him an easy character to like but there are some real questions about his motivations that could provide a good amount of tension for the reader down the line. Throw in everything that we don’t know yet about this high stakes prison and there is a lot for McCann to explore in this world of story.

Janet K. Lee has a distinctive art style and while a space age heist/jailbreak may not have seemed to fit upon the initial announcement, she proves that genres are mere words. Her character designs are varied and interesting especially for the various aliens that inhabit Lost Vegas. Panels are generally packed with textures and details, trademarks of Lee’s work. The real surprise here is her improved sequential storytelling. Her work on Dapper Men  was very unique but it was not always the most clear in terms of storytelling. In opting for more traditional methods in creating Lost Vegas, Lee puts a focus on clarity and in a story concerning sleight of hand and minute observations that becomes very important.

Lost Vegas proves that McCann and Lee have a lot more up their sleeves than all-ages allegories. The fresh setting for this story is sure to be a hook for many readers but the mash-up of influences could overwhelm the story if they’re followed too closely. If their Eisner proved anything, it’s that this creative duo doesn’t need to borrow to create a good story.

 

Helheim #1

Written by Cullen Bunn

Art by Joëlle Jones and Nick Filardi

Lettering by Ed Brisson

Published by Oni Press

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating 9 out of 10

Lately, it feels like there are a lot of very high concept comics out on the market. That's all well and good, there's nothing wrong with wanting to reach lofty thematic heights. Although sometimes, you just want something to kick butt for the sake of kicking butt. Which brings us to Helheim #1 by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Joëlle Jones with the simple concept. “It's Frankenstein, with Vikings.” Okay, I'm sold. Let's do this.

When a book promises gritty Viking carnage with a dash of the supernatural, you better not waste my time with pesky landscape or thematic captions. True to task, Bunn yanks the reader right into the action as young Rikard and his ever-dwindling band of warriors flee as if the beasts of Hel itself were on their tail. And, as we soon learn, that isn't very far off. Still, for all my desire to read nothing but Nordic guys wailing into each other with abandon, Bunn still finds time to work important character traits among the carnage. We learn that, while potentially blinded by emotion, Rikard at his core is a noble man. A man caught in a war that will cost him far more than his body. While I can't wait to read more of the slicing and dicing that is sure to come, it is Rikard's journey that will no doubt be the highlight.

On the art, it feels like it takes Joëlle Jones a couple of pages to find her place in the book. However, once she finds it, Helheim #1 is simply one gorgeous book. I've been a fan of Jones' work for a long time now. Although I've seen her take on various genres, watching her really cut loose in Helheim is a blast. There is real emotion in her line work. Work that's delivered with a true eye toward precision, with but a slice of chaos to keep the reader on edge. There are moments in the book where I can all but imagine the metal blaring in the background as Joëlle cackles with each brush stroke. It's just fun. And there is no doubt, one of the main reasons for Jones' art leaping off the page is the wonderful color work by Nick Filardi. Perhaps more so than Bunn or Jones, it is Filardi that sets the emotional tone of the book. His sense of color temperature upon the page truly sells the images and completes a comic that is darn near perfect.

A skill that's often overlooked in comics, even by well-meaning critics and fans, is the letterer. This time I feel a special consideration must be made to Ed Brisson on lettering. There are some subtle (and not so subtle) uses of fonts, balloons, and word weight that add a level of realism to an otherwise outlandish story. It's easy to overlook, but without a doubt, added to the overall enjoyment of this book. In all, Oni Press has put together quite a team for Helheim. It's a strong first issue that promises all kinds of fun in future. And were it not for the editors note at the end, I'd make the same chocolate and peanut butter joke as he. What can you do? Frankenstein and Vikings. Bunn and Jones. They really are a literary Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

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