Best Shots Comic Reviews: DAREDEVIL #1, ANIMAL MAN #29 (Final Issue), More
CREDIT: Marvel Comics
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Its a brand new day for Matt Murdock, and for comic fans, its the welcome return of one of comic’s consistently great creative teams. Though Waid and Samnee don’t exactly reinvent the wheel in the pages of Daredevil #1 and some readers may decry this relaunch as being more of the same in a different city, Team Daredevil turn in exactly what a good comic should be and that’s all anyone could really ask for.
Mark Waid wastes absolutely no time throwing readers into the new setting and problems that now make up Matt Murdock’s life in San Francisco. A little girl has been kidnapped and Matt has made himself available to the police as a “consultant.” One of the major turning points of Waid’s previous run was the decision to finally sidestep all the baggage and drama that came with Matt’s secret identity and with that revelation, Daredevil #1 has a wonderfully loose feel to it. The majority of the comic is a fast paced and beautiful chase scene and while that might not feel like the meatiest plot for a first issue it gives it a breezy freedom to just be a fun superhero comic. Long in the past is the overwrought noir hysterics of the latter arcs Brian Michael Bendis. Mark Waid made Daredevil fun again when he took over and this volume seems to be committed to keeping him fun.
But having fun doesn’t mean that Matt is having an easy go of it in his new city. Waid peppers the script with creative little pitfalls that plague Matt throughout the chase. Matt Murdock knows the city of New York better than anyone could possibly know a city, but in San Francisco, Matt is quite literally flying blind. The terrain is all wrong, the layout of the city is unfamiliar, and the buildings are too far apart. All of this factors into the chase in the most entertaining way possible. Waid also throws another wrench into Matt’s works by giving him a “helping hand” in the form of his new law partner Karen McDuffie who takes on an Oracle-like role in helping guide him around the city via radio. While this seems like a sound plan, this leaves Daredevil one ear short in the field and it almost costs him his life. Little narrative obstacles like this makes Waid so perfect for Daredevil. He’s always finding inventive yet challenging hurdles for Matt without ever delving into the abject darkness that marked most runs that came before. Mark Waid is the kind of writer that has no problem challenging his characters without ever torturing them.
There isn’t much that I can say about Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez without sounding hyperbolic. I am hard pressed to think of another art team that has been this consistently great for this long and Daredevil #1 just continues their hot streak. Samnee and Rodriguez take to the new West Coast setting wonderfully, trading in the smoky rooftops and murky alleyways of New York for palm trees and trolleys. Samnee’s flair for scene construction is also on full display here with an inventive two page splash that serves the script in the best way possible. One side is a condensed retelling of Matt’s origin, complete with old costumes and glimpses of his college days while the other is an establishing shot of New York through Matt’s superhuman vision, highlighting just how well he knew his home and just how far removed he now is from his comfort zone. There's a reason Chris Samnee is credited as more than just an "artist" on this book. An artist should be just as much a storyteller as a book's writer, and Samnee is showing exactly how that's done.
As I said before, Team Daredevil doesn’t exactly break new ground here, but they didn’t really have to. Waid, Samnee and Rodriguez have proven their mettle time and time again, and Daredevil #1 is just the latest example of their creative synchronicity. They don’t have to completely blow up their own format or give us something that we haven’t seen before. They just have to give us a fun comic, and that they deliver in spades. The only thing we have to do it hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Animal Man #29
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman, Jeff Lemire, Jose Villarrubia and Lovern Kindzierski
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
It’s all over. Animal Man has finally come to end, and the opening words of this issue are fitting. “It took some convincing, but in the end, it went like I thought it would.” Those are Buddy Baker’s thoughts, but they might as well be Jeff Lemire himself. In over two years, Lemire has been one of the few writers in the New 52 to truly see his vision through to the end. With over the course of his run, he’s been blessed with many talented artists but he brings things back to the beginning here with contributions from Travel Foreman. The day has been won. This is the victory lap.
An Animal Man book never seemed impossible, but it did seem dubious at best. The character appeared in 52 and made few other appearances here and there. The New 52 reboot gave an opportunity to explore facets of the DC Universe that had been lost to time. Grant Morrison’s run marked a high point for Animal Man that helped launch the Vertigo imprint. The work done after his was an amalgam of mature reader monstrosities and outsider weirdness.
Lemire sought obvious inspiration from another Vertigo stalwart: Swamp Thing. By intertwining Buddy Baker with the Red, the story possibilities became almost endless. While the overarching “Rotworld” event might have leaned too heavily on Alan Moore’s mythos, it took Animal Man to another level. This wasn’t just a superhero book. Superman wouldn’t have a world to save if Animal Man couldn’t save it first himself. Those are high stakes for a character that many would overlook.
Most importantly, Lemire kept Buddy Baker’s family front and center. His family felt the repercussions of everything he did and the consequences are lasting. Cliff’s death is, arguably, one of the most tragic of the New 52 because maybe it was the least deserved. We don’t get to interact with many civilian character intimately in superhero comics. Buddy Baker’s family served as a reminder that people feel the effects of the actions of their heroes, whether they’re part of their family or not.
Lemire accomplishes two things in this issue. He looks back at where we’ve been with the Bakers and he sets up conflict for the future. Buddy’s deal with Shepherd and Socks seems tenuous at best. the forces that guide the Red, the Green and Rot have never seemed trustworthy. Travel Foreman returns on art to reestablish the off-kilter creepiness of the Red that he defined so long ago. Then Lemire goes straight for the heart. Maxine retells the past 28 issues as a story about a princess and her family. She displays an understanding far beyond her years in dealing with her brother’s death. She brings her father (and probably most readers) to tears. And fittingly, the writer pulls double duty as the artist, reaffirming that this has been his story all along. Lemire’s more simplistic, storybook style fits the tone so well. Maxine doesn’t have any regrets about what her family has been through despite their struggle. She says to Buddy, “You’re a real nice daddy.” It’s the ultimate compliment for a man that feels like he fails so often.
This final issue serves as a warm reminder. It’s like the night before graduation and you’re sitting on the hood of your buddy’s car drinking a beer saying “Hey, remember that time...” The memories flow out of you. You think about where you’ll be next year. What’s going to happen? But you take comfort in knowing that you'll always have the past, even while you are thrust into new beginnings. This isn’t the last we’ll see of Buddy Baker or Animal Man. This isn’t even the last time Lemire will write him. This wasn’t a run without any faults but it’s important to relish the good stories because you don’t know when you’ll get the next one. On the whole, Animal Man was a good story. It’s sad to see it go.
Ms. Marvel #2
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring
Lettering by Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Marlene Bonnelly
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The highly anticipated second issue of the All-New Ms. Marvel has arrived, and it doesn’t disappoint. Kamala’s adventures resume just as her new abilities begin to manifest; we watch her struggle, succeed and fail in the eyes of others, which results in an interesting and amusing story. A few pacing and art mishaps make this installment a little unbalanced, but solid writing and the right touch of humor also make it an enjoyable read.
Kamala’s character is incredibly likable because, as editor Sana Amanat puts it, “it’s just a story about a young girl maneuvering her way to adulthood, who also happens to reflect the changing face of America.” Her attempts to control burgeoning shape-shifting powers evoke a very first-Spider-Man-movie feeling that reflects the title’s premise well. Kamala quickly discovers that being someone else—even a superheroic “someone else” like Ms. Marvel—isn’t exactly as thrilling as she’d hoped. More satisfying is what she can accomplish with her own determination and bravery, such as when she saves one of the constant nuisances in her life, Zoe. Unfortunately, this brief sensation of accomplishment is overshadowed by her insecurities and her family’s lack of understanding.
While all of her introspection was important to the issue’s development, Kamala’s internal dialogue did feel a bit forced at times. Perhaps it was just the lettering layout, which cut her words into a few too many bite-sized chunks on some pages, but her thought process did read over-the-top. There is a time and a place for ellipses, too, and they weren’t well-utilized. Unnecessary ellipses certainly aren’t the end of the world in the comic book world, but the added pauses did cheapen scenes with a little more dramatic flair than necessary. The pacing, too, left something to be desired. While reading, I realized that up to two pages could have been chopped from the beginning with little to no change in comprehension. As fun as it is to see Kamala recoil from a cockroach and sneak around to hide among the weeds, these scenes could have been condensed to leave more room for interaction with her family later. The writing was, otherwise, very strong. Wilson definitely has this hero’s persona well-mapped; Kamala casually dropping the word “embiggen” is something an Internet-savvy teen, and only an Internet-savvy teen, would do.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the team-up of Alphona’s art and Herring’s colors, though, because the collaboration shines in this issue. Kamala’s expressions are perfect, evoking the exact emotion one would imagine if reading just the plain script. From frustration to determination to embarrassment, Alphona masterfully brings each moment to life on the page. Even the more neutral, cartoony expressions in the background add character. It’s Herring’s colors that really bring out the strength of his art, however, with soft hues, shading and textures that highlight, for example, the intense detail of “Ms. Marvel” Kamala’s blond hair. The pop of a red sash against a palette of otherwise muted colors is also very smart on Herring’s part and further reinforces the idea that Kamala doesn’t fit in, even in a borrowed form. I must say, however, that the proportions of Alphona’s pencils take a strange turn toward the end of the issue. One page in particular paints Kamala’s father with an enormous head, which is a little jarring when you flip to it. It’s a mistake corrected immediately in the following panel, but then repeated on the page after that.
The end of issue two leaves Kamala facing a difficult situation: should she seize the opportunity her new gifts have granted her and become the hero she’s always wanted to be, or play it safe for the sake of her family and whatever sense of normalcy she’d hoped to maintain? We already know which path she’ll choose (or there wouldn’t be subsequent issues to read), but seeing her acknowledge the dilemma adds another layer of humanity to her character. No one that I know can stretch a hand out ala Mr. Fantastic, but we all strive to be both socially accepted and extraordinary at the same time, not unlike Kamala—that’s why her story is so fascinating.
Rocket Girl #4
Written by Brandon Montclare
Art by Amy Reeder
Published by Image Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
What's a “grown-up?”
Being over the age of 18 certainly doesn't qualify a person. A twentysomething is pretty unlikely to self-identify as one. Maybe 30-year-olds will reluctantly accept the title, but only if they can hold hope in their heart that, unless a mortgage is being paid, it might be more of an eventuality than a current state of being.
A kid calls someone a “grown-up,” as a way of drawing distinction between they, the ones in the full throes of growing, and the people they figure have plateaued after already being afforded their chance to figure the world out. The identification is contingent on contrast, which makes it bitter to accept for oneself. To be a “grown-up” is to have grown. It's like a surrender.
Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare's Rocket Girl is a kid, and she's from a world where kids don't trust grown-ups. Using a time machine to travel from New York City's far-flung future/past of 2013 to the modern past/present of 1986 where/when the device was originally invented, fifteen-year-old DaYoung Johansson comes to a stylized memory of '80s New York equipped with only a jet-pack, a suspicion of everyone over 30 and a mission to save everything from all the mistakes that the grown-ups are bound to make, as they always do.
In 2013, the past, her allies are kids playing dress-up, whose dress-up jobs like Teenage Police Commissioner are accessorized with real responsibilities. In 1986, the present, her allies are the young urban professionals of Quintum Mechanics who, while capable enough to be on the verge of making history-altering scientific breakthroughs, can't stop acting like petty children. Closing in on both temporal sides are the evil adults, who want nothing to change, leaving our Rocket Girl, who knows with crystal clarity that everything needs changing but has only the vaguest idea of how that's supposed to work, caught in a shrinking middle.
Rocket Girl is a blast. The cast is a rich and colorful blend of familiar archetypes and unconventionally fresh personalities. It's heavy on plot, the story moves at the kind of frenzied pace only a child could sustain, and in all that movement the story finds true situational comedy. It deals comfortably in slapstick and farce, laughing as happily at the outrageous costuming choices in 1986 as it does in Reeder and Montclare's time-warped take on 2013.
Issue #4 is a romp, with Rocket Girl being chased through the sickly vibrant subway tunnels of 1986 NYC by 2013 corporate security guards, while young scientists Annie Mendez and Ryder Storm begin to realize that the concerns expressed by their time-traveling young friend may have some merit after all. The chase sequence, the series's biggest action setpiece yet, is wonderfully angular and dynamic, equally ripe for comedy as suspense. Reeder really flourishes with her presentation of New York City, with a palate of oranges and pinks for 1986 contrasting one of greens and purples for 2013. The colors come to the verge of being overwhelming, but that sensation seems to echo the overwhelming feeling a city like that can impose on any that dare to look upward.
Comics readers are readily familiar with 1980s visions of future dystopias, since that was the crux of so many of the era's seminal comics and stories. Rocket Girl capitalizes on that familiarity with flair, but instead of aiming its sights at hard-hitting ethical or media critiques, as so many of those stories did, it focuses on how hilariously silly that self-serious is in the first place. No matter how “adult” the jaded cops or stuffy scientists aim to be, they're still chasing a teenage girl with a jetpack. Those who can't laugh at that have forgotten something very fundamental about the purpose of imagination.
There is a school of thought that says some comics are for kids and some are for “grown-ups.” But strip away adult's desire to ascribe “meaning” to everything and kids' dismissive certainty about a world with which they are largely unfamiliar, and we see that the two parties commonality. A comic like Rocket Girl reminds us that the space in between the two is little more than a communication gap, waiting to be imaginatively bridged.
Batman and Aquaman #29
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin, Norm Rapmund and John Kalisz
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Aaron Duran
'Rama Rating 9 out of 10
Sometimes the most fun someone can have with superhero books is the unlikely team-up. For years in the DC universe that was done with The Brave and the Bold. Never really meant as earth shattering stories or events, they were still a fine way to spend some time with a character you loved and maybe one you didn't really know. One of my major beefs with the New52 is the ongoing image of a setting where no one hangs out or gets along all that well. Sure, the characters (sometimes) work together in a Justice League book or a Crisis here or there. But for the most part, everyone sticks to their little island. Since the rather dark passing of Damian Wayne, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have turned Batman and Robin into a slightly more serious version of that classic DC title. And with Aquaman showing up in issue #29 to help Bruce find his sons stolen body from Ra's Al Ghul. Well, this is one reader that couldn't wait to dive in.
Make no mistake, writer Pete Tomasi isn't delivering a light hearted jaunt with this comic. Batman is on a rather serious and quite morbid mission. However, quite quickly we can see his appreciation of what fans came to love about the relationship between Bruce and Damian. For all of the kids rather bloodthirsty and arrogant ways, there was a naïve charm to him. That charm still manages to come through when Batman all but calls out Alfred for not noticing that the dog Titus found its way into the Bat-Sub. Tomasi is writing a Batman that is very much the grim and determined force for justice readers crave, but still manages to keep his humanity intact. Tomasi even manages to interject a small aura of humility into Batman once Aquaman enters the scene. Both characters represent peak perfection at what they do. But with Aquaman, Tomasi writes him as a person that never truly bows to anyone, but also knows that a wise leader must defer to others. As such, the partnering of Batman and Aquaman never once feels forced. They both give and take within and out of their respective comfort zones. Never once does Tomasi allow the pairing to turn into chest thumping competition.
When it comes to Aquaman though, most of the credit has to go to artist Patrick Gleason. I wasn't quite sure his style would fit a character that I tend to prefer on the lighter side. My worries were completely unfounded. His Aquaman carries a visual impact that has no need for a writer to remind the reader that this is a person that controls almost 75% of the planet. Gleason continues to grow as an artist that's exploring hard lines and edges as a means to convey power and conviction. Indeed, Aquaman stands taller and more imposing that the title character. It's quite refreshing to watch an artist make the choice to give a character the physical presence they deserve, even in a title that is not there own. It's not the most obvious element to Batman and Aquaman #29 upon first reading. But as the issue moves on, seeing Arthur take point just feels right.
The issue also has a rather strong sense of motion, with the action working both under and above the water. The inks by Mick Gray, Mark Irwin, and Norm Rapmund help in tempering the tone of the story. Adding a layer of noir to Gleason's pencils that, while strong, sometimes lack the subtly required in more than a few panels. John Kalisz on colors simply does a fantastic job in setting the emotional tone on any given page. The underwater moments have a mysterious, almost otherworldly feel. Whereas the sickly greens during one of the books more horrific moments truly drives home the awfulness that is Ra's Al Ghuls ultimate game plan.
The DC Universe is at its strongest when heroes of different powers and personalities unite under a common goal. Indeed, that's the entire point of the Justice League. So, it's nice when a solo title acknowledges the shared universe and invites others to come along for the ride. Batman and Aquaman #29, while deadly serious, is a reminder of how much fun a reader can have with these characters. Tomasi and Gleason take both Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry out of their comfort zones in this comic and it's a better read for it. If this is the tone we can expect in The Hunt for Robin arc, we should be in for a fun arc.
Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #2
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Roland Boschi and Chris Chuckry
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Prequels are tough. Prequels that star one of the leads of what is surely to be one of the biggest superhero movies of the year are double tough. Lucky for us, Rick Remender isn’t interested in telling this kind of prequel story. Quite the opposite, in fact. Rick Remender is giving us the kind of prequel miniseries that is so rare in comics that it's almost unheard of. He’s giving us a prequel that informs and compliments his current run of Captain America so well that it could almost be called a crossover.
After eluding the Winter Soldier’s clutches in the cliffs around Castle Hydra, Ran Shen and his charges are back on the road to defection, knowing full well that nowhere they go is safe. Rick Remender said in early press for this series that Bucky was almost going to be a Jason Voorhees-like character, mercilessly stalking his prey throughout the series, and in #2, we get to see exactly why he described him as such. Bucky barely says more than two words this entire comic, yet his actions are as ruthless as they are effective. The Winter Soldier is the perfect instrument of death and Remender shows us numerous examples in The Bitter March #2. While the mystery of Bucky’s identity and later, his dedication to upholding Steve Rogers’ legacy were the narrative drives to earlier arcs starring Bucky, The Bitter March is all about showing Bucky as a cold and calculating one man army. Yes, there are fragments of the Bucky that we all know and love just under the surface, but these fragments are still long-buried, as he fills his role as the book's antagonist quite well.
On the other side of this coin, we are finally starting to understand just who Ran Shen was before he declared war on the Western world as the Iron Nail. While the Winter Soldier’s name may grace the cover of the book, Ran Shen is clearly the star of the book and The Bitter March #2 gives us a much better understanding of this character beyond the man we see in the pages of Captain America. We are also treated to an early look at Dr. Mindbubble, deep into his research, before his eventual turn to supervillainy. It's this kind of attention to detail and character work that sets The Bitter March apart from run-of-the-mill prequels and crossovers. Rick Remender is using this miniseries as a platform to flesh out bits and pieces of his Captain America, giving readers of both a more complete experience while telling a story set during the heyday of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a pre-superhero world.
Perfectly accenting Remender’s intrigue-heavy script is the rough-hewn linework of Roland Boschi and the '60s spy epic colors of Chris Chuckry. As I read this issue, more and more I saw a look that was reminiscent of Eduardo Risso’s work in Boschi's panels. Both Risso and Boschi straddle the line between style and realism without looking outlandish or over-the-top. Every pose and action beat feel natural but with a stylishly gritty sheen to it that is perfect for this kind of story. Complimenting this stylish sense of grit are the starkly cinematic colors of Chuckry who lends little bits of other worldly qualities to the characters and settings. Look no further than the way he colors in Bucky’s eyes as red, hammering home the monstrous look and actions of the character. Smaller details like that go a very long way and Boschi and Chuckry never skimp on them.
Prequels are tough to pull off, but despite the look and what people may have heard about The Bitter March, this comic is much more than just a standard prequel. This is a book about divided loyalties, secrets, lies, danger, and dangerous men. We should have known all along that Rick Remender wasn’t going to deliver a paint by numbers prequel tale or a pointless movie tie in. He isn’t that kind of writer and The Winter Soldier isn’t that kind of character. He deserves much, much more than something that we’ve seen before and Rick Remender was just the man to give this to us.
American Vampire Second Cycle #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Scott Snyder went to Twitter yesterday imploring readers to check out American Vampire Second Cycle, assuring his fans that it’s “designed to be an easy jumping on point for new readers.” As someone with no experience whatsoever in the first American Vampire, I can say without a doubt that Issue #1 is undoubtedly accessible to new readers and promises an exciting start to a story rich with mythology rife in pop culture today. While we all might feel tired with the constant reimagining of vampires, Snyder deftly writes a story where the focus is more on the characters as people than as bloodsuckers, which is what ultimately makes it such an enjoyable read.
It’s clear that Snyder’s a master of storytelling. It’s no question that readers, especially ones with no previous experience with American Vampire, are going to bring their preconceived notions of vampires to the table — whether it’s from classic mythology or popular series like Buffy or Twilight, fans are going to come in with expectations about what vampires are and what they can do. Instead of addressing that in the beginning, he draws readers in with the first scene that piques our curiosity and then invests us into the story by making us care about the young May on the run from an angry looking mob. He immediately makes us care about these characters, especially Pearl Jones who bravely defends the child and takes care of the young vampires.
That wouldn’t have been accomplished without the likes of Rafael Albuquerque, whose character designs are spot on, especially in the children. They all look so innocent, especially while May was cowering in fear — it’s no wonder that we’re immediately on their side while the humans chasing them look uglier and meaner. May, Killian, Lucia, and Trapp all look like kind-hearted individuals; Trapp, especially, stands out as adorable, even when bearing his fangs. Suddenly, even though they’re vampires, we can still identify and care about them as people first.
One of the coolest parts of the issue was the designs of the vampires. Unlike Buffy, where vampires get bumpy around the forehead area, Albuquerque gives them all a “personality” of sorts: where May’s looks more like an ethereal darkness, Killian’s looks more demonic, Lucia’s looks more refined, and Trapp’s looks hound-like. This subtle world-building is appreciated, and speaks to Snyder and Albuquerque’s ability to balance the story with the mythos and rules of the world. It’s those subtle visual choices in character designs that make the narrative so cohesive, and it’s clear that Synder and Albuquerque, as co-creators, are experienced in working together.
Even when the narrative starts delving into the rules of the world, we never feel lost as readers. Snyder lets Pearl explain her backstory through internal monologue that doesn’t feel forced—we know that she’s thinking these because of May, so it doesn’t feel forced, and she tells us just enough to give us perspective on how this iteration of “vampires” is unique. The narrative gives us enough information to settle our imaginations, without bogging down the narrative.
The only real weakness of the piece is “Sugar man,” who feels more like a plot device than anything else. Snyder did a good job in fleshing out his backstory, but it still feels like he lacks motivation or an objective; he feels passive, only serving the plot by hijacking the convoys, and we’re not sure why he does that, either. It’s clear that he’ll serve some important purpose in the future, as Snyder isn’t one to create throw-away characters, so we’ll just have to see where that goes. While it’s true that none of the characters’ motivations are clear yet, characters like Pearl make the reader feel like they know their motivation, which is one of her strengths as the protagonist. Besides that, the only other complaint is that it sometimes feels like Snyder and Albuquerque rely too much on children to evoke emotions from the reader—both in May and the children Pearl’s keeping safe to the children on the bus. While it works overall, it wouldn’t hurt to see more than just children in danger in this world.
In comparison to the entire story, though, these complaints remain minimal and don’t negatively impact the story much. It’s clear that Snyder, Albuquerque, and the entire creative team poured their hearts into the work — and it shows. For fans of the past series, it doesn’t look like this will disappoint; for anyone interested in Snyder’s work, this is a great jumping-on point. Do yourself a favor and give it a try, because it looks like it’s going to be worth it.
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Vanessa Del Rey and Jordie Bellarie
Lettering by Clayon Clowes
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
"What did the horses go?"
After six issues of Ales Kot's creator-owned Zero one should easily expect a mix of espionage and sci-fi (spy-fi?), but with each issue has Kot teaming with a different talented artist, the execution always differs. The visual identity is not really a concern here though as this time Vanessa Del Rey (BOOM!'s Hit) delivers and drops a relentless art bomb on readers.
Though despite the super science involved, Kot tells a pretty straightforward story and gives a reason to definitely come back for the next round. Edward Zero's confrontation with masked man Ginsberg Nova is finally here, also intercut with the CERN takeover and the recurring story of disappearing horses that eventually turns out to be a metaphor that aids with the sci-fi aspect of the issue. Kot tells a ton of story without really saying anything. The narration isn't too heavy, but new readers might get lost in the tangled world of Zero's who's who, even though there are less than a handful of characters involved. It's their relationship with one another that might have needed a bit more exploring here.
Now back to Del Rey taking the artistic reins here. Though an up-and-comer the past year in the indie realm, she is making her voice heard, so to speak, with bold brush work and has a more classical art approach. Del Rey's figure composition might seem a bit rough, but the heavy darks and jagged lines that resemble a messier David Mack seems like a perfect fit for people who work in the shadows. The complete takedown of the CERN complex is masterful, even with minimal dialogue, Del Rey dictates the scene with almost a Diabolik vibe.
Coloring sensation Jordie Bellaire is also on board, giving Del Rey's art a bit of a muted backdrop, but what she accomplishes with a limited palette sets the scenes even better. From the icy landscapes to the scene with Zizek and Sarah with just being illuminated by the light of computer monitors was just great. The big fight scene was just as beautiful with the blood reds contrasting with the night vision green.
The thing I've been digging about Zero the most is that it truly is unlike any book out there right now, visually or otherwise. The minimalist cast is intriguing, too, as that's far from anything as well. Kot has time to dedicate to each character, giving them their own distinct personality and voice, and not have to worry about cramming in another eight or nine characters per scene. Though this issue isn't exactly a strong jumping-on point, there's still time to catch up and enjoy some visual feasts as well as seeing a star in the making with Kot.
Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Larry Stroman, Carl Potts and Thomas Mason
Lettering by Gabriela Houston
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. What a minute, that’s the wrong opening. Instead of that, Chuck Dixon gets away with writing in Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1, “These are dark days for our friends the Harks” and the writing just gets sillier from there with made up slang like “Bospor,” “rammer,” and the lovely descriptive compound phrase “ramming’ Bospor!” Opening with a civil war in some alien galaxy, a group of soldiers called the Nomad Squad has to check all of the refugee ships to make sure that they actually contain refugees and nothing more sinisterly nefarious. Chuck Dixon, Larry Stroman and Carl Potts begin with that idea for a story and never get any farther than that in this first issue.
Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1 is just a silly book. Not silly in the “ha-ha” sense but silly more in the “what the heck was the idea behind this book” sense. Chuck Dixon doesn’t seem to know or care that the last time a new Alien Legion story was released was back over 20 years ago in 1993. He plops the reader into the middle of some ridiculous alien civil war that seems to be about trade federations and blockades or some similar nonsense. The characters are cookie cutter templates, fulfilling the roles of soldiers out of almost any war comic or movie. It is actually a good thing that they’re cookie cutters because as they jump from ship to ship, Dixon doesn’t give characters like Jugger Grimrod or anyone else any heart or soul. There’s nothing to drive these characters that builds or develops into a story. The only way we know who they are is because we've experienced enough characters like them already to understand the types that Dixon is playing with. He throws them into the comic as if they’re interchangeable parts, plugging them in here or there only because he needs to have someone around to spit out his rammin’ dialogue.
The plot is just as non-existent as the characters. Dixon frames everything against some civil war trying to develop some epicly cosmic background for this story. Instead, it is all a thin veneer of narrative to hang his equally thin characters around. As he constructs this civil war, this Legion and these refugees, he never develops any stakes around them. He doesn’t give us any reason to care what’s happening in this comic. There’s no sense of doom, no caring for the characters and no drama because there is no depth to anything in this comic that could actually pull the reader into the story. Dixon writes all of this as if he expects the reader to have some familiarity with 20+ year old stories that weren’t that popular when they were out. Alien Legion was not a dearly enduring book that lived on in the hearts and imaginations of its fans and readers. At best, it was forgotten by all but a few. That is not enough to relaunch this book like the last issue was just last month and that we should be able to jump into this issue as if we all knew the backstory of these alien races and characters.
Larry Stroman and Carl Potts produce some fantastic looking images. With a nice flow to their lines, there are panels here and there which pop out of the page. But in between those occasionally nice panels, everything else is a cacophonous melee of drawings that are mostly just distracting. It’s almost as if they’re trying to visually disguise how non-existent the story is by making it look large and all-encompassing. Instead their artwork becomes a nattering distraction following Dixon’s script as they all try to find some kind of story here. Stroman and Potts’ artwork quickly degrades into visual noise that competes with the attempted story instead of working with it, complementing it or even hiding its flaws.
Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1 does everything it possibly can except to tell a story. Neither the writing or the art move in any way that develops and grows. It starts out full of noise and bluster and basically flat lines from there. Without real characters or stakes, Dixon, Stroman and Potts produce a comic book that lacks even the most basic elements of a story- a reason for its audience to care about anything that they have just read.